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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 22 December 2003

Topic: Iraq

Was Thomas Jefferson that cynical? Chomsky takes a few swings at Wolfowitz

On the lefty site AlterNet Noam Chomsky takes a dim view of US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

See Dictators R Us
Noam Chomsky, AlterNet. December 22, 2003 (first published in The Toronto Star)

Yes, Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And he's a political writer, activist and critic - a key voice from the left. His new book is Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance - obviously not one of the volumes on cognition, language acquisition and the epistemology of grammar. Paul Wolfowitz is the administration's chief political theorist. Most of what we do in the world he has thought up, or at least explained as quite reasonable.

So what's Chomsky's beef?
... the Bush administration's original reason for going to war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes that now, not even Bush's speechwriters.

The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East.

Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches the level of rapturous acclaim.

Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as "the most idealistic war in modern times" -fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and the region. Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, "the Bush administration's idealist in chief," whom he described as a genuine intellectual who "bleeds for (the Arab world's) oppression and dreams of liberating it."

Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz's career - like his strong support for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century's worst mass murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that country under Ronald Reagan.

As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.

All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change of course.

So, yes, Wolfowitz's heart bleeds for the victims of oppression - and if the record shows the opposite, it's just that boring old stuff that we want to forget about.
Well, that was then. This is now. But it is odd.

Give Paul the benefit of the doubt?

Noam says no.
One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.

Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.

The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz's "Determination and Findings" on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are countries where the government dared to take the same position as the vast majority of the population.

Wolfowitz's alleged grounds are "security interests," which are non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss - along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will be free to "compete" with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies.
Harsh words.

The whole thing is worth a read.

What it comes down to is fancy idealistic words being used to mask a competitive struggle for domination and exploitation. Noam calls Paul a liar, or deluded. And sees him as the man who behind the duping of the country to make Bush and his friends rich - the usual left rant.

Except Noam gives events and dates - and asks us to think about them. Not many people will. No time. Other concerns.

His conclusion?
Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent - and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence.

An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."
I suppose Jefferson said that - I'll try to find where. Was Jefferson that cynical?

And why won't Chomsky buy the administration's line on all this? Patriotic idealists do. Really. Cynics don't, and call themselves realists, like Jefferson.

Posted by Alan at 19:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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