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(en) Deep Concerns. By Noam Chomsky

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 21 Mar 2003 15:50:45 +0100 (CET)


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At this grim moment, we can do nothing to stop the ongoing invasion. But
that does not mean that the task is over for people who have some
concern for justice, freedom, and human rights. Far from it. The tasks
will be more urgent than before, whatever the outcome of the attack. And
about that, no one has any idea: not the Pentagon, the CIA, or anyone else.
Possibilities range from the horrifying humanitarian catastrophes of which
aid and relief agencies that work in Iraq have been warning, to relatively
benign outcomes - though even if not a hair is harmed on anyone's head
that will in no way mitigate the criminality of those willing to subject
helpless people to such terrible risks, for their own shameful purposes.

As for the outcomes, it will be a long time before preliminary judgments
can be made. One immediate task is to lend what weight we can to more
benign outcomes. That means, primarily, caring for the needs of the
victims, not just of this war but of Washington's vicious and destructive
sanctions regime of the past ten years, which has devastated the civilian
society, strengthened the ruling tyrant, and compelled the population to rely
on him for survival. As has been pointed out for years, the sanctions
therefore undermined the hope that Saddam Hussein would go the way of
other murderous tyrants no less vicious than he. That includes a terrible
rogues gallery of criminals who were also supported by those now at the
helm in Washington, in many cases to the last days of their bloody rule:
Ceausescu, to mention only one obvious and highly pertinent case.

Elementary decency would call for massive reparations from the US;
lacking that, at least a flow of aid to Iraqis, so that they can rebuild
what has been destroyed in their own way, not as dictated by people in
Washington and Crawford whose higher faith is that power comes from the
barrel of a gun.

But the issues are much more fundamental, and long range. Opposition to
the invasion of Iraq has been entirely without historical precedent.
That is why Bush had to meet his two cronies at a US military base on an
island, where they would be safely removed from any mere people. The
opposition may be focused on the invasion of Iraq, but its concerns go far
beyond that. There is growing fear of US power, which is considered to be
the greatest threat to peace in much of the world, probably by a large
majority. And with the technology of destruction now at hand, rapidly
becoming more lethal and ominous, threat to peace means threat to
survival.

Fear of the US government is not based solely on this invasion, but on
the background from which it arises: An openly-declared determination to
rule the world by force, the one dimension in which US power is supreme,
and to make sure that there will never be any challenge to that
domination. Preventive wars are to be fought at will: Preventive, not
Pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might
sometimes be, they do not hold for the very different category of
preventive war: the use of military force to eliminate an imagined or
invented threat. The openly-announced goal is to prevent an challenge to
the "power, position, and prestige of the United States." Such
challenge, now or in the future, and any sign that it may emerge, will
be met without overwhelming force by the rulers of the country that now
apparently outspends the rest of the world combined on means of
violence, and is forging new and very dangerous paths over
near-unanimous world opposition: development of lethal weaponry in
space, for example.

It is worth bearing in mind that the words I quoted are not those of
Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or other radical statist extremists now in
charge. Rather, they are the words of the respected elder statesman Dean
Acheson, 40 years ago, when he was a senior advisor to the Kennedy
Administration. He was justifying US actions against Cuba - knowing that
the international terrorist campaign aimed at "regime change" had just
brought the world close to terminal nuclear war. Nevertheless, he instructed
the American Society of International Law, no "legal issue" arises in the
case of a US response to a challenge to its "power, position, and prestige,"
specifically terrorist attacks and economic warfare against Cuba.

I bring this up as a reminder that the issues are deep-seated. The
current administration is at the extremist end of the policy-planning
spectrum, and its adventurism and penchant for violence are unusually
dangerous. But the spectrum is not that broad, and unless these deeper
issues are addressed, we can be confident that other ultrareactionary
extremists will gain control of incredible means of devastation and
repression.

The "imperial ambition" of the current power holders, as it is frankly
called, has aroused shudders throughout the world, including the
mainstream of the establishment at home. Elsewhere, of course, the
reactions are far more fearful, particularly among the traditional
victims. They know too much history, the hard way, to be comforted by
exalted rhetoric. They have heard enough of that over the centuries as
they were being beaten by the club called "civilization." Just a few
days ago, the head of the non-aligned movement, which includes the
governments of most of the world's population, described the Bush
administration as more aggressive than Hitler. He happens to be very
pro-American, and right in the middle of Washington's international
economic projects. And there is little doubt that he speaks for many of
the traditional victims, and by now even for many of their traditional
oppressors.

It is easy to go on, and important to think these matters through, with
care and honesty.

Even before the Bush administration sharply escalated these fears in
recent months, intelligence and international affairs specialists were
informing anyone who wanted to listen that the policies Washington is
pursuing are likely to lead to an increase in terror and proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction, for revenge or simply deterrence. There
are two ways for Washington to respond to the threats engendered by its
actions and startling proclamations. One way is to try to alleviate the
threats by paying some attention to legitimate grievances, and by
agreeing to become a civilized member of a world community, with some
respect for world order and its institutions. The other way is to
construct even more awesome engines of destruction and domination, so
that any perceived challenge, however remote, can be crushed - provoking
new and greater challenges. That way poses serious dangers to the people
of the US and the world, and may, very possibly, lead to extinction of the
species - not an idle speculation.

Terminal nuclear war has been avoided by near miracle in the past; a few
months before Acheson's speech, to mention one case that should be fresh
in our minds today. Threats are severe and mounting. The world has good
reason to watch what is happening in Washington with fear and trepidation.
The people who are best placed to relieve those fears, and to lead the way
to a more hopeful and constructive future, are the
citizens of the United States, who can shape the future.

Those are among the deep concerns that must, I think, be kept clearly in
mind while watching events unfold in their unpredictable way as the most
awesome military force in human history is unleashed against a
defenseless enemy by a political leadership that has compiled a
frightening record of destruction and barbarism since it took the reins
of power over 20 years ago.

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