Friday, 9 November 2012

Neocons and Stalinists.

A serious priority of the apologists for empire is to vilify the opposition which may emerge into the public space from time to time to challenge established power in its aggressive designs. There is a variation of the cases, just as there are liars who have understood what Goebbels knew all too well - specifically, that a big lie will be swallowed more easily than a small one. This is what we find when Alan Dershowitz had the effrontery to accuse Norman Finkelstein's deceased mother of being a kapo - a Nazi collaborator - while she was at Auschwitz. That happens to be a particularly sordid and extreme case, Dershowitz is a good lawyer for guilty candidates. Another instance would be when Andrew Sullivan accused Noam Chomsky of being a supporter of the Soviet Union on the Bill Maher show. This level of slander is nothing new. Chomsky has been accused of everything from supporting radical Muslims killing Americans to supporting nationalist Serbs killing Muslims. I'm writing of this because I recently came across this (unsurprisingly) in the work of Douglas Murray:

"Eleven days into the American forces' action in Afghanistan, on October 18, 2001, Chomsky excelled even himself in a broadcast speech: 'The New War Against terror.' In it he spoke of what American forces were doing in Afghanistan declaring "Looks like what's happening is some sort of silent genocide." He alleged that there was a concerted American attempt to starve and kill between three and four million Afghan people."

Actually the Professor opened the talk on the so-called 'War on Terrorism' with a look at what The New York Times had pointed out about the war of Afghanistan. He covers this in the first 10 minutes, or so, of the aforementioned talk and you can see it all on YouTube. Chomsky picked the estimates of the number of Afghans who were at danger of falling into starvation out of The New York Times, the basis of which came from the United Nations. He emphasises that the millions in Afghanistan on the verge of starvation were dependent on international aid, and that this issue predates the events of 9/11. Chomsky quotes The New York Times in noting that the US demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys to Afghanistan. This would cut-off the flow of food to the civilian population. He notes that there was no reaction in the US to this demand. Incidentally, this is similar to what the US and Britain imposed on Cambodia in the aftermath of the crimes of Pol Pot and the subsequent Vietnamese occupation. Something that Chomsky was vilified over once again.

Another round of quoting followed as Chomsky notes the threat of military strikes forced out the aid workers, which crippled the assistance programmes. He quotes an evacuated aid worker who says "The country was on a lifeline and we just cut the line." The UN food programme were able to resume food shipments to Afghanistan after a few weeks, this was suspended during bombing. It was the arithmetic of the UN that calculated around 7.5 million Afghans would be left in acute need for 'even a loaf of bread' given the conditions. Chomsky observes that this tells us that Western civilisation is anticipating the slaughter of three to four million. Nevertheless, Murray goes on to dismiss Chomsky's claims as 'lunatic' while he refers us to hacks David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh who ascribe to Chomsky the motive of depicting Americans as "moral monsters" planning on killing millions of Afghans. These self-described "democratic revolutionaries" prefer to conflate anticipation with intention. There is no such thing as subtlety in their worldview.

The real point that Chomsky made was that the conditions of policy-decisions were conducive in potentia to a massive famine in Afghanistan. It was the UN that called on the US to stop the bombing to avert the famine. At this point in the talk Chomsky says "It looks like what's happening is some kind of silent genocide" before adding that this indicates that the US is implementing policies under the assumption that they might kill several million people. The Professor is keen to emphasise that, at this point, we don't know what will happen. That point is not referred to at all in Murray's book. What we do find in the book, strangely, is that Murray can quote Chomsky's reaction when he was faced with the accusation of predicting a "silent genocide". What's strange is that the author is too thick to realise that he's allowed Chomsky to explain what he means quite clearly. Yet Murray ascribes an 'opaque' quality to Chomsky's words in this instance, perhaps his words are only opaque coming after a barrage of lies from right-wing degenerates:

"That is an interesting fabrication, which gives a good deal of insight into the prevailing moral and intellectual culture. First, the facts: I predicted nothing... All of this is precisely accurate and entirely appropriate. The warnings remain accurate as well, a truism that should be unnecessary to explain. Unfortunately, it is apparently necessary to add a moral truism: actions are evaluated in terms of the range of anticipated consequences."

The moral case against the war can't easily be dismissed by hacks. So it has to be reduced to a point that can easily be dismissed by a body-count in Afghanistan that conveniently leaves assumptions about the war untouched. The wretched Stephen Sakur challenged Chomsky on this point a couple of years ago. In response Chomsky aptly pointed out that the fact the "silent genocide" didn't happen because the conditions under which the policies were implemented remain the same. Whether or not the millions lived or died is separate to Chomsky's point, he was talking about the reasonable expectations of the impact of policy at the time. As Chomsky observed, the Stalinist hacks of the Soviet Union could defend Khrushchev's decision to put nuclear weapons in Cuba on the grounds that the move did not lead to a nuclear war and the end of days. To do so takes the decision in separation from its consequences, while conveniently falling back on what actually came after. In this way highly questionable assumptions are guarded from any critical reflection.

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