Comments on Chomsky Interview On Iraq
Source: Interview by Michael Albert, ZNet, Article Dated 9/5/2002
Summary: In the interview Chomsky is falling in line with the two main anchors of war propaganda against Iraq: demonization of President Saddam Hussein and justification of the involuntary weapons control regime. In doing so, he harms the cause against the sanctions and in defence of the sovereignty of Iraq. He is part of the establishment and acts as such. This is just one more proof how corrupt the system is. It provides individuals who have the reputation of being critical towards the system and governments - and are therefore respected and trusted by people sympathizing with social and peace movements - but are firmly anchored in the system and comply with the basic demands.
1. Has Saddam Hussein been as evil as mainstream media says? Domestically? Internationally?
He is as evil as they come, ranking with Suharto and other monsters of the modern era. No one would want to be within his reach. But fortunately, his reach does not extend very far.
Who is "they"? Political-military leaders in general? Or just those 'others' meaning 'not us'? And human beings are not "monsters" however we disagree and hate what they are doing. And if you are not getting along with the system you are living under, wherever you are - expect repression, internment and murder. Besides, many want to be close to power because they expect to benefit from it. That is no different in Iraq than anywhere else.
Internationally, Saddam invaded Iran (with Western support), and when that war was going badly turned to chemical weapons (also with Western support). He invaded Kuwait and was quickly driven out.
Iraq and Iran went to war after numerous threats from Iran and clashes at the borders. Both developed chemical warfare capabilities although Iraq was more advanced and successful. Iraq has legitimate historical claims on Kuwait and had to do some face saving measure in response to constant provocation and theft from Kuwait.
A major concern in Washington right after the invasion was that Saddam would quickly withdraw, putting "his puppet in [and] everyone in the Arab world will be happy" (Colin Powell, then Chief of Staff). President Bush was concerned that Saudi Arabia might "bug out at the last minute and accept a puppet regime in Kuwait" unless the US prevented Iraqi withdrawal.
The countries in the region have all rights to decide their own issues. The only legitimate solution to the problem would have been regional. It shouldn't matter what the U.S.A. want. Better an Iraqi than a U.S.-puppet.
Saddam's worst crimes, by far, have been domestic, including the use of chemical weapons against Kurds and a huge slaughter of Kurds in the late 80s, barbaric torture, and every other ugly crime you can imagine. These are at the top of the list of terrible crimes for which he is now condemned, rightly. It's useful to ask how frequently the impassioned denunciations and eloquent expressions of outrage are accompanied by three little words: "with our help."
He uncritically repeats the lies and half-truths about the history of the war and the fighting between the Kurds and central government and completely ignores some crucial facts. Kurdish troops were fighting alongside the Iranian in Northern Iraq. It was not the first time and won't be the last that Kurdish fractions are being used by enemies of Iraq against the central government. Indeed civil wars are often bitter and ugly. One of the most brutal and deadly civil wars of modern times was fought in the U.S. to force the will of the central government upon the Southern states. Iraq has a serious problem to find the right balance between the powers of the central government necessary to protect the political, economic and territorial integrity of Iraq and the desire of the Kurds for autonomy. To put all blame on the central government is stupid and only shows Chomsky's one-sidedness. Moreover, the issue of internal Iraqi affairs and repression is exlusively up to the people in Iraq. If Chomsky is so concerned about torture and crime, he best starts with his own country.
The crimes were well known at once, but of no particular concern to the West. Saddam received some mild reprimands; harsh congressional condemnation was considered too extreme by prominent commentators. The Reaganites and Bush #1 continued to welcome the monster as an ally and valued trading partner right through his worst atrocities and well beyond.
Listen to the language he is using. The Iraqi President is referred to as a 'monster' not only in this paragraph but multiple times. The de-humanization of another human being is a means of propaganda to try to prevent any identification with the victims of one's own aggression. Moreover, in complaining that the Reagan and Bush administrations supported Iraq in its war against Iran even with the reports about C-weapons use being out, he seems to suggest that he principally supports U.S. interventions but likes to see it differently executed. He again completely fails to insist that the U.S. stay out of the internal affairs of the Near East region.
2. Looking into the future, is Saddam Hussein as dangerous as mainstream media says?
The world would be better off if he weren't there, no doubt about that. Surely Iraqis would. But he can't be anywhere near as dangerous as he was when the US and Britain were supporting him, even providing him with dual-use technology that he could use for nuclear and chemical weapons development, as he presumably did.
Chomsky agrees the world would be better off with President Hussein removed, "no doubt about that." The demonization of the Iraqi President is the core propaganda theme to attack Iraq all these years. With his statement he finally reveals his basic compliance with the U.S. war planners. And what arrogance to decide what's best for Iraqis. Chomsky is an asshole. The world would be better off without the U.S. and it's MIC and CIA. No doubt about that.
The 1991 war was extremely destructive, and since then Iraq has been devastated by a decade of sanctions, which probably strengthened Saddam himself (by weakening possible resistance in a shattered society), but surely reduced very significantly his capacity for war-making or support for terror.
He presents himself as a real Yankee. The US attack and kill by the hundreds of thousands of people committing terrible atrocities using the most advanced weapons of mass extermination and destruction, but he talks about Iraq as a danger for peace. But we did so much damage so them that the countries ability to make war was reduced. Isn't that good? How much damage does the U.S.A. need in order to loose it's ability to launch more assault and make war?
The rational conclusion is that Saddam is probably less of a danger now than before 9-11, and far less of a threat than when he was enjoying substantial support from the US-UK (and many others). That raises a few questions. If Saddam is such a threat to the survival of civilization today that the global enforcer has to resort to war, why wasn't that true a year ago? And much more dramatically, in early 1990?
He gets it all wrong. Saddam Hussein never was a danger for anyone outside the region. Iraq never planned to bomb or invade the U.S.A. It's just the other way around. The U.S.A. and it's main ally Israel are systematically destabilizing the Gulf region. The U.S.A. is the real threat for the region and for civilization.
3. How should the problem of the existence and use of weapons of mass destruction in the world today be dealt with?
They should be eliminated. The non-proliferation treaty commits countries with nuclear weapons to take steps towards eliminating them. The biological and chemical weapons treaties have the same goals. The main Security Council resolution concerning Iraq (687, 1991) calls for eliminating weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems from the Middle East, and working towards a global ban on chemical weapons. Good advice.
That's cheap to say. Why doesn't he concentrate on working to disarm the U.S. military? Equal rights for all countries to deploy whatever weapons they choose. Why shouldn't Iraq have any nuclear weapons and mid or long range ballistic missiles while it's enemies have plenty?
And the rest of the area is armed to the teeth as well. If Iraq were governed by Gandhi, it would be developing weapons systems if it could, probably well beyond what it can today. That would very likely continue, perhaps even accelerate, if the US takes control of Iraq. India and Pakistan are US allies, but are marching forward with the development of WMD and repeatedly have come agonizingly close to using nuclear weapons. The same is true of other US allies and clients.
That is likely to continue unless there is a general reduction of armaments in the area.
Would Saddam agree to that? Actually, we don't know. In early January 1991, Iraq apparently offered to withdraw from Kuwait in the context of regional negotiations on reduction of armaments, an offer that State Department officials described as serious and negotiable. But we know no more about it, because the US rejected it without response and the press reported virtually nothing.
Already in 1989 during an armament conference in Paris the Iraqi side and also other countries of the Gulf region linked the Israeli nuclear arsenal with the issue of chemical weapons and argued for a regional disarmament agreement. But we all know that the US and Israel will block all efforts in that direction. He also fails to mention the aspect of deterrence of foreign aggression through a credible threat of serious retaliation. Just shows his limited scope again.