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(en) ZNet Commentary / June 16 / Noam Chomsky / Credibility

From "Michael Albert" <sysop@zmag.org>
Date Fri, 16 Jun 2000 01:42:37 -0400


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Credibility
By Noam Chomsky

At a talk earlier this year, Chomsky was asked -- "Kosovoówhat are the
interests driving intervention? What do you foresee for the people of the
region?"

This was his answer...

We can start by saying what the intervention was not motivated by. It was
not motivated by humanitarian concern; I think that is overwhelmingly
obvious at this point. There is now a rich mine of documentation from
sources of the kind Iíve just mentioned which demonstrate that, up until the
bombing, Kosovo was a pretty ugly place, in fact, not unlike Colombia,
though probably not as bad. But nothing special was happening in the period
before the bombing. The place was teeming with monitors, European monitors,
the international human rights organizations, the ICRC, the UNHCR, etc., and
their reports are available, to a large extent, and theyíre pretty clear. In
the last two-month reporting period before the bombing, they estimate more
than one violent death a day, which is bad (on both sides, incidentally,
these are distributed--Serbs, Albanians, some of the Albanians being killed
by Albanians). Ugly, but not changing; and, in fact, nothing special
happening.

The bombing was then undertaken, with the expectation that it was going to
sharply escalate atrocities. We now have a record of where it escalated
atrocities from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who
gave a detailed documentation of what happened afterward. Their conclusion
is that the atrocities took place as anticipated, primarily in areas of
guerilla activity and potential invasion routes. Ugly and horrible and war
crimes and everything else, but not all that surprising when you bomb some
country and you threaten to invade them. That was the anticipated
consequence of the bombing. Itís been kind of inverted now in the rendition,
so what you read is that they were carrying out ethnic cleansing so we had
to bomb to stop ethnic cleansing. Just take a look at the record; itís
exactly the other way around. The ethnic cleansing followed the bombing, and
it was the anticipated consequence of it, and for ugly, but intelligible
reasons. You might ask yourself what would be happening here, letís say, if
a guerilla army based in Mexico were killing policemen, civil servants,
civilians, etc., with supplies coming in from Mexico, in an effort to try to
recover for Mexico the territory that was stolen from it not all that long
ago. How would you react around here? How would the United States react? You
donít have to bother saying.

What the NATO Commander, General Clark, said at the time turns out to be
very accurate. As the bombing started, Clark informed the press that it was
"entirely predictable" that atrocities would sharply increase. We now know
how sharply they increased because we know what they were before and what
they were afterward. A couple of weeks later he informed the press again
that the purpose of the bombing never had anything to do with ethnic
cleansing; that was not a concern of the political leadership or of the
military command that was implementing it. Now in retrospect, thatís pretty
much what is the case. So I think we can wipe out that argument, that it was
humanitarian in intentóit wasnít. So what was it? Thatís the question.

Well, here we go from fact, which you can verify, to speculation, which you
can only just guess, because we donít have internal documents. So if you
want my speculation, I think thereís now more evidence for it, but itís
still speculation because we donít have documents of internal planning. If
you take a look back at that time, youíll notice that two arguments were
given for the bombing. The first argument was that we had to stop ethnic
cleansing. That canít possibly be rightójust take a look at the factual
record. The second argument that was given is more plausible, in my view,
and that is that it was necessary to maintain the credibility of NATO. Well,
I think thatís plausible, but you have to translate it. Like most things in
political rhetoric, youíve got to do a little work on it.

When the U.S. and Britain talk about the credibility of NATO, what do they
have in mind? I mean, are they worried about the credibility of Norway? The
credibility of Italy? Belgium? I donít think so. Theyíre worried about the
credibility of the United States and its attack dog, which is what England
has become. It basically is a highly militarized state that is sent out to
attack people. So the U.S. and its attack dog, itís their credibility thatís
at stake.
With whom? Itís a wide audience. For one thing, with Europe. Part of the
reason, I suspect, for shifting the arena of confrontation from diplomacy to
violence is that thatís where the U.S. and Britain reign supreme. If you can
bring NATO in, itís a U.S., secondarily British, operation. If itís a matter
of diplomacy, the United States doesnít hold any cards any stronger than
Germany or France or anyone else.

Thereís been a significant conflict between Europe and the United States
over the emerging shape of the world. They donít agree on everything.
Putting NATO in the forefront is a way of putting the United States in the
forefront. The United States doesnít dominate Europe, but it does dominate
NATO. If Europe were to move toward a security system from, say the Atlantic
to the Urals, the way France and some in Germany have proposed, thatís going
to marginalize the United States in European affairs. If Europe stays under
NATO control, the U.S. is going to run it. So part of the credibility that
was involved, I think was credibility of U.S. power, vis-a-vis Europe.

But then itís much broader than that. Serbia, like it or hate it, itís the
one part of Europe which has not subordinated itself to the U.S. picture of
what things should look like, and itís got to go. And if it turns out to be
disobeying orders, as it was doing, then all the more reason why itís got to
go. Here, credibility in another sense enters. If you want to understand
that form of credibility, just go to your favorite Mafia don and ask him
what credibility means. If a local storekeeper doesnít pay protection money,
you donít just send somebody to collect the money, you make an example of
him because you have to establish credibility. You send in goons and beat
him to a pulp, or something like that. That establishes credibility. Then
others understand theyíd better listen. Thatís credibility, and it you look
through the record, thatís the kind of credibility that has to be
established all the time, not just by the Mafia don, but by the global Mafia
don as well. Whoever it may be, and in the last half-century itís been
mostly the United States--and now, dramatically. I think thatís the sense in
which credibility had to be established. You have to show whoís boss. You
have to "domesticate aspirations," as the Jesuits in San Salvador learned,
the surviving ones, because aspirations contrary to the wishes of the
powerful will not be tolerated and efforts to pursue them will lead to very
severe consequences. My guess is that that range of considerations is
probably what underlies planning in this case, as in many others. But, let
me say again, thatís speculation. Until the documentary record may come out,
long after Iím gone, weíre not going to have any clear evidence about this,
I expect.


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