The Chomsky Challenge for Americans

The Chomsky Challenge for Americans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Why do they hate us?

This was the iconic photo of the Vietnam War of a naked 9 year girl running, having been napalmed.  Her younger brother is to her left in the background and the US sponsored South Vietnamese troops are in the rear.  Today Kim Phuc lives in Canada, having been granted asylum there

 Below is an excellent article which gives a
background to the North Korean crisis and much else surrounding American
imperialism.  As you read it you may come to see why it is anything but
far-fetched to suggest that the ‘antisemitism’ campaign in the Labour Party is
merely one manifestation of the way in which the United States and its protege,
Israel, seeks to manipulate and control the political process in much of the
world.

It is indeed a testament to the power of the BBC
and the foreign policy establishment, that the United States is still seen by
most people, Donald Trump notwithstanding, as a democratic country rather than
a capitalist state with a sugar coating of democracy  beneath which is the
mailed fist of US imperialism.  Black people in the United States and
campaigns such as Black Lives Matter understand this, however white liberals still
see Trump as some kind of aberration rather than a remarkably honest politician
who, unlike Barak Obama, doesn’t say one thing and do another.

Tony Greenstein
Scholar and activist Noam Chomsky in 2012. (Hatem Moussa / AP)
It’s no wonder that most Americans
are clueless about why “their” country is feared and hated the world over. It
remains unthinkable to this day, for example, that any respectable “mainstream”
U.S. media outlet would tell the truth about why the United States atom-bombed
the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Gar
Alperovitz
and other
historians
have shown, Washington knew that Japan was defeated and ready to
surrender at the end of World War II. The ghastly atomic attacks were meant to
send a signal to Soviet Russia about the post-WWII world: “We run the world.
What we say goes.”
Montage of images from the Korean War. Clockwise from top: U.S. Marines retreating during the Battle of the Chosin Resevoir, U.N. landing at Incheon, Korean refugees in front of an American M-26 tank, U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, landing at Incheon, and an American F-86 Sabre fighter jet.
However, as far as most Americans who even care to remember
Hiroshima and Nagasaki know, the Japanese cities were nuked to save American
lives certain to be lost in a U.S. invasion required to force Japan’s
surrender. This false rationalization was reproduced in the “The War,” the widely viewed 2007 PBS miniseries on World
War II from celebrated liberal documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
An early challenge to Uncle Sam’s
purported right to manage postwar world affairs from the banks of the Potomac
came in 1950. Korean forces, joined by Chinese troops, pushed back against the
United States’ invasion of North Korea. Washington responded with a merciless
bombing campaign that flattened all of North Korea’s cities and towns. U.S. Air
Force Gen. Curtis LeMay boasted that “we burned down every town in North Korea”
and proudly guessed that Uncle Sam’s gruesome air campaign, replete with napalm
and chemical weapons, murdered 20 percent of North Korea’s population. This and
more was recounted without a hint of shame—with pride, in fact—in the leading
public U.S. military journals of the time. As Noam
Chomsky
, the world’s leading intellectual, explained five years ago, the
U.S. was not content just to demolish the country’s urban zones:
Since everything in North Korea had
been destroyed, the air force was then sent to destroy North Korea’s dams, huge
dams that controlled the nation’s water supply—a war crime for which people had
been hanged in Nuremberg. And these official journals … talk[ed] excitedly
about how wonderful it was to see the water pouring down, digging out the
valleys and the ‘Asians’ scurrying around trying to survive. The journals
exulted in what this meant to those Asians—horrors beyond our imagination. It
meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation. How
magnificent!
The United States’ monstrous
massive crimes against North Korea during the early 1950s went down George
Orwell’s “memory
hole
” even as they took place. To the American public they never
occurred—and therefore hold no relevance to current U.S.-North Korean tensions
and negotiations as far as most good Americans know.
Image from the 2009 military coup in Honduras which Hilary Clinton sponsored
Things are different in North
Korea, where every schoolchild learns about the epic, mass-murderous
wrongdoings of the U.S. “imperialist aggressor” from the early 1950s.
Clinton’s Colombian Death Squads
“Just imagine ourselves in their
position,” Chomsky writes. “Imagine what it meant … for your country to be
totally levelled—everything destroyed by a huge superpower, which furthermore
was gloating about what it was doing. Imagine the imprint that would leave
behind.”
That ugly history rarely makes its
way into the “mainstream” U.S. understanding of why North Korea behaves in
“bizarre” and “paranoid” ways toward the U.S.
Outside the “radical” margins
where people read left critics and chroniclers of “U.S. foreign policy” (a mild
euphemism for American imperialism), Americans still can’t grapple with the
monumental and arch-imperialist crime that was “the U.S. crucifixion of
Southeast Asia” (Chomsky’s
term at the time
) between 1962 and 1975.
Contrary to the conventional U.S.
wisdom, there was no “Vietnam War.” What really occurred was a U.S. War on
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—a giant and prolonged, multi-pronged and imperial
assault that murdered 5 million southeast Asians along with 58,000 U.S.
soldiers. Just one U.S. torture program alone—the CIA’s Operation Phoenix—killed
more than two-thirds as many Vietnamese as the total U.S. body count.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the widely publicized My Lai atrocity was just
one of countless
mass racist killings
of Vietnamese villagers carried out by U.S. troops
during the crucifixion. Vietnam struggles with an epidemic
of birth defects
created by U.S. chemical warfare to this day.
All in a day’s work – the gruesome toll of the death squads
America’s savage saturation
bombing of Cambodia (meant to cut off supply lines to Vietnamese independence
fighters) created the devastation out
of which arose
the mass-exterminating Khmer Rouge regime, which Washington
later backed against Vietnam.
As far as most Americans who care
to think about the “Vietnam War” know from “mainstream” U.S. media, however,
the war’s real tragedy is about what it did to Americans, not Southeast Asians.
With no small help from Burns and Novick’s instantly celebrated documentary on,
well, “The Vietnam
War
” last year, we are still stuck in the ethical oblivion of then U.S.
President Jimmy Carter’s morally
idiotic 1977 statement
that no U.S. reparations or apologies were due to
Vietnam since “the destruction was mutual” in the “Vietnam War.” As if fearsome
fleets of Vietnamese bombers had wreaked havoc on major U.S. cities and
pulverized and poisoned U.S. fields and farms during the 1960s and 1970s. As if
legions of Vietnamese killers had descended from attack helicopters to murder
U.S. citizens in their homes while Vietnamese gunships destroyed U.S. schools
and hospitals. Did the Vietnamese mine U.S. harbors? Did naked American
children run down streets in flight from Vietnamese napalm attacks?
The colossal crimes committed run
contrary to Cold War claims that Washington was fighting the spread of
Soviet-directed communism. The U.S. wanted to prevent Vietnam from becoming a
good example of Third World social revolution and national independence. The truth
is remembered in Vietnam, where national museums exhibit artifacts from Uncle
Sam’s noble effort to “bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age” and tell stories of
Vietnamese soldiers’ heroic resistance to the “imperialist aggressors.”
One American who made the moral
decision to put himself in “our” supposed “enemy’s” position was Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. The people of Indochina, King
mused in 1967
, “must find Americans to be strange liberators” as we
“destroy their families, villages, land” and send them “wander[ing] into the
hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one
‘Vietcong’-inflicted injury. So far we have killed a million of them—mostly children.”
Further:
They languish under our bombs and
consider us—not their fellow Vietnamese—the real enemy. They move sadly and
apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers and into
concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they
must move or be destroyed by our bombs. … They watch as we poison their water,
as we kill a million acres of their land. They must weep as the bulldozers roar
through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. … They wander into
the towns and see thousands of children, homeless, without clothes, running in
packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our
solders as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to
our solders, soliciting for their mothers.
Observing that the U.S. had become
the world’s “leading purveyor of violence,” King asked Americans to develop the
maturity to “learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the [Vietnamese]
brothers who are called the opposition.”
All good Americans were naturally
horrified by the 9/11/2001 jetliner attacks—the first serious foreign attack on
the U.S. since the War of 1812. Where was their humanitarian revulsion as
U.S.-led economic sanctions killed 500,000 innocent Iraqi children (what Bill
Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, went on CBS
to call “a price worth paying”) during the first half of the 1990s?
“Mainstream” U.S. media had little to say about this terrible toll.
How many good Americans who
understandably wept as they watched the World Trade Center towers collapse had
ever heard about the grisly slaughter the U.S. armed forces arch-criminally
inflicted on surrendered Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait in February 1991?
Journalist Joyce
Chediac testified
that:
U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by
disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the
resulting traffic jams for hours. … On the sixty miles of coastal highway,
Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and
men alike, black and awful under the sun … for 60 miles every vehicle was
strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every
truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely. … U.S.
forces continued to drop bombs on the convoys until all humans were killed. So
many jets swarmed over the inland road that it created an aerial traffic jam,
and combat air controllers feared midair collisions. … [I]t was simply a
one-sided massacre. …
Luftwaffe chief
Hermann Göring would have been impressed.
Imagine the imprint this senseless
war crime must have left behind on Iraqis.
Thanks to its poor fit with
American exceptionalist doctrine—according to which Uncle Sam always tries to
do the morally right thing, even if it sometimes goes too far in overzealous
pursuits of its consistently good intentions—this gruesome imperial crime was
only a minor story in U.S. “mainstream” media. The same was true three years
earlier when the American battleship USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655,
killing 290 civilians on a clearly marked commercial jet in Iranian air space
over the Persian Gulf. (Two years later, the Vincennes’ commander and his chief
air-war artillery officer were given medals for “exceptionally meritorious
conduct” during this heroic slaughter of harmless innocents.)
Imagine the U.S. response if, say,
a Chinese navy ship had shot down an American Airlines flight in U.S. airspace
over San Francisco Bay.
The U.S. shootdown of Flight 655
is well remembered in Iran. Not so in the United States of Imperial Amnesia,
where official doctrine holds that, in
Albright’s words
, “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.”

‘Tis too much proved,”
William Shakespeare
wrote in “Hamlet,” “that with devotion’s
visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself.”
The tenacious hold of pious
U.S.-exceptionalist dogma leads to soul-numbing two-facedness. In May 2009, a
U.S. airstrike killed more than 10 dozen civilians in Bola
Boluk
, a village in western Afghanistan’s Farah province. Ninety-three of
the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children. Just 22 were
males 18 years or older. As The New York Times somewhat surprisingly reported:
“In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to … the Afghan
Parliament, the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said that as many as
130 civilians had been killed, according to a legislator, Mohammad Naim Farahi.
… The governor said that the villagers have brought two tractor trailers full
of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had
occurred. … Everyone was crying … watching that shocking scene. Mr. Farahi said
he had talked to someone he knew personally who had counted 113 bodies being
buried, including … many women and children.”
The initial response of the Obama
Pentagon to this horrific incident—one among many mass U.S. aerial civilian
killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan beginning in the fall of 2001—was to blame
the deaths on “Taliban grenades.” Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton,
expressed “regret,” but the administration refused to issue an apology or to
acknowledge U.S. responsibility.
By telling contrast, Barack Obama
had just offered a full apology and fired a White House official for scaring
New Yorkers with an ill-advised Air Force One photo-shoot flyover of Manhattan
that reminded people there of 9/11.
The disparity was remarkable:
Frightening New Yorkers led to a full presidential apology and the discharge of
a White House staffer. Killing more than 100 Afghan civilians required no
apology. No one had to be fired. And the Pentagon was permitted to advance
preposterous claims about how the civilians perished—stories U.S. corporate
media took seriously.
“Why,
oh why, do they hate us?
” So runs the
plaintive American cry, as if Washington hasn’t directly and indirectly
(through blood-soaked
proxies like
the Indonesia dictator Suharto and the death-squad regimes of
Central America during the 1970s and 1980s) killed untold millions and
overthrown dozens of governments the world over since 1945. As if the U.S.
doesn’t account for nearly
40 percent of the world’s military spending
to maintain at least 800
military bases
spread across more than 80 “sovereign” nations.
Maybe it has to do with a U.S.
media that wrings its hands for months over the deaths of four U.S. soldiers
trapped on an imperial mission in Niger but can’t muster so much as a tear for
the thousands of innocents regularly killed (victims of what Chomsky
has called
“the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times”) by U.S.
drone attacks across the Middle East, Southwest Asia and North Africa. Imagine what
it is like to live in constant dread of annihilation launched from invisible
and unmanned aerial killing machines. The tens of thousands of Yemenis killed
and maimed by U.S-backed and U.S.-equipped Saudi Arabian airs raids get no
sympathy from most American media. Nor do the more than 1 million Iraqis who
died prematurely thanks to Washington’s arch-criminal 2003 invasion of Iraq,
which was sold on thoroughly and openly false pretexts and provided essential
context for the rise of the Islamic State.
Maybe it’s also about the “good
friends” that “we” (our “foreign policy” imperial masters) keep around the
world in the names of “freedom” and “democracy.”
These partners in global virtue
include:
● Thirty-six nations receiving
U.S. military assistance
despite being identified as “dictatorships” in
2016 by the right-wing U.S. organization Freedom House.
● The Saudi regime, the leading
source and funder of extremist Sunni jihadism and the most reactionary
government on earth, currently using U.S. military hardware and ordnance to
bomb Yemen into an epic humanitarian crisis.
● The openly racist occupation and
apartheid state of Israel, which has sickened the morally sentient world this
spring by systemically sniper-killing
dozens of young, unarmed Palestinians
who have had the audacity to protest
their sadistic U.S.-backed siege in the miserable open-air prison that is Gaza.
● Honduras, home to a violently
repressive right-wing government installed through a
U.S.-backed military coup
in June 2009.
● The Philippines, headed by a
thuggish brute who boasts of killing thousands of drug users and dealers with
death squads.
● Rwanda, a
semi-totalitarian state
enlisted in the U.S.-backed multinational rape of
the Congo, where 5 million people have been killed by imperially sponsored
starvation, disease and civil war since 2008.
● Ukraine, where a right-wing
government that includes and relies on paramilitary neo-Nazis was installed in
a U.S.-assisted
coup
four years ago.
You don’t have to be a leftist to
have the elementary moral decency to do the Chomsky exercise of imagining
yourself in other nations’ shoes—on the wrong side of the Pax Americana and its
dutiful, consent-manufacturing “mainstream” media. Four years ago, the
University of Chicago’s “realist” U.S. foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer
had the all-too-uncommon decency (at least among U.S. “foreign affairs”
specialists) to reflect on the Ukraine crisis and the New Cold War as seen from
Russian eyes.
“The taproot of the crisis,” Mearsheimer
wrote
in the nation’s top establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, “is
[U.S.-led] NATO expansion and Washington’s commitment to move Ukraine out of
Moscow’s orbit and integrated into the West,”
something Vladimir Putin quite
naturally saw as “a direct threat to Russia’s core interests.” And “who can
blame him?”
Mearsheimer asked, adding that grasping the reasons for Putin’s
hostility ought to have been easy since the “United States does not tolerate
distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western
hemisphere, much less on its borders.”
We need not ask,” Chomsky
reflects
, “how the United States would have reacted had the countries of
Latin America joined the Warsaw Pact, with plans for Mexico and Canada to join
as well. The merest hints of the first tentative steps in that direction would
have been ‘terminated with extreme prejudice,’ to adopt CIA lingo.”
You never heard about
Mearsheimer’s take, much less Chomsky’s, even (or especially) in liberal media
outposts like MSNBC and CNN, where progressives learn to love the CIA and the
FBI.
The dominant U.S. media now is
warning us about the great and resurgent danger of Iran developing a single
nuclear weapon. U.S. talking heads and pundits also are leading the charge for
the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula [of North Korea].”
It is unthinkable that anyone in
the reigning American exceptionalist U.S. media-politics-and-culture complex
would raise the question of the denuclearization of the United States. It’s no
small matter. The world’s only superpower, the only nation to ever attack
civilians with nuclear weapons, is embarking on a super-expensive top-to-bottom
overhaul of a U.S. nuclear arsenal that already houses 5,500 weapons with
enough menacing power between them to blow the world up five times over. This $1.7
trillion rebuild
includes the creation of provocative new first-strike
weapons systems likely to escalate the risks of nuclear exchanges with Russia
and/or China. Everyday Americans could have opportunities to more than just
imagine what the innocents of Nagasaki experienced in August 1945.
But don’t blame Donald Trump. Our
current reality was initiated under Obama, leader of a party that is
positioning itself as the real and anti-Russian and CIA-backed party of empire
in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections.
This extraordinarily costly
retooling heightens prospects for human self-extermination in a world in dire
need of public investment to end poverty (half the world’s population “lives”
on less
than $2.50 a day
), to replace fossil fuels with clean energy (we are
marching to the fatal mark of 500 carbon parts per atmospheric million by
2050—if not sooner), and to clean up the titanic environmental mess we’ve made
of our planet.
The perverted national priorities
reflected in such appalling, Darth Vader-esque “public investment”—a giant
windfall for the high-tech U.S. weapons-industrial complex—are symptoms of the
moral collapse that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned the United States about
in the famous anti-war speech he gave one year to the day before his
assassination (or execution). “A nation that continues year after year to spend
more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,”
King said,
is approaching spiritual death.”
That spiritual death is well
underway. Material and physical death for the species is not far off on
America’s eco- and nuclear-exterminating path, led in no small part by a
dominant U.S. media that obsesses over everything Trump and Russia while the
underlying bipartisan institutions of imperial U.S. oligarchy lead humanity
over the cliff. Americans might want to learn how to take Chomsky’s
challenge—imagine ourselves in others’ situation—before it’s too late to
imagine anything at all.
Paul
Street holds a doctorate in U.S. history from Binghamton University. He is
former vice president for research and planning of the Chicago Urban League.
Street is also the author of numerous books,…

 

 

 

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