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Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1928 and began studying language with his father, who was a Hebrew scholar. He has been interested in politics since childhood and said he was influenced by the radical Jewish community in New York. At the University of Pennsylvania he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy, and he was given a Ph.D. there after having done research as a Harvard Fellow from 1951 to 1955. He and his wife lived for a few months in 1953 on a kibbutz in Israel. Chomsky was influenced by George Orwell and the anarchists in Spain that were attacked by fascists in the Spanish Civil War. He especially admired Bertrand Russell and compared his life and reputation to another great pacifist, Albert Einstein. Both responded to the "grave dangers facing humanity."
Einstein responded by living a very comfortable life in Princeton
and dedicating himself to research that he loved,
taking a few moments for an occasional oracular statement.
Russell responded by leading demonstrations
and getting himself dragged off by the cops,
writing extensively on the problems of the day,
organizing war crimes trials, etc.
The result? Russell was and is reviled and condemned.
Einstein is admired as a saint.
Should that surprise us? Not at all.1
Chomsky taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1955 until he retired to do more speaking. His writings have been cited more times than those of any other living person. He is one of the most influential thinkers in the field of linguistics for his theory of generative and transformational grammar with deep structure. His understanding of the uniqueness of human language led him to criticize the reductionist behaviorism of B. F. Skinner that tried to explain human behavior as a simple process of conditioning by the environment. Chomsky argued that language is more than a set of mechanical habits because it is creative and rational. He considered it offensive to human dignity to treat people as if they were like laboratory rats or pigeons.
Chomsky became perhaps the most articulate critic of the American war in Vietnam and dedicated his book of essays, American Power and the New Mandarins, "to the brave young men who refuse to serve in a criminal war."2 During an anti-draft protest at the Pentagon in October 1967 Chomsky himself was arrested during a teach-in with Dave Dellinger and Dagmar Wilson. He also refused to pay half his federal income tax. He observed that anti-Communism was a useful device to get the American people to support an imperial intervention, which was really to make sure that American power dominated Southeast Asia. He suggested that it did not take great intelligence to see the need for de-escalation by the greatest power in the world that had become the most aggressive. This book included a long essay on "The Revolutionary Pacifism of A. J. Muste" about the great pacifist's response to the US going to war against Japan in 1941. Chomsky agreed with Muste that the tragedy might have been averted
by a serious attempt at peaceful reconciliation
with no attempt to fasten sole war-guilt on any nation,
assurance to all peoples of equitable access
to markets and essential materials,
armament reduction, massive economic rehabilitation,
and moves towards international federation.3
Chomsky admitted, though, that such a proposal then would have seemed as senseless as during the time he wrote. Yet he found Muste's revolutionary pacifism realistic and ethical. In his essay on "The Logic of Withdrawal" Chomsky agreed with Howard Zinn that since 1954 the problems of Vietnam should have been solved at the local level by the Vietnamese instead of raising them to an international conflict. He argued that if enough people spoke for withdrawal, it would become politically feasible. In the essay "On Resistance" Chomsky described his arrest at the Pentagon and offered these reflections on the value of nonviolent protest:
The argument that resistance to the war
should remain strictly nonviolent seems to me overwhelming.
As a tactic, violence is absurd.
No one can compete with the government in this arena,
and the resort to violence, which will surely fail,
will simply frighten and alienate some who can be reached,
and will further encourage the ideologists
and administrators of forceful repression.
What is more, one hopes that participants in nonviolent resistance
will themselves become human beings of a more admirable sort.
No one can fail to be impressed by the personal qualities of those
who have grown to maturity in the civil rights movement.
Whatever else it may have accomplished,
the civil rights movement has made an inestimable contribution
to American society in transforming the lives and characters
of those who took part in it.
Perhaps a program of principled, nonviolent resistance
can do the same for many others,
in the particular circumstances that we face today.
It is not impossible that this may save the country
from a terrible future.4
Chomsky went on to say that resistance need not replace dissent, which is still needed. Those who refuse to pay taxes and resist the draft and the war can also speak to church groups and town meetings or participate in electoral politics by supporting peace candidates. He concluded that the United States had become the greatest threat to peace, national self-determination, and international cooperation, while the American people still enjoyed internal freedom.
In 1969 Chomsky became aware that the Pentagon and NASA were financing two laboratories at MIT. He believed it was impossible for the university to sever ties with the military-industrial complex at that time, and therefore he worked to make people aware of what was going on so that they would know how to act.
In 1970 Chomsky complained that Laos was being bombed even more than Vietnam. He argued that Cambodia's "decade of genocide" by the Khmer Rouge was partly a reaction to and an effect of US bombing. The United States military killed nearly three million people in the Vietnam War and perhaps another million in Laos and Cambodia. Surprisingly, though it was hardly reported, postwar Vietnam had little retribution after so much violence. Yet the US not only refused to pay reparations for its massive devastation, but it also tried to punish the Vietnamese even further. When India wanted to send a hundred buffalo to Vietnam in 1977, the US threatened to stop its Food for Peace program in India. President Carter said he would not help Vietnam because the "destruction was mutual."
Chomsky wrote to the New York Times, noting that the term "bloodbath" was never applied to the war but only to the possibility of ending the war. In 1973 the book Counterrevolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda, which he wrote with Edward S. Herman, was denied distribution by the Warner Communications corporation after 20,000 copies had been printed.
In 1976 Chomsky was interviewed in French by Mitsou Ronat for the book Language and Responsibility. He said that anyone can see through the deceptions of the system of shared ideology and propaganda if one analyzes how they are designed to protect special interests. In 1972 Henry Kissinger appeared on television to say that peace was at hand; but he was rejecting the negotiating principles on crucial points. Thus Chomsky predicted more escalation, which took place during the Christmas bombing. He noted how revisionist historians were changing the previously prevalent view that Russia and China were responsible for the Cold War. Such revisionist views were hardly noticed until there were enough students aroused by the civil rights movement and anti-war protests in the 1960s. He noted that state censorship is unnecessary in the American system because the ideological controls are complex and decentralized.
He cited cases exposed by the Church Committee in which the FBI in its Counter-Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) infiltrated and murdered Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago. The FBI did little to stop the Rangers criminal gang until the Black Panthers got them interested in politics; then they tried to make the groups fight each other. The FBI hired the leader of the Secret Army Organization to shoot a student at San Diego State, wounding a woman. In Seattle the FBI infiltrated left-wing groups; their agent tried to instigate the bombing of a bridge, and another even initiated a robbery in which a man was killed. In 1960 the FBI tried to disrupt the Puerto Rican independence movement. The next year under Attorney General Robert Kennedy they targeted the Socialist Workers Party, because they ran candidates in elections and supported racial integration and Castro. Chomsky believed that Cointelpro made Watergate look like a tea party. Some people were shocked that the CIA tried to assassinate foreign leaders, but the Phoenix program in Vietnam exterminated forty thousand people. Chomsky asked why those people were considered less significant.
During the Carter presidency, which tried to bring more human rights into US foreign policy, Chomsky and Herman published their two-volume Political Economy of Human Rights. In the first volume, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, they demonstrated that since World War II the United States has been imposing oppressive and terrorist regimes from the CIA-sponsored coups in Iran in 1953 and in Guatemala in 1954 to Indonesia in 1965 and Chile in 1973. In the 1960s eleven constitutionally elected governments in Latin America were displaced by military dictators. The US was overthrowing democratic reformers and radicals in order to "stabilize" countries for business with right-wing military regimes. For a quarter of a century until 1975 in the name of freedom the US tried
to subjugate Vietnam by force and subversion,
in the process violating the UN Charter,
the Geneva Accords of 1954, the Nuremberg Code,
the Hague Convention, the Geneva Protocol of 1925,
and finally the Paris agreements of 1973.5
Saturation bombing resulted in mass murder; but the wars in Laos and Cambodia were kept secret, because the mass media refused to report them. Freedom in this case was for US business to make profits; but the rights of students, peasants, labor unions, and political critics were massively suppressed.
In 1965 the United States backed a coup in Indonesia that resulted in a massacre of perhaps 700,000 people while 750,000 were arrested. These figures are unknown to most Americans, but the crimes of the Khmer Rouge were repeatedly reported. After centuries of colonialism in Indonesia, Portuguese fascism was overthrown in 1974. People in East Timor wanted to be independent and the following year found themselves in a civil war with Indonesia that in the next four years slaughtered about 200,000 people in East Timor from a population of 700,000. In 1976 US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger took credit for blocking United Nations action on behalf of Timor. The Carter administration increased the shipment of weapons to Indonesia even though 100,000 people had already been massacred.
Some people think these are exceptions, but a pattern emerges. Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov may be praised for their criticism of Soviet oppression; but what is their moral level when they complained that the US did not fight hard enough to win in Vietnam? Chomsky saw better ethics in the resisters and deserters who tried to defend the rights of others, namely the victims of American aggression. The bias of the media is found in the emphasis on two or three dissidents in the Soviet Union while 20,000 cases of severe torture in Latin America are completely ignored. The military-industrial-intelligence complex invested and made huge profits by promoting weapons, fear, and insecurity. A murder network of death squads operated in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay to hunt down dissidents. Neither President Carter nor the mainstream press would refer to the Shah of Iran as a dictator even though between 1974 and 1977 of at least 25,000 political prisoners some 300 were executed.
Because the right-wing military leaders of these third-world countries do not usually have a large following, as did Mussolini and Hitler, Chomsky called them "subfascists." He noted that the Carter administration continued sending arms to the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Morocco, and Iran even though they seriously violated human rights. When as many as 250,000 people were systematically murdered by the minority tribal government of Burundi, the Carnegie Endowment's study could not find a single mention of it by the US Government nor a condemnation. In Paraguay the Aché Indians were treated atrociously by the government and fundamentalist missionaries; yet US economic and military aid continued to go there despite Carter's human rights policy. Chomsky noted that Paraguayan fascism was ignored by US media even though it was widely reported in Europe. Since the military coup of 1964 Brazil gained much support from international lending organizations and multinational corporations despite their bad treatment of Indians, the poor, and the Amazon environment.
Chomsky and Herman discussed the horrendous problems of East Timor at length. In twenty years starting in 1949 the United States gave Thailand more than two billion dollars in aid and arms to meet Communist threats even though in the police state they established there was little opposition. During the Vietnam War 50,000 US forces used Thailand as a base for bombing raids, causing the prostitution industry to boom. Thailand managed to elect a democratic government in 1973, but aid was reduced despite their economic difficulties. Yet after the US assisted a military coup in 1976, the aid was increased; that year the US sold them $89.6 million in military equipment, more than Thailand had purchased in the previous quarter century. In 1977 the Marcos regime in the Philippines arrested more than 60,000 people under martial law, but visiting Vice President Mondale was placated by an announcement that a few political prisoners would be released. Lending drove the Philippines debt from $2.2 billion in 1972, when martial law was declared, to $6 billion in 1977; apparently capitalists approved of this subfascism.
In the Dominican Republic the constitutional government of Juan Bosch was overthrown by the military in 1963. Two years later 23,000 US forces invaded the island to prevent Bosch from replacing the fascist regime of Donald Reid Cabral. President Johnson claimed Communism was a threat, but Bosch was a democratic reformer. Ten years later Bosch complained, "This country is not pro-American; it is United States property."6 Chomsky and Herman explained how Nazis had escaped to Latin America, and, helped by US military and intelligence agencies, military elites were ruling in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
In their second volume on human rights, Chomsky and Herman
examined the results of the Indochina War and the reconstruction
of the failed US foreign policy. The United States was only partially
defeated by Vietnam, which had suffered so much more. The US refused
to pay reparations or give aid to help rebuild the country they
destroyed, unlike the policy toward Germany and Japan after World
War II, and they even blocked trade. The US was the only country
out of 141 to oppose a United Nations resolution urging priority
economic assistance to Vietnam. In Laos people died from malnutrition,
disease, and unexploded bombs. The United States had dropped more
than 500,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia; so it is not too surprising
that the country was militarized and degenerated into a horrible
civil war. The devastation that was caused by the US military
intervention was explained as proof that Communism is evil. Kissinger
directed the CIA to start subverting Angola from South Africa
After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Chomsky wrote The Fateful Triangle about the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. He began by noting the hypocrisy of complaining about Israel's establishing settlements in the occupied territories when the US is essentially paying for them with huge amounts of aid and discounted military sales. Chomsky complained about Israel's policy of rejecting the Palestinians' rights that is condoned by the US Since the mid-1970s the international consensus has been that there should be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip; but Israel has continually rejected this solution, and over the protest of everyone, including the US, Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem. In January 1976 the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a peace settlement according to the international consensus for a Palestinian state with 1967 borders. In November 1977 Egypt's Anwar Sadat made his daring trip to Jerusalem, hoping to convene a Geneva conference to settle the conflict; but the US opposed this, because it would include European powers. The Camp David peace treaty of 1979 did little to solve the Palestinian conflict and even allowed more settlements; but Egypt was separated from Arab allies and became a major recipient of US aid, gaining $2 billion per year for more than twenty years.
In April 1982 the US alone vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to reinstate the ousted mayors of Nablus, Ramallah, and El Bireh. Israel has not recognized rights of one-sixth of their population that is not Jewish. In June 1982 the US was alone in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that called for a simultaneous withdrawal from Beirut by Israeli and Palestinian forces. In the previous four years Israel had received 48% of all US military aid. The Israeli lobby consists not only of Jews but also Christian fundamentalists, some liberals and labor leaders, and conservatives who support a strong military policy. Public opinion is swayed as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accuses any critics of being "anti-Semitic" or "self-hating" Jews. Since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, the US has considered Israel an important strategic asset in the Middle East, where oil is so important.
When Israeli forces invaded West Beirut on September 15, 1982, the United States did not object, though the atrocious massacres of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps aroused angry condemnation. Israeli soldiers would not allow Newsweek reporter James Pringle into the Sabra camp during the massacre. An ABC news investigation learned that at least 45 Israeli officers knew of the slaughter while it was occurring; but the Begin government refused to allow an independent inquiry. US envoy Philip Habib had assured the Lebanese and Palestinians that they would be safe after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters left. The Habib cease-fire of 1981 had also guaranteed Israeli security, which was their rationale for the invasion. Chomsky considered it a reflection of American racism that Israel's security was the issue instead of the Palestinians' security. He predicted that terrorism in the occupied territories and Israel was the likely forecast, and he hoped that more of the peace movement would start facing the issue.
Israel's attack on Lebanon was designed to disperse the refugees
and destroy Palestinians' nationalist organization. Israel dissolved
the elected councils of Nablus and Dura on the West Bank and dismissed
the mayors of Jenin and Gaza, where city employees were arrested.
Lebanese police estimated that the Israeli invasion killed 19,085
and wounded more than 30,000; 84% of those killed were civilians.
Chomsky considered these underestimates. President Reagan proposed
a peace plan calling for a freeze on settlements; but Israeli
prime minister Menachem Begin angrily rejected this even though
it excluded the PLO by denying the right of inhabitants to choose
their own political representative. Begin announced new settlements
in Judea and Samaria. Another consequence of the Lebanon invasion
was that Israel took over complete control of the scarce water
resources of the West Bank even though this violated the Camp
In 1985 Chomsky published Turning the Tide on the current US intervention in Central America. He noted the bias in the US media. Edward Herman had done a study of the New York Times reporting on the elections in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The coercion by armed forces was discussed in 37.5% of the Nicaragua articles but only in 3.6% of the El Salvador reports even though such human rights abuses were much more common in El Salvador than in Nicaragua. (The wars in Central America are discussed in a previous chapter of this book.)
Chomsky's book Deterring Democracy (1992) reflected on the end of the Cold War, which had caused an economic recession. He predicted,
The United States remains the only power with the will
and the capacity to exercise force on a global scale-
even more freely than before,
with the fading of the Soviet deterrent.
But the US no longer enjoys
the preponderance of economic power
that had enabled it to maintain an aggressive
and interventionist military posture since World War II.
Military power not backed by a comparable economic base
has its limits as a means if coercion and domination.
It may well inspire adventurism,
a tendency to lead with one's strength,
possibly with catastrophic consequences.7
Chomsky observed that in the past the United States and its clients were often politically weak (lacking popular support), but it made up for this with military and economic strength, instead of following international law. He feared that with less economic power the temptation to use force was increased, and as in the Gulf War, the US police force would have to be paid for by other countries, making Americans mercenaries.
Chomsky accused the United States of using the Cold War to justify international subversion, aggression, and state terrorism while the huge military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned against, became a government welfare program for high technology in the "private sector." Sacrifice and discipline for this imperial cause meant, especially under Reagan, reducing the social programs that meet human needs. In 1990 Defense Secretary Dick Cheney announced that a large Navy would continue to be necessary to further American interests in Latin America and Asia. In response to the initiatives of Gorbachev, the United States did agree to a treaty on intermediate-range missiles in Europe (INF Treaty) in 1987; but at the United Nations the US stood alone against 154 nations that voted against weapons in outer space, alone against 135 nations voting against developing new weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and only with France against 143 nations voting for a comprehensive test ban. The United States was the only country to boycott the 1987 UN disarmament conference.
Chomsky sharply criticized President Bush's 1989 invasion of Panama which violated the UN Charter, the OAS Charter, and the Panama Canal treaty. Wondering how the United States would learn, he quoted A. J. Muste, who said, "The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?"8 Chomsky exposed the hypocrisy in the pretexts Bush gave for the invasion. The wife of an officer had been beaten, but numerous cases much worse could be found in Latin America. Panama's 1989 election was fraudulent, but the election of 1984 had been also. Noriega was corrupt, but he had been for years. Noriega was involved in drug smuggling, but he had been doing that with the CIA. As for bank money-laundering, Bush himself had cancelled the federal program aimed at stopping that in the early 1980s when he was the Drug Czar. The press complained that they could not cover the Panamanian casualties because of the US military; but Chomsky suggested they could have checked the hospitals.
One real reason for the US turning against Noriega is that he was supporting the Contadora peace process the US opposed, and another was because he allowed trading with Nicaragua and Cuba. Of course the main reason was to maintain control of the Panama Canal that was to be turned over mostly to Panamanian authority in 1990. The invasion put back in power the white Europeans, who had been displaced when the reforming General Torrijos took control in 1968. Chomsky learned that the "US military sent hundreds of psywar specialists into Panama to 'spread pro-American propaganda messages throughout the country.'"9 He reported that the forgotten 1983 invasion of Grenada had left the island much worse off as the health care system was dismantled by Herbert Blaize, who had died just before the Panama invasion. F-117A stealth fighters were used for the first time in Panama, dropping 2,000-pound bombs with time-delay mechanisms. Chomsky found that casualty figures reported in the US media were ludicrously low; human rights groups had found that at least 2,000 Panamanians had been killed.
Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman published Manufacturing Consent on the political economy of the mass media in 1988. The expression "manufacturing consent" was used by Walter Lippman to describe propaganda, the manipulation of public opinion for political purposes. They observed that the biased choices made by the media in deciding what to report and how were based on selecting people with internalized preconceptions that are adapted to ownership, big organizations, markets, and political power. Overt censorship is not used as too crude; rather reporters and commentators censor themselves to suit the requirements of the media. Those individuals who do not conform are dismissed or marginalized so that their views have little influence. Chomsky and Herman studied the pattern of US propaganda and found that evidence of US violence and aggression is systematically suppressed while the faults of enemies are greatly emphasized by media coverage. Uncomfortable facts can be found by a diligent researcher in the back pages of newspapers or in minor or alternative media.
In the commercial market mass media entertain as much as inform in order to maximize profits. Chomsky and Herman analyzed the pressures that shape the values, beliefs, and behavior patterns that are inculcated in American society by the mass media. They described five main factors that filter the news. First, is the immense size of the dominant media corporations, the increasing concentration of ownership, their great wealth, and the ultimate importance of making large profits (bottom-line motivation). Since Manufacturing Consent was written, media ownership has been concentrated even more by mergers and acquisitions under the relaxing of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. Many in the past would publish well written books, expecting about three or four percent profit; but lately the big publishers usually will not publish a book unless they expect it will make 15% profit; this often means that it is either by or about an already marketable celebrity.
The second major factor is how advertising affects what makes it into the mass media. Advertisers have become the licensers because they will not sustain content in television, radio, and magazines that does not boost their sales. This means that the media are designed primarily for those with money who buy things. Very few corporations will sponsor any programs or material that is critical of corporate activities or the military-industrial complex.
Third, reporters increasingly are gathering their information from government sources, business entities, or from "experts" funded by these agents of power. The mass media assumes that these are "objective" sources of news, and they rarely challenge those powerful interests; but other sources of news are harder to find and are scrutinized carefully through the biased lens of the establishment, if they are considered at all. The government and the corporate sector have immense financial, human, and technical resources to generate huge amounts of information for the media, thus subsidizing and facilitating the work of the communications media. A comparison between the resources of the Pentagon and those of the largest peace organizations shows how overwhelming is this imbalance. Most scientists and researchers in the universities and in business have been bought by the government or the corporations. An analysis of the experts presented on Public Broadcasting's MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour in 1985 showed that 70% of the nonjournalists presented were either government officials, former government officials, or from conservative think-tanks.
The fourth factor looked at the criticism of the media, referred to as "flak." Advertisers are especially concerned about this and endeavor to make sure that audiences are not made uncomfortable. Those who criticize powerful constituencies are seldom heard in the mass media. Such "unpopular" voices, no matter how brilliant nor well informed they may be, are rarely allowed on talk shows. Yet right-wing commentators, who are so well represented in the major media, often rail on about the "liberal bias" of the media. How often does a peace activist even get a chance to speak? In Manufacturing Consent, the fifth filter used in the media was described as "anti-Communism," which during the Cold War was a way of describing the dominant concern; but in the 1996 book, The Common Good, Chomsky explained that the fear used to control people was broadened out during and after the Reagan years to include "international terrorism," "drug traffickers," "immigrants, black criminals, welfare mothers,"10 and others.
A clear dichotomy contrasts how the enemies of the United States are reported in comparison to its allies. Victims of an enemy get extraordinary coverage in the media; but those suffering from the policies of the United States are given as little attention as possible. For example, the murder of the Polish priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, received extensive media coverage; but murders by client states in Latin America are virtually ignored unless the victim happens to be a US citizen. Chomsky and Herman detailed how biased was the coverage of the Indochina wars and the retrospectives such that the idea that these were major war crimes is "inexpressible." That American bombing killed more than a half million Cambodians is not even mentioned; but the atrocities that followed these attacks are emphasized. When the US was convicted by the World Court for mining Nicaraguan harbors, this was a minor story; but when the Reagan administration went against the will of Congress, this became the Iran-Contra scandal.
In 1999 Chomsky published Profit Over People on neoliberalism and the global order. He described the "Washington consensus" that has promoted a free-market ideology to apply to other countries in order to increase the profits of the wealthy, while the United States, Britain and other economic powers have used government controls to protect their own economies. In 1945 the US proposed an "Economic Charter of the Americas" to keep Latin American countries from adopting economic nationalism that would raise the living standards of the masses. Thus the US has managed to exploit the cheap labor and natural resources of Latin America for its own profit. In 1948 the CIA intervened in the Italian elections to protect the world capitalist system. Since the end of the Cold War, economic experiments with private capital in Russia have driven a quarter of the population below subsistence. Chomsky noted how the British empire exploited India using the "Permanent Settlement" two centuries ago, resulting in India's financing 40% of Britain's trade deficit as its textile industry was destroyed by British protectionism. England exported opium from India to China while banning its importation.
Especially since the Reagan presidency, the United States has been enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class so that now it has the highest child poverty rate of any industrial country. Thanks to the heartless policies of Margaret Thatcher, one-third of British babies were being born in poverty. Chomsky found that neoliberal doctrines hurt education and health, promote more inequality, and reduce the incomes of workers while helping the very rich get richer. In Latin America the wealthy are exempt from social obligations such as taxes. Chomsky analyzed that the United States and Japan have prospered because they used the British means of market interference. During the Cold War the US used its Food for Peace program as a way to subsidize US agribusiness and shipping while undercutting foreign agriculture. The huge military spending subsidized the private aircraft industry and spread into computers, electronics, automation, biotechnology, communications, and many other private sectors. The Reagan administration provided more protection to US industry for import relief than at any time since the 1930s. These continuing policies amount to "socialism for the rich," according to Chomsky.
He pointed out that Adam Smith, the founding capitalist theorist, warned that the division of labor should not turn workers into objects and that regulation to help workers is always just. Chomsky noted that public opinion in the United States is shifting as now more than 80% think the government is run to benefit special interests, not the people, and they believe that the economic system is inherently unfair; 95% agree that corporations should sacrifice some profits to make things better for workers and communities. The manipulation of people's buying habits and opinions results from a trillion-dollar-a-year marketing industry, one-sixth of the entire economy. Chomsky noted that even the Wall Street Journal recognized that President Clinton was on the side of corporate America on issue after issue.
Chomsky explained the United States has used the World Trade Organization (WTO) to pressure seventy countries to open up their markets to US corporations and investors. Against much popular opposition, Brazil decided to privatize its successful Vale Company that controls uranium, iron, and other minerals; its income in 1996 was over $5 billion. The 1997 privatization reduced the Vale labor force by 4,618, but profit growth in the next five years was 36% for its lucky new owners. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned developing countries to reverse the policies imposed on them by the "Washington consensus" that are having disastrous effects on people while increasing corporate profits. Chomsky summarized the American values of the WTO as a tool for US intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, taking over crucial sectors of foreign economies by US corporations, benefiting business and the wealthy while shifting costs to the general population, and as a powerful new weapon against democracy. Clinton's re-election campaign was greatly aided by the telecommunications sector, which was rewarded by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Most egregious is the Helms-Burton Act, which makes the US impose sanctions on any nation that trades with Cuba. This economic strangulation is a clear violation of ethics and the WTO. Only Israel and Uzbekistan voted with the US against a UN resolution condemning this, and the Organization of American States (OAS) rejected the Helms-Burton Act unanimously. By the late 1990s the United States had used its veto at the United Nations more than seventy times since 1967. The Clinton administration said that the WTO could not force the US to change its laws. Lacking medicine and food, Cuba has managed to train skilled doctors and since 1963 has sent 51,820 doctors, dentists, and nurses to help poor nations, especially in Africa. In 1985 Cuba had more than twice as many specialists helping third-world countries than the US had in the Peace Corps and AID. The so-called Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 caused the number of companies granted US licenses to sell medicines to Cuba to be reduced by 96%. Chomsky wrote that the greatest human rights violator, Colombia, receives more US military aid than any other Latin American country while it terrorizes people in the name of the "drug war."
While speaking in South Africa in 1997, Chomsky noted that during his talk a thousand children would die of preventable diseases. UNICEF has estimated that these tragedies could be alleviated by about ten percent of US military spending. In discussing the Zapatista uprising in response to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chomsky noted that they were struggling "for work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace."11 He reminded readers that a few days after NAFTA was passed, the US Congress financed 100,000 more police with more high security prisons and militaristic "boot camps" for youthful offenders, extended the death penalty, and made sentences more harsh. Chomsky warned that secrecy was trying to bypass public awareness and criticism by giving the President "Fast Track" authority and on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) treaty, which would allow a foreign corporation or investor to sue the United States for damages if it restrained their investment. Chomsky complained that the full text of the MAI is not even available to the public. During the stock market boom of the 1990s Chomsky noted that in 1997 half the stocks were owned by the top one percent and 90% by the wealthiest ten percent.
Howard Zinn was born into a poor family of immigrant Jews in New York City on August 24, 1922. He loved to read and learned about social injustice in the novels of Charles Dickens. After being a bombardier in World War II, Howard Zinn worked as a laborer. The G.I. Bill helped him earn his B.A. at New York University, and Zinn got his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University. He observed the anti-Communist hysteria, wrote a thesis on the Colorado coal strike of 1913-14, and published his doctoral dissertation on Fiorello LaGuardia in Congress. In 1956 he was appointed chairman of the history department at Spelman College, where he taught African Americans and participated in the civil rights movement for several years. He advised the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and wrote SNCC: The New Abolitionists about their efforts. He found that by the end of 1961 more than 50,000 people had demonstrated for civil rights, and at least 3,600 had been to jail. Zinn estimated that about 150 dedicated SNCC workers in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi did much to bring about a civil rights revolution.
In 1965 Zinn began speaking out against the Vietnam
War. He described atrocities and gave powerful reasons for
ending the Vietnam War in his 1967 book Vietnam: The Logic
of Withdrawal. At that time the US was spending twenty billion
dollars annually on the Vietnam War, and he calculated that this
was enough to give every Vietnamese family $5,000, which was nearly
ten times their annual income. Each month the US was spending
more on the war than it spent annually on the federal poverty
program for the Great Society. He discovered that in 1966 the
Pentagon paid an average of $34 for condolence to relatives for
each Vietnamese killed accidentally but $87 for each rubber tree
accidentally destroyed. They were killing four civilians for every
enemy soldier killed. Zinn noted that the United States replaced
the French as the aggressors in Vietnam, and he observed that
the main thrust of the war was bombing and shelling civilians.
The number of Vietcong revolutionaries they were fighting in South
Vietnam far outnumbered the North Vietnamese soldiers opposing
them. To those concerned about the loss of prestige if the United
States pulled out of Vietnam, Zinn answered that compared to being
bogged down in a war that they were afraid to lose, a clean and
swift withdrawal would be right and would improve the declining
prestige. He concluded his book on Vietnam by summarizing his
arguments in an imaginary speech by President Johnson announcing
that the United States was no longer at war in Vietnam.
During the Tet offensive on January 30, 1968 Zinn traveled with Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi because the North Vietnamese wanted to release the first captured American pilots to someone in the peace movement. Zinn learned that the leaders in Hanoi were willing to negotiate; but when he returned to the United States, no one in the government would even debrief him on what he had learned during his week in Hanoi.
In 1968 Zinn published Disobedience and Democracy to refute what he considered nine fallacies on law and order put forth by US Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas in his booklet Concerning Dissent and Civil Disobedience. Zinn argued that human laws are fallible. When the laws and the government fail the moral test of protecting human needs, then conscientious citizens have the right to take actions to reform the social or political injustice. He pointed out that during the two greatest crises in American history-the revolution against the British empire and the Civil War that freed the slaves-people had to go beyond the limits of British law and the Constitution. Zinn acknowledged that protesting by civil disobedience is not enough by itself because it does not construct a new society. Also not all forms of civil disobedience are moral or effective. Yet he concluded,
The only way to escape the twin evils
of stagnation and chaotic violence at home,
and to avoid devastating wars abroad,
is for citizens to accept, utilize,
control the disorder of civil disobedience,
enriching it with countless possibilities and tactics not yet imagined,
to make life more human for us and others on this earth.12
Despite his political protests, Zinn got tenure at Boston University, probably because he had published more and had excellent student evaluations. In 1972 he criticized BU President John Silber for inviting US Marines to recruit on campus and for arresting protestors. Zinn was denied raises and teaching assistants even though he had 400 students. He was arrested five times for protesting during the Vietnam War, and he was often called as an expert witness in the trials of demonstrators. When he found that several jurors regretted voting guilty, he wrote about the right of "jury nullification"-that jurors have the right to vote their conscience regardless of the specific instructions of the judge.
Zinn became friends with Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky when
they were in the same affinity group during the demonstrations
against the war in 1971. When Beacon Press published a four-volume
edition of the Pentagon Papers, a political history of
the Vietnam War, they asked Zinn and Chomsky to edit an accompanying
collection of critical essays. In 1973 Zinn testified for several
hours on the history of the Vietnam War during the trial of Ellsberg
and Tony Russo, who were accused of revealing military secrets
for exposing the Pentagon Papers. Zinn argued that this
information did not harm the defense of the nation and the people
although it might have embarrassed special interests, politicians,
and corporations going after tin, rubber, and oil. Apparently
the jury would not have convicted them even if the case had not
been dismissed because of Nixon's sending men to burglarize the
files of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and others to beat him up at
an anti-war rally.
Zinn wrote the volume Postwar America for the History of American Society series. He could not help emphasizing his own views and dedicated the book to Dave Dellinger for his revolutionary courage. The reviewer James T. Patterson reported that Zinn showed the nasty side of American life and concluded "by calling for a humane new socialism, the demise of the nation-state, the abolition of prisons, and the end of authoritarianism in personal and familial relationships."13
In 1974 Zinn edited Justice in Everyday Life that gave accounts by various people on efforts to improve society. The next year he satirized the report on the CIA by a commission under Nelson Rockefeller by calling it "Attica Massacre Chief Clears Assassination Plotters."14 Zinn wrote a play about the anarchist Emma Goldman, and it was directed by his son in Greenwich Village. In 1976 Zinn's biweekly column in the Boston Globe was canceled after he wrote about whom he thought should not be honored on Memorial Day.
No politician who voted funds for war,
no business contractor for the military,
no general who ordered young men into battle,
no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities,
should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day.15
Zinn learned how the writing of history was being revised by people with social concerns. This provided him with the research that enabled him to write his popular People's History of the United States in the late 1970s. This book is an excellent supplement to traditional American histories, because it brings out the history of those often neglected before, such as native Americans, African-Americans, women, immigrants, labor movements, socialists, anarchists, etc.
Zinn signed the Pledge of Resistance, and in 1986 he was arrested with 550 people at the federal building in Boston. After being charged with failing to quit the premises, the charges were dropped. He retired from teaching in 1988 in order to do more speaking and writing.
In 1990 Howard Zinn published his Declarations of Independence as he cross-examined American ideology. He criticized the very rich class that dominates the media and public policy and the so-called "experts" that serve them. He described how modern politicians use Machiavellian deception which they call "plausible denial." Dissenters like Leo Szilard, Albert Einstein, and Daniel Ellsberg have tried to change the vicious policies that result from the abuse of such power. In discussing violence and human nature he noted that zoologist Konrad Lorenz wrote in his book On Aggression that the animal instincts are not as dangerous as our "emotional allegiance to cultural values."16 Zinn observed that men do not rush into battle with a ferocious desire to kill. Rather, they joined the armed forces for the security of a career, or they were conscripted by law with the threat of imprisonment if they refused. His own experience in war told him that people do not delight in destruction. He noted that at the My Lai massacre several soldiers refused to follow orders to kill, and Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson actually saved some Vietnamese lives by ordering his helicopter crew to fire on American GIs if they shot any more civilians.
Zinn recounted how Mark Twain wrote satires of war hysteria and opposed the Spanish-American War of 1898. Helen Keller in 1916 told American men not to fight but strike and become heroes in construction instead of obedient slaves in a destructive army. Zinn was moved by the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted in Hollywood. The lies that Americans were told to get them into the First World War were analyzed by Walter Millis in The Road to War. Sinking the Lusitania was publicized as an attack on a harmless passenger ship, but later it was learned that it was loaded with munitions to be used against Germans.
Zinn discovered that two weeks before the Atlantic Charter was proclaimed, acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles assured the French they would be allowed to keep their colonies. Zinn pointed out that the United States imposed a total embargo on selling scrap iron and oil to Japan in the summer of 1941. He discovered that John J. McCloy deleted a footnote that questioned whether the internment of the Japanese on the West Coast was really necessary. Zinn lamented that a million Jews were murdered in Europe in 1942 while the US State Department was checking to see if the story was true. He believed that the war against Hitler probably brought on the massive extermination of the Jews. He questioned a "war against racism" in which the US armed forces were still segregated. Black soldiers were given dangerous jobs like loading munitions, and many were killed at Port Chicago on July 17, 1944 when two transport ships blew up. Survivors who refused to load munitions in unsafe conditions were put in jail.
Zinn challenged the saturation bombing of cities such as Cologne, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. He himself had been ordered to drop napalm on the French resort at Royan in April 1945, because it was occupied by Germans. Five allied planes were lost in the mission, and he went back years later to discover the effects on the town. He wrote a paper to show that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unnecessary. Zinn noted that 350,000 Americans had evaded the draft during that "good war," and 6,000 conscientious objectors went to prison.
Zinn taught a political science course on "Law and Justice in America" in which they explored when disobedience is appropriate. He noted that after Shays' Rebellion, Thomas Jefferson hoped that the government would pardon them because he believed the spirit of resistance to government was worth keeping alive. Zinn described the extreme economic injustices that had gotten worse during the Reagan years, and he felt that A Theory of Justice by John Rawls had a philosophical argument for a more just distribution of wealth but not a practical plan that would persuade the corporations. Zinn reported how free speech was hampered by "national security," and he agreed with Chomsky that the media are strongly controlled by the wealthy interests. Dissenters often have to commit civil disobedience to get any attention in the media at all. Zinn noted that Daniel Schorr was fired from CBS for publicizing a suppressed report on the CIA in 1976. The CIA in fact had employees working for many major news outlets such as Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, UPI, and CBS News. In 1982 Ray Bonner was removed from covering Central America for the New York Times after he wrote an article critical of US policy in El Salvador. In 1988 it was learned that the FBI was asking librarians to report suspicious behavior. In his final chapter on ultimate power Zinn called for justice without violence.
In 1998 Howard Zinn wrote that the US bombing of Iraq to keep Saddam Hussein from getting weapons of mass destruction was unlikely to fulfill that purpose. In December the US bombed Iraq using 250 cruise missiles that cost $1 million each. He questioned American priorities that killed people abroad while the homeless froze in the US. Zinn did find some cause for hope that demonstrators in Seattle challenged globalization, protectionism, export trade, intellectual property, and other difficult issues that hurt the poor and the environment.
Zinn wrote that the atrocities of Milosevic did not justify US-led NATO committing more atrocities during the Yugoslavia War in 1999. He was horrified that cluster bombs were being used, because he recalled seeing wounded children in Hanoi hospitals in 1968 with tiny pellets in their bodies. He believed that "our" terrorism was just as bad as "their" terrorism. Milosevic should be prosecuted for war crimes, but so should Clinton, Albright, Cohen, and Gen. Wesley Clark. He suggested that they should stop bombing and start talking.
After the US bombing of Yugoslavia for ten weeks in the spring of 1999, Chomsky wrote The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo. Since the Clinton administration claimed that this was a humanitarian intervention, Chomsky examined other cases that were somewhat comparable. The number of refugees created by the bombing was nearly as many as the three-quarters of a million Palestinians, who were displaced in 1948 by Israel's founding war. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, and UN Resolution 194 passed the next day both required respect for the right of refugees; but President Clinton renounced adherence to this UDHR Article 13 (2).
The Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic took away the autonomy of Kosovo in 1989 and also took control of the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina. The Kosovar intellectual Ibrahim Rugova led a nonviolent movement for the rights of the Albanian Kosovars, and in 1990 they declared Kosovo an independent state. In May 1992 Rugova was elected president with 99.5% of the vote as the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) won three-quarters of the seats in the Parliament; but the Serb government considered this Kosovo government illegal. In 1995 the Albanian Kosovars were excluded from the Dayton negotiations as the US partitioned Bosnia-Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia. As a result the Albanians turned to guerrilla warfare, forming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and in April 1996 they began killing Serb policemen and civilians. The Clinton administration called the KLA terrorists. The fighting escalated in February 1998 as the KLA took on the Serbian Army and started killing Serbian mail carriers. After Serbian forces massacred nearly a hundred people at the headquarters of the Jashari clan, Albanians rose up to fight the Serbs as the KLA distributed arms. By summer the KLA controlled 40% of Kosovo. In seven months nearly 2,000 Albanians had been killed as about 350,000 fled their homes. In October a cease-fire led to the deployment of 2,000 monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Although US intelligence reported that the Kosovo rebels were trying to draw NATO into its independence struggle by provoking Serbian atrocities, NATO took the bait after 45 civilians were massacred at Racak on January 15, 1999. UN refugee workers and Catholic Relief Services warned that the threat of bombing would endanger tens of thousands of refugees hiding in the woods, as NATO bombing would cause these workers to leave. On March 19 the OSCE monitors of the Kosovo Verification Mission were withdrawn to prepare for the bombing, and the Serbs began attacking KLA strongholds. The Serb National Assembly rejected NATO's Rambouillet ultimatum on March 23 but objected to the withdrawal of the monitors as part of the "blackmail" threats made against their country. The next day the Serbs greatly escalated their attacks, and NATO began bombing that night. The US led the NATO forces as the infrastructure of Yugoslavia was targeted. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair explained that a "new internationalism" was aimed at stopping brutal repression of ethnic groups, but they acted without United Nations authorization.
The war actually increased the ethnic conflict and created about 350,000 more refugees from Kosovo in the next two weeks. NATO commander Wesley Clark stated that neither Clinton nor Blair notified him there would be a flood of refugees. In the first three weeks casualties of Serb civilians were higher than the previous three months, which were supposed to have been a humanitarian catastrophe. By May the KLA was functioning as the ground forces for NATO, though NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea said NATO had no direct contact with the KLA. By the middle of May more than 300 villages had been burned. American B-52s dropped cluster bombs, which Chomsky noted had been banned except the US had refused to sign the conventions. The unexploded bombs would continue to kill for years. The infrastructure of Vojvodina was attacked because it was an agriculture center, turning the Hungarian democrats there against NATO. In Belgrade and other parts of Yugoslavia the bombing targeted oil refineries, storage areas, ammunition depots, bridges, television and radio transmitters, metal processing plants, and even the president's villa.
In late May more than 5,000 KLA troops launched an offensive. On June 3 Serbia agreed to a treaty; after they withdrew their forces from Kosovo a week later, the bombing stopped. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 671,500 refugees left Yugoslavia; but their relief services had been cut back since 1998 because the US was so far behind in paying its UN dues. Yugoslavia had denounced the NATO bombing as illegal aggression against a sovereign state; Russia had opposed it; and China was deeply offended because their embassy in Belgrade was bombed, killing three and wounding many. China was concerned that the United States was starting a new Cold War against socialist countries. Russia, China, and India agreed with Serbia that the bombing violated the UN Charter. After the treaty the peace-keeping mission was under the United Nations as KFOR with mostly NATO forces but also Russians.
Surprisingly, the Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "The aggressors have kicked aside the UN, opening a new era where might is right."17 He said that if NATO really wanted to defend the Kosovars, they would have defended the persecuted Kurds too. Chomsky noted that there had been many massacres worse than the one at Racak in East Timor, where in 1999 a few thousand were killed as Indonesians put thousands in concentration camps. In Colombia recently there had been about 2,000 killed annually with 300,000 new refugees, as many as in Kosovo; but in Colombia the atrocities were ongoing. Turkey, a NATO member, had been repressing the Kurds for many years. In the mid-1990s more than a million Kurds had to flee the Turkish army as 3,200 were killed by death squads. Human Rights Watch in 1995 called this a scorched-earth campaign that violated international law. By 1999 Turkey had 300,000 forces in the southeastern region fighting the ethnic war. After Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds in northern Iraq in March 1988, the United States increased its military aid to Iraq. Thousands of people, many of them children, were killed by unexploded ordinance in Laos; yet the US did nothing to help remove those bombs. In England a suit was brought against Tony Blair and others for using cluster bombs in Kosovo; but American officials could not be charged, because the US had not signed the Ottawa Convention.
The United States has neglected much more severe crises in Africa. In October 1993 thirty-four US soldiers were killed in Somalia; according to Chomsky between 7,000 and 10,000 Somalis were killed before US forces withdrew in March 1994. After that embarrassment, Clinton issued Presidential Directive 25, announcing that future peace-keeping efforts would be limited by the following conditions: the national interest must be at stake; allies must be engaged; there must be a clear mandate and exit strategy; the force must be under US command; and there must be a peace to keep.
Because of the sanctions against Iraq half a million Iraqi children had died, mostly from lack of water purification by 1996 US when Madeleine Albright, soon to become US Secretary of State, said on the 60 Minutes television program that the price was worth it. UN humanitarian coordinator Dennis Halliday called this policy genocidal and resigned in protest. The US would not let Iran help Muslims in Bosnia, because Iran had been convicted of a crime by the World Court. The only other nation to have been convicted by the World Court is the United States, which alone vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling upon all states to obey international law. Chomsky cited these recent examples but also noted that US history has many more instances going back to the extermination of ten million native Americans and the exploitation of African slavery as Europeans conquered North America. He concluded that the new "humanitarian" intervention was just the old intervention. Chomsky also expressed concern that the NATO bombing undermined the already precarious international law.
Chomsky further commented on the implications of the Kosovo war in his 2000 book A New Generation Draws the Line. Representatives of 133 nations with 80% of the world population met in April 2000 in Havana at the South Summit of G-77, and they rejected the "humanitarian intervention" of NATO along with other forms of coercion as part of "globalization." Nelson Mandela accused Britain and the United States of ignoring other nations while playing the world's policemen; he considered their intervention more serious than what was happening in Africa. Political scientist John Mearsheimer observed that the Gulf War and Kosovo War had made India more determined than ever to keep nuclear weapons to deter the United States. When Israel retreated from Lebanon in June 2000, the United Nations General Assembly voted 110-2 to provide nearly $150 million for UNIFIL monitors; Israel and the US alone opposed. Israel was asked to pay $1.28 million to compensate for its attack on a UN compound that killed more than a hundred civilians during its 1996 invasion of Lebanon.
Chomsky discussed recent events in East Timor, where the people voted overwhelmingly for independence on August 30, 1999. The Indonesian military (TNI) reacted to this with numerous atrocities that drove about 800,000 people from their homes, a quarter of a million to West Timor. Amnesty International reported that at the end of the year more than a hundred thousand were still virtually imprisoned there in makeshift camps ruled by militia groups. A month later the UN International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor called for a human rights tribunal under the United Nations for accountability. The US had been supporting the Indonesian military for a long time. A massacre at Dili in 1991 could not be denied, because Pacifica Radio reporters Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn witnessed it as they were severely beaten. Chomsky calculated that since 1975 the US had sold more than one billion dollars worth of weapons to Indonesia, and in the year 1998 the sales had increased five times over the previous year. Britain's Hawk jets were used to terrorize civilians.
On September 11, 2001 Americans were shocked by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Despite the many millions of people US bombing had killed in the previous six decades, most Americans had never felt the consequences of mass slaughter as something that could affect them. On September 19, President George W. Bush gave a speech in which he declared war on terrorists, those who harbor terrorists, and even on those who refuse to cooperate with his war on terrorists.
Noam Chomsky gave several interviews in September and early October in order to give people some context to understand the meaning of this traumatic event. He particularly emphasized those aspects of the story that the mass media tended to leave out. Although the analogy of Pearl Harbor had been used, that was actually an attack on two military targets in a US colony. For an attack on the United States itself one has to go back to the War of 1812, though New York's World Trade Center had already been the target of a terrorist bombing in 1993. Chomsky pointed out that much of the world considers the US the leading terrorist state, and he noted that the US was convicted by the World Court in 1986 for the "unlawful use of force"18 against Nicaragua. This is only one of many examples of international terrorism by the United States. When the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded bombs in London, the English did not bomb West Belfast, nor after the Oklahoma City bombing was there a call to bomb militia groups. Chomsky lamented that there was little discussion of solving this crisis by adhering to the rule of law. Instead, there was a drumbeat to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet killing innocent victims there would likely help the network of Osama bin Laden gain new recruits.
Chomsky asked the fundamental question why this terrible deed was committed. Zbigniew Brzezinski claimed that in 1979 the US supported Islamic terrorists in order to draw the Russians into an "Afghan trap." After the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the US by way of Pakistan supported a mercenary army of about 100,000 Islamic radicals called Mujahidin. The wealthy Osama bin Laden joined these terrorist camps in the 1980s and was then an ally of the United States. Chomsky suggested that Egypt's Anwar Sadat was assassinated by allied Islamist radicals in 1981, and a suicide bomber drove the US Marines out of Beirut in 1983. Two years later the Reagan administration instigated a terrorist bombing that killed eighty and wounded 250 in Beirut. Israel's 1993 and 1996 invasions of Lebanon killed about 20,000 civilians. Chomsky estimated that in the 1990s Turkey's counterinsurgency campaign against the Kurds killed tens of thousands, drove over two million from their homes, and destroyed 3,500 villages. In retaliation for the bombing of two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, the US retaliated by destroying the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that provided half the medicines for that poor country; it is hard to measure how much misery resulted from that atrocity.
Chomsky brought up the fact that millions in Afghanistan were starving and that a war against their country would be a humanitarian disaster; but few even wanted to discuss this. In forming an alliance against terrorists the United States was willing to let Russia, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria terrorize those rebelling against them. The Taliban had tried to eradicate the huge Afghan heroin production; but the US quickly made alliances with the Northern Alliance and Tajikistan, who were very involved in this lucrative drug-trafficking.
Chomsky warned the US not to fall into Bin Laden's "diabolical
trap" by massacring innocent civilians. We must understand
the motivations behind the terrorist atrocities and not escalate
the cycle of violence. The Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden
if the US would give them evidence of his complicity in the crime.
Arundhati Roy in India suggested that the US could extradite Union
Carbide chairman Warren Anderson to be prosecuted for the Bhopal
gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984. The Haitian government
has been asking the US to extradite Emmanuel Constant for the
slaughter of 5,000 people in Haiti. Chomsky reminded people that
the new US ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte,
had overseen the terrorist war against Nicaragua when he was ambassador
to Honduras in the 1980s.
Retired historian Howard Zinn reflected on Bush's policies in his book Terrorism and War in early 2002. He cited a 1997 Defense Science Board report that found increased terrorism directed against the United States was correlated with US intervention in other countries, and he lamented that Bush's desire to increase US domination was likely to make the situation worse. He observed that the bombing of Afghanistan had increased the harm; professor Marc Herold calculated that already 3,700 people had been killed by the bombing as more than 350,000 Afghans were driven from their homes. The Guardian reported that a hundred of these were dying of exposure and starvation each day. Zinn doubted that terrorism would be ended by perpetrating more terrorism. He explained that Osama bin Laden turned the al-Qaida network against the US after its foreign policy changed in 1990. Bin Laden particularly resented US military bases in his native land of Saudi Arabia and US support for Israel's crimes against the Palestinians.
Zinn traced the US interest in the oil back to Franklin Roosevelt's agreement with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia during World War II. Zinn recommended that the United States remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, stop the sanctions that cause such suffering in Iraq, and persuade Israel to improve its treatment of the Palestinians. By reducing its military budget, the US could help solve many health problems. Even though he had enthusiastically volunteered for World War II, Zinn after much study came to the conclusion that no war is just, that better alternatives can always be found to the killing of large numbers of people. He observed that the US bombing of Afghanistan did not destroy the al-Qaida leadership nor its network of terrorists. He predicted that if the US extended its war on terrorism from Afghanistan to Iraq that relations with the Muslim world would become much worse. Zinn noted that many of the relatives of the 9-11 victims did not want the US retaliating in revenge. He complained that the Bush administration was giving tax breaks of $70 billion to corporations like IBM, GM, and Ford. Economist Seymour Melman reminded people that spending on war causes economic injustice.
Zinn complained that the USA Patriot Act authorized arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention, and even military tribunals. Constitutional lawyer Nancy Chang warned that it criminalized legitimate political dissent. The patriotic hysteria in the media dismissed any criticism of war as "anti-American." The Afghanistan War was already given $17.5 billion, and Bush's National Missile Defense (NMD) could cost $200 billion. During the panic even liberals were afraid to criticize President Bush after he made outrageously bellicose speeches; the attitude in the country was like a lynch mob. Bush claimed that the US is a peaceful nation, but historian Zinn has shown that since World War II the US has been the most warlike nation. He compared President Bush's order to keep the records of the Reagan administration secret from the American people analogous to Stalin's effort to cover up his sordid past.
Zinn cried out against a foreign policy that uses massive bombing to try to solve problems. Journalists complained that the war in Afghanistan restricted them more than ever before, as they were prevented from showing wounded US soldiers or Afghan civilians. Zinn complained that capitalist corporations promote war in order to make profits on the weapons they make. He reviewed the history of anti-war activity in the United States and noted that since the Vietnam War was stopped, politicians have tried to break out of the "Vietnam syndrome" so that there will be no restraint on their war-making. Yet Zinn remained an optimist, because he trusted in the people and their ability to change the policies of their government. He believed that those who oppose war will be vindicated eventually.
In 2003 Chomsky published Hegemony or Survival: America's
Quest for Global Dominance. He noted that only the United
States and Israel abstained from resolutions by the United Nations
Committee on Disarmament and International Security for measures
to prevent the militarization of space and to confirm the 1925
Geneva Protocol against chemical and biological warfare. The Bush
administration brought the comprehensive UN weapons inspections
in Iraq to a sudden end by launching an invasion without approval
of the UN Security Council in March 2003. Many intelligence specialists
warned that this would increase international terrorism and the
spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). So many millions
protested this imminent invasion that the press began calling
world public opinion the second superpower. The historian Arthur
Schlesinger called the invasion of Iraq "anticipatory self-defense"
but found it similar to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. International
law expert Richard Falk concluded that the invasion of Iraq was
a Crime against Peace; Germany's Nazi leaders had been convicted
of this at Nuremberg. Chomsky was concerned that the American
quest for hegemony was making human survival precarious.
Chomsky reported that between November 2000 and April 2003 Israel's security forces in 175 attacks killed 235 people; of these they suspected 156 had committed crimes. In his war on terrorists George W. Bush began using these liquidation tactics. In late October 2002 the CIA used a Predator drone and its Hellfire missile to kill six suspected al-Qaida operatives while they were driving a car in Yemen; one of those murdered was a US citizen. After 9-11 the Bush administration began declaring people, even US citizens, enemy combatants or suspected terrorists so that they could be imprisoned without a charge or access to a lawyer. The portion of Cuba the US still occupied at Guantanamo Bay was used in order to attempt to escape the jurisdiction of US courts. Chomsky warned that the primacy of law over force that had been an important part of American foreign policy since World War II was being reversed by Bush's new strategy.
The US had rejected UN Resolution 687 that called for an end to sanctions against Iraq after the Security Council determined they had complied by eliminating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and their delivery systems. President George H. W. Bush had refused to lift the sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, and the US would not agree to eliminating WMDs from the Middle East because of Israel. Chomsky noted that President Clinton also followed this policy. Iraq complained that UN inspectors (UNSCOM) were spying for Washington. UNSCOM was withdrawn in December 1998 so that Clinton and British prime minister Tony Blair could bomb Iraq in defiance of the UN. To me it is ironic that at this time Clinton was being impeached for an irrelevant issue while the US Congress was overwhelmingly supporting this bombing, which should be an impeachable offense.
Chomsky noted that George W. Bush was determined to invade Iraq regardless of whether Saddam Hussein had disarmed his country or not, and at the Azores summit in March 2003 Bush said that he would invade even if Saddam Hussein left Iraq. The US attack on an already disarmed Iraq made North Korea and others realize that perhaps only possession of WMDs could deter American attacks. The sympathy for the United States because of the 9-11 attack had been radically reversed. A Time magazine poll found that more than 80% of Europeans believed that the US had become the greatest threat to world peace. Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used for the invasion of Iraq because 95% of its people opposed the US policy.
Chomsky reviewed the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when forty years later it was announced that only the Soviet submarine officer Vasili Arkhipov had prevented the launching of nuclear-armed torpedoes that could have started a war, which President Eisenhower had warned could destroy the northern hemisphere. Yet even after the agreement that ended the crisis, President Kennedy approved covert sabotage against Cuban targets, and according to the Cuban government a CIA team of six men killed 400 Cuban factory workers on November 8, 1962. It is ironic that a plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day Kennedy was assassinated. Bush's anti-terrorism policies have been challenged by his reluctance to extradite Luis Posada Carriles, who was responsible for the 1997 bombings in Cuba and is the prime suspect for the bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight in October 1976 that killed 73 people. Posada had also supported the Contras in the 1980s, and he was convicted in Panama of conspiring to assassinate Fidel Castro in 2000. Yet in 1998 the FBI arrested five Cubans who had infiltrated anti-Castro terrorist groups in the United States, and they were sentenced to long prison terms.
Once again Chomsky reviewed the imperial strategy of the United States and its disregard for international law. The World Court had ordered the US to pay indemnities for its mining Nicaraguan harbors in the 1980s, but this was contemptuously ignored. Reparations were estimated at $17 billion, the amount Iraq was obligated to pay Kuwait for its 1990 invasion that killed about the same number of people as Bush I's invasion of Panama a few months earlier. Chomsky noted that Latin Americans know that the United States is a major sponsor of terrorism, and he asked why the Cubans and Nicaraguans would not feel justified in attacking the United States by Bush's logic after 9-11.
Over the years the United States has supported such dictators as the Shah of Iran, George Papadopoulos in Greece, Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, South Korean leaders prior to 1987, and Manuel Noriega in Panama. George W. Bush has closed his eyes to the human rights violations of many dominant leaders who have agreed to be allies in his war on terrorists, including Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan, and Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. The US has extended its network of military bases to Bulgaria and Romania, and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has enabled the US to build new bases there and in Central Asia. The US has more than seven hundred military bases in at least forty countries, plus others that are kept secret. The United States has insisted on maintaining its base on Okinawa ever since the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) in 1951 despite protests from the Okinawans. Neither China, Korea, nor the Philippines ever received any reparations from imperial Japan's conquests, but the US made Japan pay for the costs of its post-war occupation.
Chomsky cited US intelligence and other sources for the estimate that Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons and that it is developing chemical and biological weapons. The air and armored forces of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are considered more advanced than any NATO nation's except the US. In the Middle East the US-Israel-Turkey alliance has been called an "axis of evil." Twelve percent of Israel's offensive aircraft are based in Turkey. Early in 2002 the Arab League accepted a Saudi Plan that offered Israel full recognition and integration into the region if they would withdraw to the 1967 borders. Chomsky noted that American public opinion supports such a proposal and also equalizing the aid the US gives to Israel with comparable aid to the Palestinians under a negotiated settlement. The US has continued its support of Israel even while they have been illegally building new settlements in the West Bank in the 1990s and recently. Part of Bush II's "road map" requires Israel to cut public sector jobs and wages while lowering taxes; this proposal caused 700,000 workers to go on strike. George W. Bush has called the war criminal Ariel Sharon "a man of peace," and the wall Israel is building in the West Bank will leave nearly 100,000 Palestinians and much rich agricultural land on the Israeli side. Another quarter million Palestinians will be isolated.
Chomsky commented that useful truisms are no longer followed. The first is that actions should be evaluated as to their likely consequences. The second is that the standards we apply to others should also apply to ourselves. He recalled that the first war on terrorism was declared in 1981 by the Reagan administration. Unwanted facts were ignored, and terrorist attacks carried out by the US and its allies were even praised. After the attacks of September 11, according to a Gallup poll most people preferred that the US government extradite the terrorists to stand trial rather than attack militarily the country where they were based. In Europe support for military action ranged from 8% in Greece to 29% in France. In Latin America the range was from only 2% in Mexico to a high of 16% in Panama. Support was much lower if civilian targets were to be included. This is assuming that those who were responsible for the attack were known; but they were not known as the US government admitted eight months later. Even the thousand Afghan leaders who opposed the Taliban asked the US to stop the air raids in October 2002. The US bombing was also opposed by the Afghan women's organization RAWA and the relief agencies. The Taliban had offered to hand over suspected criminals, but the US refused to provide any evidence of who the criminals were. Yet when Haiti renewed its request that the US extradite Emmanuel Constant, whose paramilitary forces had murdered thousands in the early 1990s with support from Bush I and Clinton, the US Government did not even respond because of concerns that Constant might reveal contacts between his state terrorists and Washington.
Many have pointed out that destroying al-Qaida will have little effect if the political repression and economic injustices that provoke terrorists continue to persist. The US approach of firing missiles and dropping bombs tends to spread violence like a virus. A United Nations report found that during the period of threats to invade Iraq recruitment for al-Qaida increased in more than thirty countries, and since the US occupation Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists who want to attack Americans. Ami Ayalon, who ran Israel's General Security Service (Shabak) in the late 1990s, learned that those who fight terror without facing its underlying grievances desire an unending war, which Bush II apparently has accepted. Chomsky observed that the reasons why the terrorists seem to hate Americans are easily found in the policies of the United States. Anger is increasing in Pakistan because Musharraf's military regime has delayed democracy as it cooperates with the US war on terrorists. The US support for the repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt also fuels Arab anti-Americanism.
Chomsky warned that an even greater threat to human survival than the war on terrorism is found in the weapons of mass destruction and the US attempt to achieve world domination by gaining a monopoly on the militarization of space. The developing program of missile defense is provoking a new arms race. China is greatly expanding its arsenal of nuclear-armed missiles and will probably add multiple warheads (MIRV). This causes India to react, and that provokes Pakistan. American intelligence predicts that Russia and China are likely to sell countermeasures to North Korea, Iran, Syria, and other countries. China has been urgently pleading since 1998 to keep space for only peaceful uses, and since then the US militarization of space programs has blocked the UN Conference on Disarmament from making progress. Chomsky noted that even Sam Nunn dismissed the 2002 Bush-Putin SORT treaty as meaningless. Missile defense is getting more funds than the US State Department and four times as much as what is spent on safeguarding dangerous weapons in the former Soviet Union. In May 2003 the US Congress approved Bush's program for a new generation of nuclear weapons. Analysts have found that "missile defense" is not really for defense but combines with offensive forces to achieve the goal of military supremacy and global domination. To monopolize the militarization of space, the US would have to be able to protect satellites that are easy targets. This means that they would have to achieve "full spectrum dominance." According to the Strategic Master Plan of the Air Force Space Command, the military ownership of space would
provide war-fighting commanders the ability to rapidly
deny, delay, deceive, disrupt, destroy,
exploit and neutralize targets
in hours/minutes rather than weeks/days
even when US and allied forces have a limited forward presence.19
Hypersonic drones (airplanes directed by remote control) are
already being used to monitor and destroy targets. In the Clinton
era the Space Command put out publicity indicating their goal
of "dominating the space dimension of military operations
to protect US interests and investments."20 The economic
globalization process that is widening the gap between the rich
and the poor is expected to require this full-spectrum dominance
to prevent rogue elements from gaining WMDs and to fight terrorism
that resists the US hegemony.
Noam Chomsky raised the existential question whether hegemony will continue to be considered more important than survival, as it has for the past half century. The United States recently refused to reaffirm or strengthen the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that reserved space for peaceful purposes, and it is the only nation out of 66 member states that is opposing formal negotiations on outer space. Since 2001 the United States has declined to fund and refused to cooperate with international verification of the ban on chemical weapons. The Bush II administration has also withdrawn from negotiations for verification of the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, claiming the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies must protect their trade secrets. The US apparently has three clandestine defense projects related to bioweapons, and it is suspected that Russia and the US are working on genetically engineering vaccine-resistant anthrax. Thus a bioweapons arms race is also likely, and the 2002 Hart-Rudman report warned that the chances are increasing that terrorists could use chemical or bioweapons.
The Bush administration has ignored and announced that it no longer supports the essential Article 6 of the important Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that calls for complete nuclear disarmament. Bush has revoked the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and opposed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Chomsky noted that Bush undermined the first UN conference to try to control the black market in small arms and that he designated John Bolton to back US opposition to international advocacy by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Despite the overwhelming evidence that Chomsky garnered to show how precarious human survival is, he concluded his book with the hope that recent developments in human rights culture and solidarity movements in Central America and elsewhere could join with the global justice movements that are becoming a superpower. These he believed could evolve into a global movement that could yet save our civilization.
1. Quoted in Noam Chomsky by Robert F. Barsky, p. 33.
2. Chomsky, Noam, American Power and the New Mandarins.
3. Ibid., p. 165.
4. Ibid., p. 374-375.
5. Chomsky, Noam, and Edward S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, p. 3.
6. Alan Riding, "Balaguer and His Firm Ally, the U.S." New York Times (6 June 1975) quoted in The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, p. 243.
7. Chomsky, Noam, Deterring Democracy, p. 2-3.
8. Ibid., p. 148.
9. Ibid., p. 161.
10. Chomsky, Noam, The Common Good, p. 42.
11. Chomsky, Noam, "The Zapatists Uprising" in Profit Over People, p. 122.
12. Disobedience and Democracy by Howard Zinn, p. 123.
13. Quoted in Howard Zinn: A Radical American Vision by Davis D. Joyce, p. 144.
14. "The CIA, Rockefeller, and the Boys in the Club" in The Zinn Reader, p. 326.
15. "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?" in The Zinn Reader, p. 329.
16. Quoted in Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn, p. 39.
17. Chomsky, Noam, The New Military Humanism, p. 9.
18. Chomsky, Noam, 9-11, p. 23.
19. Quoted in Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky, p. 228.
20. Ibid., p. 229.
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