Dear Mr. Burke:
I read your review of Chomsky's book Hegemony or Survival. I thought
it was interesting because I am finishing my book and I want everyone that
reads it to "get it". Here is my article that focuses on the central argument
I make in my book. I was hoping you could read it and tell me what you think:
I can answer any questions you have. These are matters of life and death
so I think you will agree it is important to address them.
Below I try to address the concerns you raised in your review and also
in a post I found at Burke on Chomsky
In your post you write, "Likewise, more contentiously, I'd say putting
Hussein and Ba'athism way down the list of things that explain Iraq prior
to this war (or prior to Gulf War I) is an error of equal proportions, because
it leaves Chomsky or a similar critic as blind to the motors that drive history"
But Chomsky is not blind to the motors that drive history. The US is the
most powerful motor on earth so it is important to focus on the US, I don't
know how you measure "way down the list".
I read the first mention of Saddam in his book, Hegemony or Survival
p31, and I think it addresses your concern about where on the list to put
Hussein and Ba'athism. Yes Saddam's record was horrendous but the US supported
him during the worst of it. Simply listing Saddam's crimes without mention
of the US role would be wrong. The "motor" of the US is the most powerful
one and is one for which we are responsible for. But the history shows that
we bear enormous responsibility for Saddam too. We knew he was a murderer
when the CIA was supporting him decades ago (before the 1980's). We supported
him even after the Gulf War. Chomsky explains in detail about Saddam and
US policy on his CD ( http://www.representativepress.org/listentothis.html )
As far as discussing crimes that we can control and the importance in
doing so, Chomsky makes a good point here: "But take a look, say, at the
book Edward S. Herman and I wrote on this topic. We discussed three kinds
of atrocities. What we called "benign bloodbaths", which nobody cares about,
constructive bloodbaths, which are the ones we like, and nefarious bloodbaths,
which are the ones that the bad guys do. The principle that I think we ought
to follow is not the one that you stated. You know, it's a very simple ethical
point: You're responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions.
You're not responsible for the predictable consequences of somebody else's
actions. The most important thing for me and for you is to think about the
consequences of your actions. What can you affect."
The point that we supported Saddam is rarely mentioned in the media
and the hypocrisy of this I have rarely seen addressed. Chomsky talks about
this on his CD. I have seen a few mentions of the support but here is something
interesting, talking heads from the Administration and think tanks list Saddam's
crimes using the statement that "Saddam? attacked his neighbors" (neighbors
plural)! So they include the attack on Iraq! But that is the war that we
supported him in! NEVER have I seen a reporter question these talking heads
about why Saddam's attack on Iran is listed as a wrong act by Saddam even
though the US helped him do it. How can the very same act be wrong for Saddam
and right for us? (this is an example of the media "playing the game")
I haven't seen Chomsky mention it but I think how the Ba'ath party came
to power in the 60's is very important (see below). I think the media's omission
of how the Ba'ath party came to power is very telling. Don't you agree? The
problem with the games reporters are playing or going along with out of ignorance
is exposing it requires proving two things. The first is that the omitted
thing is in fact true and second? that the? omitted things was in act omitted
and should have been reported. I have people tell me that "oh the media doesn't
give a history" but that simply is not true. Specifically, I have seen the
media a few times mention the 1980's and US support and I have seen media
talking heads justify it as the "lesser of two evils". But notice that the
60's coups and the handing over of hundreds of names to the Ba'ath party
is NOT mentioned in the media. I am talking about effective reporting in
the media, not a single mention somewhere like the? OpEd in the Times written
by . In fact a NYTs OpEd written by author Morris that did talk about the
1963 coup shows that reporters are ignoring it unless no one reads the OpEds
in the Times.
Here are some details about how the Ba'ath party came to power in the
60's and the US role: US diplomat James Akins served in the Baghdad Embassy
at the time. Mr. Akins said, "I knew all the Ba'ath Party leaders and I liked
them". "The CIA were definitely involved in that coup. We saw the rise of
the Ba'athists as a way of replacing a pro-Soviet government with a pro-American
one and you don't get that chance very often.
"Sure, some people were rounded up and shot but these were mostly communists so that didn't bother us". http://www.representativepress.org/CIASaddam.html
The role of the US in putting the Ba'ath party into power should have
been reported to the public, but it wasn't. I have several examples at my
web site the first article that I mentioned ( http://www.representativepress.org/whylie.html
) is a dramatic example of the interests of the powerful being served without
regard for the rights of the common man. Maybe I present it forcefully enough
for the reality to be clear to everyone? I think Chomsky understates the
fact that Bush doesn't give the public the truth. About the Bush lie (about
why we were attacked) Chomksy refers to the "comforting story" that is "completely
at variance with everything we know." I think Chomsky is great but he tones
it down too much in this particular case. The fact that Bush lied about why
we are attacked on 9/11 is an outrage.
Another dramatic example of the media playing the game is their refusal
to report that the Iraq War was illegal. ( By the way, I have my correspondence
with a Newsday reporter that? sheds light on how the game is played if you
are interested.) Also the media is neglecting to inform the public that the
US is violating the Geneva and Hague Conventions by imposing business conditions
and changing laws in Iraq. Another dramatic example is ignoring the last
50 years of the US of undermining democracy in the region. The media played
along with the idea that the US intends to see up a democracy. The media
"forgot" to mention that we were lied to to get us into Vietnam. They "forgot"
to report we were lied to in the fist Gulf war. ( Lies About Iraq
As Chomsky explains in the movie Manufacturing consent, "the interests of
power are served, not the needs of the suffering people, and not even the
needs of the American people who would be horrified if they realized the
blood that's dripping from their hands because of the way they are allowing
themselves to be deluded and manipulated by the system."
You asked the question "why isn't Chomsky dead?" (for publishing the
ideas and facts he does). Chomsky has explained this in other publications.
The interests of the powerful in the US are not carried out inside the US
by violence, instead it is by manipulation and propaganda and it is done
This idea was explained by George Orwell in a preface that was intended
for his novel Animal Farm but was not included. Here is part of that preface,
"The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely
voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark,
without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign
country will know of instances of sensational items of news ? things which
on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the
British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general
tacit agreement that ?it wouldn?t do? to mention that particular fact. So
far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press
is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have
every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind
of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in
plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body
of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without
question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but
it is ?not done? to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ?not done?
to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the
prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.
A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either
in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals."
Orwell's Proposed Preface to 'Animal Farm'
Chomsky explains a Propaganda Model: Propaganda Model
Below is another example of? manipulation and lies being told in order
to fool the public. Yes there are people playing games in the world.
In his book "Understanding Power", Chomsky gives a dramatic example
of the official lies and how they are maintained. He talks about Sadat's
1971 peace offer. The deal is press and scholarship are "playing the game",
which means facts go down the memory hole if they don't fit the image that
powerful interests want presented.
The 1971 Sadat peace offer is a perfect example. You wrote that you
believed Israel was the only one in the entire region that genuinely wants
peace. this is false but the reason you believe it is because you have been
presented a false image by people why "play the game."
read page 127-128 of Understanding Power. I will summarize: One of the false
premises is the one you hold about "Israel being the only one that wants
peace". This is the false doctrine of "arab rejectionism". That doctrine
is as Chomsky explains in "Necessary Illusions" "... to present the United
States and Israel as "yearning for peace" and pursuing a "peace process,"
while in reality they have led the rejectionist camp and have been blocking
peace initiatives that have broad international and regional support."
This is accomplished by suppressing facts that don't fit this premise.
So for years writers have been pretending that Sadat didn't offer peace with
Israel until 1977. The example Chomsky points out is just one of many.?
Writers that push these lies and they get away with it because people "play
the game". George Will pushed it in his article in Newsweek. When Chomsky
wrote Newsweek to tell them that George Will's article was false and that
Sadat had offered peace back in 1971, Newsweek's research editor called Chomsky
to ask him where he got the facts about the 1971 offer, Chomsky told her
that it was published in Newsweek itself at the time back in 1971. The woman
looked into it and agreed that Chomsky was right and she told him they would
run his letter that pointed this out. BUT an hour latter she called and said
they would not run the letter because George Will was having a tantrum.
As Chomsky writes, "But the point is, in Newsweek and the New York Times
and the Washington Post and so on, you simply cannot state these facts- it's
like belief in divinity or something, the lies have become immutable truth."