Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar’s New Book: Perilous Power

Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar’s New Book: Perilous Power

by Stephen Lendman

Noam Chomsky needs no introduction. He’s MIT Institute
Professor Emeritus of linguistics and a leading
anti-war critic and voice for over 40 years for social
equity and justice.  He’s also one of the world’s most
influential and widely cited intellectuals on the
Left.  Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese-French academic,
author, social activist, Middle East expert and
professor of politics and international relations at
the University of Paris.  Their new book, Perilous
Power, is based on 14 hours of dialogue between them
over three days in January, 2006 and updated six
months later in July in a separate Epilogue at the
end.  It covers US foreign policy in the most volatile
and turbulent region in the world, the Middle East,
and discusses the wars in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and
Afghanistan as well as such key issues as terrorism,
fundamentalism, oil, democracy, possible war against
Iran and much more.  Chomsky and Achcar collaborated
with Stephen Shalom, Professor of Political Science at
William Paterson University acting as moderator to
pose questions and keep the discussion on track.

The book is divided into five chapters.  This review
will cover each of them in enough detail to give the
reader a good sense of their flavor and content.

Chapter One - Terrorism and Conspiracies

The underlying raison d’etre used to justify the
post-9/11 Middle East and Central Asian wars is the
so-called “war on terror” and claimed overall threat
therefrom, and that’s how the dialogue between the two
authors begins with moderator Stephen Shalom asking
them to define terrorism.  Chomsky explained he’s been
writing about it since Ronald Reagan was elected and
declared “war on international terrorism” using
rhetoric like the “scourge of terrorism” and “the
plague of the modern age.”  It was clear what the
administration had in mind was its own planned Contra
war of terrorism against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua
and the one west of it against the FMLN opposition in
El Salvador with US regional head of state terrorism
John Negroponte (now US Director of National
Intelligence in charge of “homeland” terrorism against
the public) directing it all through his US
Ambassador’s office in Hondurus situated between the
two conflict zones.  The idea was to crush the outlier
Nicaraguan government (that wouldn’t play by
US-imposed rules) and the opposition resistance to the
fascist government in El Salvador to establish or
solidify reliable right wing client dictators who
always understand “who’s boss.”

Chomsky provides a useful definition of “terrorism”
from the US Code.  It’s “the calculated use of
violence or threat of violence to attain goals that
are political, religious, or ideological in
nature….through intimidation, coercion, or
instilling fear.” Chomsky then observes that by that
standard the US is the world’s leading terrorist
state, but this is unacceptable to any US
administration so all of them go by the undebated
notion that terrorism excludes what “we” do to “them”
and is only what only what “they” do to “us.”  What
“we” do is always benign humanitarian intervention
even when it’s done through the barrel of a gun the
way we’re doing it in Iraq,  Afghanistan and in
partnership with Israel in Palestine and against the
Lebanese.  Condoleezza Rice’s rhetoric explains this,
without a touch of irony, as “democracy (being)
messy.”

Achcar expands the concept of terrorism to what the
European Union (EU) has used since 2002 that includes
“causing extensive destruction to a Government or
public facility….a public place or private property
likely to….result in major economic loss (or even)
threatening to commit” such acts.  He acknowledges
this broader notion is a dangerous enlargement of the
concept as it could include almost any act of civil
disobedience a government wishes to label an act of
terrorism.

The discussion then covers whether or not a credible
terror threat exists, and Chomsky believes a serious
one does unrelated to 9/11.  He notes the comments of
two former US Defense Secretaries who see the
likelihood of a nuclear detonation on a US target in
the next decade as greater than 50% while US
intelligence thinks it’s almost certain unless current
US policy changes.  Chomsky also mentions the
possibility of other forms of terror attacks against
us all stemming from the 1954 CIA notion of “blowback”
that referred to the unintended consequences from US
hostile acts abroad like overthrowing legitimate
governments as it did against Mohammed Mossadegh in
Iran in 1953 ushering in the 25 year terror reign of
the Shah.  It finally led to the “blowback” 1979
revolution, and it causes similar examples of
retaliation now evident in Iraq,  Afghanistan and the
Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  Achcar agrees
that terrorism is a reality and can also be homegrown
like the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City first blamed on Muslim “terrorists”
who even then were part of the anti-Muslim attitude in
the country that became hysterical post-9/11.

The issue then is what’s to be done about the threat,
and that’s a subject Chomsky has written and spoken
about often - “reduce the reasons for it.”  In the
case of the Middle East, stop attacking Muslim
countries, and that will reduce “blowback”
repercussions.  Achcar goes further and says there’s
an economic aspect to the equation as well relating to
the neoliberal globalization direction the West took
since the Carter years.  It’s caused a steady erosion
of the social fabric and safety net that’s most
apparent in the US that Achcar believes eventually
“leads to forms of violent assertions of ‘identity,’
extremism or fanaticism, whether religious or
political…” Chomsky agrees and cites projections of
US intelligence agencies that the process of
globalization “will be rocky, marked by chronic
financial volatility and a widening economic divide.”
This will “foster political, ethnic, ideological and
religious extremism, along with the violence that
often accompanies it.”  The solution both authors
agree on is “political justice, the rule of law,
social justice (and) economic justice.”

Conspiracies

The crucial issue regarding the likelihood of a
conspiracy relating to the 9/11 terror attack is then
addressed which both authors dismiss out of hand and
Chomsky says is “almost beyond comprehension” that the
Bush administration was responsible for it.  Despite
considerable evidence that at the least it knew about
it well in advance, he argues that the notion of
administration involvement even indirectly doesn’t
hold water in his view.  For one thing, he explains “A
lot of people (had to be) involved in the planning” of
this and for certain there would have been leaks.  He
also believes claims of administration involvement
divert “attention from the real crimes” and threats
from them that’s “welcomed by the administration.” 

Achcar agrees but admits Washington did nothing to
prevent the attack supporting the notion that
administration officials wanted a terrorist attack
they could exploit to their advantage.  What happened
on 9/11 served US imperial interests the same way
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait did in 1990.  The attack in
2001 was the “catastrophic and catalyzing event (of a)
new Pearl Harbor” the neocon Project for the New
American Century (PNAC) think tank said it needed at
its formation in 1997 to advance the kind of radical
transformation its members advocated.  These are the
same key people who took power in 2001, and based on
their agenda since then, it’s hard to dismiss their
not being up to almost anything including complicitity
in an attack on US soil.  It’s likely on the evening
of 9/11 they were drinking champaign celebrating
“their good fortune” in the White House.

A second conspiracy relates to the possible US role in
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Achcar says
there’s no way to prove it even though the US did
nothing to prevent it.  Chomsky, on the other hand,
believes it happened because Saddam Hussein simply
“misinterpreted” the message he got from US Ambassador
April Glaspie, and that the US was providing aid to
him right up to the time of the invasion which it only
would have done for an ally that wasn’t planning to
attack another ally.  Achcar has another view
stressing that if the US wanted the invasion as a
pretext for the Gulf war that followed in January,
1991, the GHW Bush administration would have
maintained normal relations with Saddam right to the
end so as not to tip its hand. 

There’s good reason to suspect the US may have wanted
it.  The cold war had just ended, the US needed a new
enemy to justify maintaining a high military budget to
avoid the “peace dividend” spoken of then, it also
needed a way to reestablish a US military presence in
the region because of its immense oil reserves, and
since 1975 this country wanted to “bury the Vietnam
syndrome” to be free again to engage in military
action abroad with public consent.  The Gulf war was
the gift Washington hawks hoped for.  The relatively
simple Operation Just Cause in December, 1989 to
remove Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega because he
forgot who really runs his country hadn’t done it, so
in Achcar’s words: “If Saddam Hussein did not exist at
the time, they would have had to invent him.”  Achcar
also believes the US was concerned about Saddam’s
military power then.  His history in the region proved
he was an aggressor, and that worried his neighbors
like Israel and the Saudis. 

If there was a plan to entrap Saddam, he walked right
into it.  Chomsky has another view that Saddam only
became a “bad guy” after he “broke the rules.”  A
little leeway is always permissible, but “imperial
management” works by establishing reliable client
states run by leaders who know who’s “the boss.”
Saddam broke the rules by his act of “disobedience” -
the same “sin” Manuel Noriega committed that led to
his undoing.

Chapter 2 - Fundamentalism

The discussion begins with the importance of
fundamentalism as a source of unrest in the world.
For Chomsky, its Islamic version is mainly a reaction
to those forces.  He explained for many years “there
was strong secular nationalism all over the Arab and
Muslim world.”  It was true in Egypt under Gamal
Abdel-Nasser who was a secular nationalist, in Iraq
over the past century, and in Iran for half a century
until the CIA-instigated coup ousted Mohammed
Mossadegh in 1953.

Achcar agrees and stresses the US assault against
secular nationalist leaders led to the doctrine’s
failure in these countries and left a vacuum filled by
Islamic fundamentalism based on the most reactionary
brand of it practiced by the US’s oldest client state
in the region - Saudi Arabia.  The US used the Saudis
and its extremist model to counter communism and all
forms of progressive movements.  Achcar also points
out that fundamentalist nongovernmental terrorism is
miniscule compared to the state-sponsored kind
practiced mainly by the US and Israel and is a direct
outgrowth of those policies. 

The US even supported the Taliban when it assumed
power in 1996 believing their authoritarian rule would
bring stability to the country without which planned
pipelines from the landlocked Caspian Basin to warm
water ports in the south would be in jeopardy.  Unlike
the propaganda used against them in 2001, their
religious extremism, harsh treatment of women, and
overall human rights abuses were of no concern at
first despite any pious rhetoric about them to the
contrary later on.

Chomsky then commented that the Reagan administration
helped Pakistan move toward fundamentalism and even
pretended it didn’t know the country was developing
nuclear weapons.  It’s now the only known Muslim
country to have them.  Israel also wanted to destroy
the secular nationalist Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), a move that led to the rise of
Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist groups to challenge
its supremacy.  Israel followed the same strategy in
Lebanon with its 1982 invasion and 18 year occupation
of the country from which Hezbollah emerged as a
resistance group that finally succeeded in forcing the
Israelis to withdraw from the country in May, 2000 and
humiliated the vaunted Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in
the summer, 2006 Lebanon war.  More on that below.
Achcar notes that in its zeal to destroy secular
nationalism in the region, the US let the “genie out
of the bottle” called Islamic fundamentalism it now
can’t control.  It turned against both the US and
Israel as a resistance force against oppression.

Chomsky also observes that fundamentalism isn’t just a
Muslim phenomenon.  A powerful Christian strain of it
exists in the US that has enormous influence over
right wing Republican-led governments as it did during
the Reagan years and especially now under George Bush
who believes his agenda is a God-directed messianic
mission.  Achcar goes further stressing fundamentalism
is a global phenomenon with strains of it in all the
major religions - Judaism, Christianity (Protestant
and Catholic), Hinduism, Islam and others with all of
them having arisen over the last 25 years or so as a
“remarkable….synchronized worldwide” phenomenon.  It
represents the only remaining ideological
counterweight expression of mass resentment and
resistance against the socially and economically
destructive elements of predatory neoliberal
capitalism now dominant in the West and throughout
most of the world.

The discussion then turned to Saudi Arabia which
Achcar describes as “the most fundamentalist Islamic
state on earth” and the “most obscurantist, most
reactionary, most oppressive of women” and yet so
closely allied to the US under all administrations
because of all that oil there - what US state
department officials in 1945 described as “a
stupendous source of strategic power and one of the
greatest material prizes in world history (including
the extended prize of what was available in the other
regional oil-rich states).”  Wealth and power always
trump ideology, especially when a lot of oil is
involved and a repressive ruling authority like the
Saudi monarchy is willing to play ball with its US
master.  The two countries basically have a deal.  The
Saudis agree to pump whatever amount of oil Washington
wants, help control its price and recycle the revenue
from it in US markets and by buying our weapons.  In
return, the US acts as the “Lord Protector” of the
kingdom exerting enormous control over it with little
interest in how backward, extremist or repressive it
is other than getting it to agree at times to some
modest cosmetic changes only for show.

Democracy

Next, the state of democracy in the region is
discussed.  Chomsky explains that over the last
century there were democratic movements throughout the
Middle East including in Iran and Iraq even though
they weren’t perfect (but neither is the US model,
especially now when it’s on life support at best).
When the British or US controlled these states, it was
another story.  Both countries either opposed
democracy (disingenuous rhetoric aside) or tried to
prevent its development because elected leaders
sometimes get the idea they have to serve the people
who elected them.  Authoritarian strongmen rulers
under the US thumb have no such obligation.  Today in
Egypt the Kifaya movement is a democratic force
wanting to end the dictatorship of one such man and
close US ally Hosni Mubarak who’s ruled the country
since he succeeded Anwar Sadat in 1981.  Mubarak goes
through the ritual of holding elections like Saddam
did, and like the deposed Iraqi dictator always
manages to get about 99% of the vote in a miraculous
and totally fictitious show of support.

Achcar picks up the discussion emphasizing the
potential for democracy in the region mentioning the
1979 Iranian revolution ending the brutal reign of
close US ally, Shah Reza Pahlavi.  A major aspiration
of the Iranians supporting his overthrow was
democracy, but they were let down by Ayatollah
Khomeini who promised it to them and then reneged once
in power establishing an Islamic “Assembly of Experts”
and extremist theocratic rule.  Today, however,
there’s a limited amount of democracy in Iran with an
elected president and parliament even though the
unelected Supreme Leader and Guardian Council have the
final say.  Still Iran is an enlightened state
enjoying freedoms unimaginable in a nation like Saudi
Arabia where women aren’t allowed to drive and there’s
a special police whipping people on the streets during
times of prayer because they’re not allowed out there
then (even though these police should have the same
state-imposed obligation to be inside praying).
That’s OK with the US because of that “greatest (of)
material prizes” there and the Saudis never forgetting
“who’s boss.”  The Iranians, however, have been a
prime US target for regime change for a quarter
century, not for their ideology but because they
prefer going their own way independent of “the boss’s”
authority.

Chomsky and Achcar both explain that a major deterrent
to democracy, especially in the Middle East with its
oil treasure, is because the US opposes it.  With it,
the “bad guys” might win, meaning forces hostile to
western interests.  The same is true in other regions
where the US is willing to use force or stage
so-called “demonstration elections” it can manipulate
to be sure candidates it favors win as nearly always
happens in Central America and key South American
countries like Colombia and Peru.  When “mistakes”
happen and the “wrong” candidates are elected like
Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, or
Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT),
they can expect harsh US-directed efforts against them
(or Israeli ones in the OPT) to force their removal
from office.  The US has tried and failed three times
to depose Chavez, and Israel now has the
democratically elected Hamas government on its knees
in the OPT, discussed further below.

The question then was raised whether an unintended
consequence of the US invasion of Iraq has been an
increase in democracy in the region.  Not so far, but
Chomsky explains it can happen as it did in Asia
following the defeat of Japanese fascism.  Their
atrocities inspired a wave of democratic reform that
included expelling the European (and US) imperialists
as happened in Vietnam 20 years later.  Chomsky
imagines a generation from now the Iraq war may end up
accomplishing the same thing in the Middle East, but
Achcar stresses that’s not, of course, what the US
wants.  For now, however, the US invasion of Iraq (and
Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and Lebanese)
has been a major destabilizing factor in the region
and worlds away from showing any positive signs.
Achcar notes that the “craziest of the (Bush) neocons”
call it “creative instability” which is their
nonsensical notion of “democracy” - the kind Secretary
Rice calls “messy.”  He further notes the Bush
administration has been “stupid” and “will go down in
history….as the undertaker of US interests in the
region.”  He might have added how equally destructive
it’s been to its stature worldwide, the state of
democracy at home, and eventually for having been the
prime mover for the decline and fall of the US empire
along with its political and economic preeminence.

Chapter Three - Sources of US Foreign Policy in the
Middle East

Moderator Stephen Shalom begins this discussion asking
what are the dynamics driving US policy in the Middle
East.  For Chomsky and Achcar, the answer is clear:

Oil

Chomsky explains the centrality of oil in the Middle
East saying without those immense hydrocarbon reserves
in the region, no one in high places would care any
more about it than Antarctica.  It’s been almost 100
years since oil was first discovered there in what was
then Persia and now is Iran.  It was then discovered
near Kirkuk in northern Iraq in the late 1920s and in
Saudi Arabia in the 1930s.  Most importantly, it
looked even then like the region had plenty of this
essential commodity, and it was easily and cheaply
accessible and easy to refine.  In the 1930s before WW
II, the Roosevelt administration knew the Saudi
reserves alone were an immense prize, wanted it for
the US, and saw to it US oil companies got a foothold
in the country.  Chomsky explains the US’s obsession
with oil isn’t about access to its use.  It’s about
controlling most of the world’s supply as a “lever of
world domination.”  One way to keep European and other
countries dependent on us and in sync with our
policies is to maintain control of the oil spigot
they’re reliant on.

No country, no matter how powerful, can get that
control by occupying all the others it wishes to
dominate.  The US knows that and prefers having a
control structure like the British used when it was
the leading power in the region after WW I.  It’s
essentially the way Iraq is nominally governed today
under US tutelage - an “elected” puppet facade that
can’t do much more than blow its nose without US
approval and the intention to withdraw most US forces
once a local satrap army and police can take over,
which is a very dubious hope at best. 

Chomsky explains the US went beyond the British model
adding another structural level of control called
“peripheral states” - regional gendarmes or what the
Nixon administration once called “local cops on the
beat” with “police headquarters in Washington and a
branch (precinct) office in London.”  That role is now
filled by Turkey and Israel and was by Iran as well
during its rule under the Shah.

Achcar agrees with Chomsky and stresses oil’s
strategic importance in solidifying alliances with key
allies like Japan and checking rivals like China and
Russia (which has its own large hydrocarbon reserves).
It’s economic value is also immense both to US Big
Oil but also to the US economy.  Those factors are now
playing out on a worldwide chessboard with two
organizations coalescing to compete with the US for
control of Central Asia’s reserves - the Asian Energy
Security Grid composed of China and Russia mainly and
possibly India, South Korea and even Japan joining and
the more significant Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(SCO) formed in 2001 for political, diplomatic,
economic and security reasons as a counterweight to
NATO the US dominates.  It has a core China-Russia
alliance in it along with most of the former Soviet
republics plus Iran, Pakistan and India as observers
that may lead to their eventual membership.  As world
powers jockey with the US for control of vital oil
reserves, these alliances may figure prominently in
how things eventually play out.

Central to that discussion is the next crucial point
Chomsky raises.  It’s the issue of US withdrawal from
Iraq that’s now more prominent in the news than when
he made his comments.  He asks what happens to the
country’s oil under this scenario and stresses it
would be an “utter catastrophe” if the US didn’t leave
behind a reliable client state.  It’s what noted and
longtime Middle East journalist Robert Fisk meant when
he said: “The Americans must leave (Iraq), they will
leave, but they can’t leave.”

The country has a Shiite majority closely allied with
Shiite Iran as well as with the large Saudi Shiite
population in the bordering area between the two
countries where most of the kingdom’s oil is located.
Under this scenario, Chomsky imagines what he calls
Washington’s “worst nightmare” - most of the Middle
East oil reserves outside of US control and possibly
linked to either or both of the predominant
China-Russia energy and security alliances.  If it
happens, the decision to invade Iraq will go into the
history books as one of the world’s greatest ever
strategic blunders and the Bush neocons will get the
“credit” for it.  It could put the US on a fast track
to becoming a “second-class power” and be a far more
serious defeat than the one suffered in Vietnam.  Are
echoes of “Waterloo” becoming audible? 

Israel and the Jewish Lobby

The power of the Jewish Lobby is more prominently
discussed now (though not in the major media) than
when this dialogue took place.  It got resonance from
the paper issued in the spring by two noted political
scholars - John Mearsheimer of the University of
Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School
of Government - who argued how dominant the Lobby is.
That position has been echoed by other analysts and
also by a powerful new book by noted scholar James
Petras called The Power of Israel in the US reviewed
by this writer and available on
sjlendman.blogspot.com.  With his extensive
documentation in a full-length book, Petras makes a
convincing case for his position about how dominant
the Jewish Lobby is in determining US policy in the
Middle East and that AIPAC is just one part of a much
broader network.

Chomsky and Achcar disagree.  Chomsky believes the
most powerful pro-Israel lobby is “American liberal
intellectuals,” not AIPAC.  The intensity of their
support crystallized after Israel’s dramatic victory
in the 1967 six-day war. It happened when the US was
bogged down and losing in Vietnam and for liberal
hawks (who later became neocons) this was a model or
example of how to crush a “Third World upstart.”
Achcar has a similar view and believes it’s untrue to
think the Israeli “tail” wags the US “dog.” Chomsky
adds: “Whatever you think of the (Jewish) Lobby, it is
nothing compared with the power of the US government.”
Those who want the opposite view should read the
Petras book just published which covers this issue in
much greater detail including a critique of Chomsky’s
position in the final section.

Chapter Four - Wars in the “Greater Middle East”

The war in Afghanistan is discussed first, and Chomsky
calls it “one of the most atrocious crimes in recent
years” because it might have (but thankfully didn’t)
caused the starvation of five million Afghans with the
potential number at risk raised to 7.5 million after
the bombing started.  Washington demanded all fuel
supplies be cut off that disrupted desperately needed
humanitarian aid.  The 9/11 event was used as a
launching platform for the foreign and domestic agenda
that followed beginning with the Afghan war that was
unjustifiable by any analysis.  It’s also known the
war was planned well before that fateful September day
and what happened on the 11th of the month was just a
convenient pretext used opportunistically to launch
step one with more war to follow in what’s been
euphemistically characterized as “the Global War on
Terror (GWOT), the long war, WW III” and clash of
civilizations meant to last generations pitting the
West against the forces of “terrorism”....aka “Islamic
fascists” wanting to establish a “global Caliphate”
under Shari’a law.

Chomsky explains that what happened on 9/11 was a
“major crime” but not a casus belli.  It should have
been dealt with like any other crime - “find out who
the criminals were, then…apprehend them (and) bring
them to justice.”  Bombing a country to rubble that
had nothing to do with it was monstrous, but that’s
not the way it played out around the US in a
flag-waving protect the homeland, crush the “bad guys”
and support the troops frenzy.

Now five years later, Chomsky says Afghanistan is no
“showcase” but believes it’s much better off today
than under the British during the years of the (first)
19th and early 20th century “Great Game” when famines
ravaged millions in the country.  But those reading
John Pilger’s comments in his new book Freedom Next
Time would be struck by his dismal description of the
country post-2001 as looking more like a “moonscape”
than a functioning country. He describes the capital,
Kabul, where there are “contours of rubble rather than
streets, where people live in collapsed buildings,
like earthquake victims waiting for rescue (with) no
light or heat.” There are desperate shortages of
everything throughout the country that even now is
putting hundreds of thousands at risk of starvation
because of drought, inadequate services, no occupying
power interest to help and the resumption of conflict.

Achar’s view may be closer to Pilger’s than Chomsky’s
based on indicators from human rights organizations on
the ground and the condemning Senlis Council think
tank report in mid-2006 that called Afghanistan today
a humanitarian disaster and much more.  The US also
let a brutal and hated Northern Alliance proxy force
topple the Taliban with help from its overwhelming air
power.  These thuggish murderers and rapists are no
different today than when the Taliban ousted them from
two-thirds of the country in 1996.  Their return to
power along with a hostile occupying force led by the
US along with the desperate conditions in the country
are the reasons for the resurgence of the Taliban that
have now reclaimed most parts of the country in the
south. 

There’s no central Afghan leadership to counter them,
and Achcar characterizes nominal and caricature of a
president Hamid Karzai (a former CIA asset and oil
giant UNOCAL consultant) as a US stooge playing the
role of president when, in fact, he’s nothing more
than the mayor of Kabul who might not last a day on
his own without the protection afforded him by the
private US security contractor DynCorp with the US
military for backup.

Iraq after March, 2003

Both authors then address the reasons why the US
invaded Iraq and agree the country and region’s
immense oil treasure are central to understanding
Washington’s thinking.  It’s believed Iraq’s oil
reserves are second only to those in Saudi Arabia and
“they’re extremely cheap and accessible.”  In Achcar’s
view, the US wants full control of both Iraqi and
Saudi reserves as between the two countries they
represent nearly two-fifths of the world’s supply, and
if Kuwait is added to them the ratio is close to
one-half.  The US also controls the smaller
oil-producing Gulf monarchies leaving only Iran
outside it’s orbit and highlighting how strategically
important the Persian state is. 

Controlling Iraqi reserves was central in 1991 as
well, but the only reason the US didn’t proceed on to
Baghdad and occupy the country then was because that
would have been “unilaterally exceeding the United
Nations’ mandate” - something the GHW Bush
administration apparently took seriously but likely
never would have deterred the younger Bush neocons who
don’t even bother with UN authorization unless it’s
easily gotten.

In 1991, the US was also willing to settle for a
neutered Saddam it could control and wasn’t willing to
risk having the country run by Shiites allied with
Shiite Iran - something intolerable to any US
administration.  Washington also tried repeatedly
throughout the 1990s to foment an insurrection it
approved of that would do the housecleaning job for
it.  It wanted Saddam removed but only if he could be
replaced with an acceptable hardliner clone who
understood “who’s boss.”  It never happened, and once
the younger Bush administration came in, it decided on
a full-scale invasion and occupation to clean house
and control the country.  It began in March, 2003, but
things since haven’t exactly gone as planned.

Achcar explained US proconsul Paul Bremer (who
replaced the short-tenured retired General Jay Garner)
wanted to put in place a US lock on the country -
politically, economically and constitutionally - but
ran up against unexpected resistance from Grand Shiite
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who wanted Saddam removed but
would only accede to a US occupier willing to help the
country and not just itself.  He was able to curtail
US plans enough to allow elections and have Iraqis
write the constitution as imperfectly as the whole
process played out because the US always has the final
say.  It showed as he wasn’t able to stop Bremer from
turning the nation into a free market Iraq, Inc.
utopia mainly for predatory US corporations that have
sucked the life out of the country and convinced the
Iraqis people what anyone should have known in the
first place.  The US never has democracy and
liberation on its mind.  It was all about controlling
the oil, stupid and establishing a client state.

The Iraqi people figured that out pretty quickly, and
the resistance began at once and then intensified
because of an insensitive turned hostile predatory
occupation. Achcar attributes it only to the 20% Sunni
segment of the population at the time of this dialogue
(that still represents a healthy five million or more
people).  Chomsky believes the resistance is a genuine
national movement that’s very disparate but broadly
supported by the Iraqi people who want an end to the
occupation.  Achcar agrees that there is a broad
consensus in the country at least outside the
Kurdish-controlled north for a firm timetable for
withdrawal of all foreign troops. 

Based on conditions now in the country, outside of the
Kurdish-controlled north, it’s hard to imagine there’s
not near unanimity favoring the earliest possible end
to the occupation.  Beginning in 1991, continuing
throughout the 1990s and especially after March, 2003,
the US conducted a scorched-earth campaign to destroy
Iraqi society, its infrastructure, historical
treasures and its very identity as a nation.  The UN’s
International Leadership report showed it’s done an
effective job of it:  84% of Iraq’s higher learning
institutions have been burnt, looted or destroyed;
archeological museums and historic sites, libraries
and archives have been plundered; and targeted
assassinations have been carried out against
academics, other teachers, senior military personnel,
journalists (Iraq is by far the most dangerous place
on earth for the fourth estate) and other
professionals including doctors forcing many thousands
of them to flee the country for their lives even
though they’re desperately needed.

In addition, aside from the Iraqi resistance, there
are random or targeted daily terror killings by
US-directed “Salvador option” death squads, thousands
of kidnappings and countless other examples of how
intolerable life is for all Iraqis south of Iraqi
Kurdistan and outside the four square kilometer
fortress-like Green Zone HQ in central Baghdad for the
so-called “coalition” officials and the puppet “Iraq
interim government.”  This is the Bush
administration’s design to destroy the nation’s
cultural identity as an Arab state, take firm control
of its oil resources, and likely divide the country
into more easily governed parts the way it was done in
the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  It may prove
a lot harder to make that sort of plan work in a
country like Iraq and even trying it may end up
backfiring by causing even greater turmoil.

Chomsky emphasizes that whether US forces leave Iraq
or stay, it’s crucial for Washington policy makers to
establish a reliable client state government or the
whole operation will have been a disaster, and it’s
already looking like it is no matter what happens
going forward regardless of what will be presented and
no doubt implemented by the Baker Commission Iraq
Study Group (ISG).  It’s because the country is so
devastated and the level of Sunni and Shiite anger
against the occupation is so intense.  Empire-building
is a lot easier close to home, and Chomsky cites the
example of US policy in Latin America.  There,
opposition resistance forces were brutally crushed and
“legitimate governments” were installed and still are
there today, except for the possibility of some change
in Nicaragua after the reelection of Daniel Ortega on
November 5.  Chomsky notes what would seem to be
obvious.  It won’t be easy to do in Iraq what was done
south of our border because the country is not El
Salvador, Nicaragua or any other banana republic.

Achcar agrees and emphasizes the US has a serious mess
on its hands in Iraq.  So far every strategy employed
has failed, and today the situation worse than ever.
The one thing yet to be tried is a coup d’etat, and
that subject is now cropping up in the news.  But it’s
hard to think pulling that stunt will end up doing
anything more than inflaming an already out-of-control
situation even more.  Can anyone imagine replacing an
inept elected puppet government with a US-imposed
strongman being a good tactic to win public support.
Chomsky agrees and believes Shiite soldiers won’t take
orders from a US-dominated command against their own
people, and Kurds won’t fight alongside Sunnis in a
unified military command. 

It’s a classic example of the literal meaning of
“snafu,” and all because of an ill-conceived agenda
from the start the administration was warned about in
advance, told it wouldn’t work, but still it went
ahead with it anyway.  The whole strategy was doomed
from the start, and the only surprise was how quickly
it collapsed.  Chomsky again stresses the US wants to
control the resources of the region, but because of
what’s happened in Iraq, how will it ever be able to
do it.  The echos of “Waterloo” are getting louder.

The serious question is then raised about whether a US
withdrawal will lead to civil war.  Who can say, but
Achcar makes a crucial point: “the longer the
occupation continues, the worse it gets.”  He also
notes a hopeful sign as the most influential Sunni
group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, says it
will call on all armed groups to end their resistance
once a timetable for withdrawal is announced.  But it
would have to be awfully convincing as all the
promises made from the start of this operation have
turned out to be nothing more than disingenuous
rhetoric from a now thoroughly disliked and distrusted
occupier.  Why would anyone trust them now, especially
with all the talk about possible new military action
against Iran and Syria and a powerful multi-US carrier
strike group force now in the region carrying out
provocative exercises to back up the bluster - even if
it’s just saber-rattling bluff.

Achcar thinks it’s very unlikely the US or Israel will
attack Syria.  He stresses both countries prefer the
Assad regime, that has the situation under control, to
any alternative that could become chaotic.  If that
happened, it would inflame the situation all the more
in Iraq and maybe across other borders as well.  As
for Iran, Chomsky thinks things are more complicated.
The country has all that oil the US desperately wants
to control, and it’s been a prime outlier since the
1979 revolution.  “Imperial management” demands
“obedience” and needs to punish all “transgressors” if
only to set an example for others contemplating going
the same way.  That’s how US policy makers think -
about Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and any other
country ignoring “the boss.” No country gets a pass,
just a little leeway.

With that in mind, Chomsky, as of this dialogue,
thinks it’s unlikely the US will attack Iran because,
unlike Iraq and other weak states, the country is not
defenseless and the potential for serious Shiite
resistance in Iraq alone is a deterrent.  Achcar isn’t
so sure and feels the likelihood of a US assault is
very possible but not by invasion which would be
suicide, Iran being four times the size of Iraq in
territory with three times its population.  If it
happens at all, we’ll be hearing about “shock and awe”
again as it’s unimaginable it could be done any other
way.  And since the US now has a powerful naval attack
force in the region practically daring the Iranians to
respond, a possible scenario to watch for would be a
manufactured incident on the order of the August, 1964
Tonkin Gulf one or the blowing up of the USS Maine in
February, 1898 in Havana Harbor.  We know what
happened next.  If the US wants another war, it’s
never hard finding an excuse to start it, but advance
word coming out of the ISG is it’s plan will need
Iranian and Syrian cooperation to work, and that rules
out any possibility of a US and/or Israeli attack
against either country.

Chapter Five - The Israeli-Palestine Conflict

Few conflicts anywhere in the world are more
intractable, longer running, or more of a mismatch
than the Israeli-Palestinian one.  The major issues
involved are pretty clear-cut, but nearly six decades
of trying to solve them have accomplished nothing
because the Israelis, with full backing, funding and
arming from the US (and the West), give nothing, and
the Palestinians have no power to press their demands
or allies who’ll do it for them.  The result is the
chaotic state of devastation now in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (OPT) with no effort being
made to alleviate it. It’s been that way on and off
for decades but intensified following Ariel Sharon’s
provocative visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied
East Jerusalem on September 28, 2000 instigating the
al-Aqsa Intifada and has now become a brutal war of
attrition following the June 25 Kerem Shalom crossing
minor incident providing the pretext for Israel’s
long-planned merciless assault on the OPT still
ongoing beneath the radar with no resolution of the
conflict in sight or any serious effort being made to
end it. 

So many issues in the conflict need to be addressed,
and one of them is to include in any discussed
solution the rights of the Palestinian Diaspora.  They
live mainly in Jordan, Syria and in Lebanese and other
dispersed refugee camps outside the OPT where
conditions are deplorable.  Achcar says all
Palestinians everywhere have the same rights, and
those in the camps “live in the worst misery….(they
are) victims of oppression and…expulsion from their
land and they have a right to self-determinaton….no
one has the right to divide the Palestinian people.”
Unless these and all Palestinians are included in a
settlement, it’s a recipe for permanent war, and the
way to do it is by “referendums of the concerned
populations.”  This is democracy and the opposite of
the sham Oslo agreement that was a diktat giving
Israel what it wanted and the Palestinians nothing.
Arafat, on his own dictatorial authority, got it
through as his
“get-out-Tunis-free-pass-and-return-ticket-to-the-OPT-plus-fringe-benefits-granted-for-his-surrender”
even though the majority of the Palestinian Liberation
Authority (PLO) Executive Committee members rejected
the deal that should have arrived stillborn.

Chomsky believes any long-term solution should be a
single unity federation with federated autonomous
areas, or better still an Ottoman empire-style “no
state” solution with the Palestinians having their own
large degree of autonomy in their own territories,
with a two-state settlement used as a first-step
toward it.  Achcar’s preference is for the West Bank
to be merged into a democratic, monarchy-free Jordan
because the majority in that country is Palestinian
and the West Bank was part of Jordan from 1949 until
Israel seized it in the 1967 war.  Achcar and Chomsky
both agree that Palestinians living inside Israel, who
are second-class citizens of the Jewish state, should
either have the right of local autonomy in their
concentrated areas or be able to join a Palestinian or
Jordanian-Palestinian state.

The Peace Process

For decades, Israel and the US have been long on
rhetoric and empty on pursuing any serious steps
toward a just peace and equitable settlement for the
Palestinian people totally at their mercy and
receiving none.  The two powers systematically ignored
UN resolutions toward that end and also routinely
ignore all international laws and norms interfering
with the Jewish state’s intent to do as it pleases. 

Over the last half century, the US used its Security
Council veto authority dozens of times preventing any
resolutions from passing condemning Israel for its
abusive or hostile actions or harmed its interests.
It also voted against dozens of others overwhelmingly
supported by the rest of the world in the UN General
Assembly effectively using its veto power there as
well.  And it supported Israel’s long and deplorable
record of flagrantly ignoring over five dozen UN
resolutions condemning or censuring it for its actions
against the Palestinians or other Arab people,
deploring it for committing them, or demanding,
calling on or urging the Jewish state to end them.
Israel never did or intends to up to the present,
including the mass slaughter and devastation it
inflicted on Lebanon in its five week summer
blitzkrieg there and its ongoing daily killing-machine
attacks against the Palestinians the IDF is allowed
impunity to get away with.

The Israelis pursue their interests ruthlessly with
full support from the US and the West.  After the 1967
war, the UN Security Council unanimously passed
Resolution 242 to end the belligerency between the
warring states.  It stressed “the inadmissibility of
the acquisition of territory by war” and called for
the “withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from
territory occupied in the recent conflict” and the
right of each country “to live in peace within secure
and recognized boundaries.”  It was an attempt to
achieve “land for peace,” but it failed because Israel
drew its own interpretation and never withdrew from
the territory it occupied as was called for.

Earlier in 1948, after the state of Israel was
established, the UN General Assembly adopted
Resolution 194 that affirms the right of refugees to
return to their homes as codified in Article 13 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It states
“everyone has the right to leave any country,
including his own, and to return to his country.”  It
also states in Article 15 that “everyone has the right
to a nationality.”  Various Geneva Conventions also
affirm these rights that clearly establish the
absolute and universal “right of return” in
international law.  Israel’s admittance as a UN member
state through Resolution 273 was conditioned on its
accepting and implementing Resolution 194 which ever
since it refused to do.  Under these conditions of
joint US-Israeli intransigency more rigidly in place
today than ever, how can there ever be a meaningful
peace process.  The latest so-called “road map” led
nowhere even before Ariel Sharon ended any pretense of
a peace process when he desecrated the Noble Sanctuary
by his provocative September 28, 2000 visit.

Today the Bush administration gives Israel carte
blanche approval to do whatever it pleases and funds
it lavishly to do it.  The Jewish state gets billions
annually in direct aid, huge low or no-interest loans,
state-of-the-art technology and the latest US weapons,
and about anything else Israeli leaders ask for
including going along with the most flagrant
violations of all international laws and norms that
include waging wars of aggression and ethnic cleansing
to seize whatever Palestinian territory they wish for
illegal settlement developments and the
Annexation/Separation wall the International Criminal
Court in the Hague (ICC) ruled unanimously against
saying construction must end and affected Palestinians
be compensated for their losses.  Israel ignored the
ruling, and so has the US and world community.

The dialogue on the Israel-Palestine conflict is so
important it comprises nearly one-third of the book
and is far too wide-ranging to cover in detail here.
In addition to what’s discussed above, it includes:

—discussion on the legitimacy of Israel as a state.

—efforts to achieve a lasting peace and how that
process should be pursued.

—the Palestinian view of a just settlement that
ranged from the early-on view that Israel should be
wiped off the map to the Oslo sellout surrender.

—Zionism

—Israeli politics in the longtime dominant Likud and
Labor parties as well as the breakaway Kadima party
Ariel Sharon formed in November, 2005 before his
disabling stroke and now run by Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert.

—Palestinian politics and the accession of Hamas to
power in January, 2006 made possible by years
institutionalized Arafat-led Fatah corruption and its
surrender and subservience to Israeli authority.

—ways people in the West can work for and support
justice for the long-suffering Palestinians including
a discussion of boycotts, divestment and other tactics
to achieve it.

—the myth of anti-Semitism and how Israel and its
supporters exploit it.

—anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia that’s very real
and that Chomsky calls the “last legitimate form of
racism” although it’s hard to ignore the vicious
demonization of all immigrants of color, especially
Muslims and Latinos entering the US illegally in
desperate search of jobs to replace the ones NAFTA
destroyed.

Epilogue

The above discussion took place in January, 2006 that
was then supplemented with separate commentaries by
each author in July. 

Gilbert Achcar’s July, 2006 comments

Achcar focuses first on the situation in Iraq at
mid-year which has continued to deteriorate since his
comments were made.  Even then he stressed how
“frightening” things had become.  Aside from what he
describes as political jockeying and “tugs-of-war”
following the December, 2005 parliamentary election
(which was more of a mirage than an election with the
US running everything behind the scenes besides
cleaning the streets after the daily dozens of
car-bombings and killings), Achcar feels things hadn’t
yet reached the scale of a full-blown civil war.
Instead he characterizes it as a “low-intensity” one.
Holding something more serious at bay he feels is “the
persistence of a unified Iraqi government (and) Iraqi
armed forces” along with “foreign armed forces playing
the role of deterrent and arbiter.”

Achcar believes maintaining that status plays into the
US plans for “Divide and Rule”, and many Iraqis
(rightly) believe the US (and maybe Israeli)
operatives (in the form of “Salvador option” death
squads) are behind some of the worst supposedly
“sectarian” attacks like the one in February, 2006
destroying the golden dome and causing heavy damage at
the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra that’s one of Shi’a
Islam’s holiest sites.  Achcar also believes if this
is, in fact, the US strategy, Washington is “playing
with fire” because dividing Iraq into three parts is a
“recipe for a protracted civil war” in his view.  It
would also jeopardize US control over the bulk of
Iraq’s oil that’s located in the Shiite-majority south
of the country.  Achcar thinks Washington’s best
interest is to allow a low-intensity conflict to
continue and try to establish a “federal Iraq, with a
loose central government (with the US behind the
scenes in charge).”

Finally, Achcar compares the US forces to a
“firefighting force” saying the occupation by its
actions is throwing fuel on an Iraqi fire, and the
only solution is announcing a total and unconditional
withdrawal.  The Association of Muslim Scholars
pledged to call for an end to the resistance as soon
as a timetable for withdrawal is established.  So far,
the Bush administration overtly refuses to consider it
saying (without the “stay the course” and “cut and
run” rhetoric) it will only leave when the country is
stabilized which is impossible as long as US forces
are there - a sure-fire formula for a high-intensity
worst-case scenario “snafu.”  That obstinacy may be
softening, however, since the formation of the ISG
that’s expected to propose an alternative agenda going
forward soon to be made public.

Hamas in Power

Achcar explains that Palestinians voted for a
Hamas-led government because of what was pointed out
above - the failure of years of institutionalized
corruption under Fatah rule and the abdication of its
responsibility to its own people, opting instead to be
little more than Israeli enforcers in the OPT.  Their
election, however, was not the outcome Israel or the
US wanted, and the Palestinians have paid dearly ever
since for their electoral “error.”  Hamas is now
Israel’s public enemy number one in the OPT, but
ironically relations between the two weren’t always
hostile.  Despite Hamas’ adherence to Islamic
fundamentalism and a strategy of retaliatory suicide
attacks in the 1990s, Israel lent the organization
(known as the Islamic Resistance Movement) support in
the 1980s to check the growing authority and
legitimacy of the PLO then that had suspended its own
retaliatory attacks in favor of a political solution
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir explained he would never
agree to. 

Today, Israel has an Olmert-led government, but the
overall strategy hasn’t changed.  Israel won’t accept
a political solution or a Hamas-led PA it can’t
control.  The New York Times reported that right after
the January election, US and Israeli officials met at
the “highest level” to plan the destruction of Hamas
by “starving” the PA and making the people in the OPT
pay the highest price. It erupted full-force after the
minor June 25 Kerem Shalom crossing incident and has
been ongoing mercilessly below the radar ever since.
The result is a current state of mass-immiseration of
the Palestinian people and the virtual destruction of
a viable Hamas-led PA with the full support of the US
and the West.  Achcar now believes “prospects for
peace in the region are at their bleakest, for the
present, and only further descent into barbarism looms
on the horizon.”  Since his July comments, things have
continued to worsen, and the situation today in the
OPT is at its lowest ebb.

The Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon Conflict

Hezbollah emerged out of the Israeli invasion of
Lebanon in 1982 and oppressive occupation that
followed.  It was formed to resist the occupation,
expel the Israelis (which it finally did in May,
2000), and it remained an effective opposition force
ever since. It’s also an important political force and
is represented by 11 lawmakers in the Lebanese
Parliament (notwithstanding the recent resignations
that may be temporary) and has two government
ministers in the country’s cabinet. But it also
maintains a military wing as a needed deterrent to
Israeli oppression (and its summer, 2006 aggression)
and represents the only effective force against the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the region.

That military wing proved more than the IDF bargained
for after Israel launched its five week summer
blitzkrieg against Lebanon, planned months or years in
advance, that it initiated in response to Hezbollah’s
minor cross-border incursion on July 12 that may, in
fact, have happened inside Lebanon.  Israel’s response
was swift and disproportionate, as it was in the OPT.
It acted to neutralize Hezbollah as a political entity
and as an effective resistance force against Israel’s
imperial designs on the country.  It also wanted to
destroy Lebanon as a functioning country, ethnically
cleanse the southern part of it up to the Litani
River, and annex the territory it’s long coveted for
its value as a source of fresh water as it did the
Golan in the 1967 war.

But things didn’t go quite as the US and Israelis
planned.  Hezbollah’s resistance proved formidable
even in the face of an IDF “shock and awe” reign of
terror against the country that left it a devastated
near-wasteland.  The Israelis failed to accomplish
their objective and were forced to withdraw. The
country is now monitored by so-called
(Israeli-approved and friendly) UN Blue Helmets and
Lebanese Armed Forces replacing the IDF on the ground
under a fragile UN-brokered ceasefire arrangement that
could end any time Israel again wishes to unleash its
war machine on whatever pretext it chooses. 

Achcar explains that Israel’s aggression against
Lebanon and the OPT “bodes ill for the future of the
region….(and) feeds various kinds of fanaticism that
inevitably backfire on the perpetrators and their own
countries (as it did in New York and Washington in
2001, Madrid in 2004 and London, 2005).”  He also
blames the US for its failure of responsibility.
Unless Washington changes its Middle East policy,
stops its own aggression in the region, and ends its
support and funding of its Israeli imperial partner
there will be no end to the current “decent into
barbarism and the spiral of violence and death that
affect the region and spill over into the rest of the
world.”

Noam Chomsky’s July, 2006 comments

The Israel Lobby

Chomsky commented on the spring, 2006 Mearsheimer and
Walt paper on the power of the Jewish Lobby on US
foreign policy but wasn’t able to address the powerful
case James Petras made for it in his important and
penetrating new book on the subject just out that
discussed it in much greater depth.  Maybe in a second
printing hopefully as Petras devoted the final part of
his book challenging Chomsky’s view on the Lobby’s
power, listing what he calls Chomsky’s eight “dubious
propositions” and following that with what he calls
Chomsky’s “15 erroneous theses.”  Petras said he did
it because of Chomsky’s enormous stature making
whatever his views are on any issue stand out
prominently.  On the issue of the power of the Jewish
Lobby, Chomsky and Petras have strongly opposing
views, and it would be a valuable exercise for both
these noted scholars to have a point-counterpoint
interchange.

Chomsky acknowledges that Mearsheimer and Walt
produced a serious piece of work that “merits
attention.”  He doesn’t doubt “there is a significant
Israel lobby” but believes Mearsheimer and Walt (and
others) “ignore what may be its most important
component.” He stresses the importance of
“concentrated economic power” as always being the
prime determinant of US policy.

The US and Iran

Chomsky updates his assessment of the prospects of a
US attack against Iran indicating evidence is
accumulating that there’s broad opposition to it that
includes the “international community” that he says is
technical language for a powerful Washington clique
(including those on the ISG) and those joining with it
like Tony Blair and the French.  He also indicates
what limited information is available suggests the
Pentagon and intelligence services also oppose
hostilities.  Still, he and others know that once
high-level administration neocons make up their mind,
they regard opposing views as almost treasonous and
often ignore the best of advice to pursue their most
extreme imperial aims. There are mixed signs on
Washington’s possible intentions toward Iran, and for
now no one can say for sure what will happen.

For many years, Iran has tried to normalize relations
with the US to no avail.  It began in the 1980s, and
Chomsky explains that in 2003 President Khatami, with
support from “supreme leader” Grand Ayatollah
Khamenei, sent the Bush administration a detailed
proposal to do it through a Swiss diplomat who was
rebuked for having delivered it.  The “supreme leader”
stresses his country poses no threat to any other,
including Israel, and that developing nuclear weapons
is contrary to Islam even though Iran has every legal
right to develop its commercial nuclear program which
it intends to do unobstructed. Iran is a signatory to
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is in full
compliance with it based on years of monitoring of its
facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA).  Israel, on the other hand, never signed the
treaty, is known to have 200 - 300 or more nuclear
weapons and sophisticated delivery systems for them,
has implied its intention to use them if it chooses,
and is a nuclear outlaw - but one with an important
ally the Iranians lack.

At this stage, Chomsky believes the US is virtually
alone in considering an attack against Iran and
refuses to engage in any serious negotiations to
prevent one.  He still doubts there will be one and
thinks instead Washington will opt for an agenda of
“economic strangulation and subversion, possibly
(coupled with) support for secessionist movements they
can ‘defend’ by bombing Iran.” The way the US goes
about bombing other than a little softening up, any
such campaign against Iran likely would be on the
order of the March, 2003 one against Iraq and Israel’s
summer blitzkrieg against Lebanon - although it might
not last as long.  Still, Chomsky made these comments
before he knew what would likely come out of the ISG,
and that points to no further conflict in the region
and more reliance on diplomacy including with Iran.

Still, back in July, two key considerations stood out
that still can’t be ignored.  For at least a decade,
Israel has pushed the US to attack Iran, and in recent
years its political and military leaders have declared
their intention to do it in the immediate future
either alone or in partnership with the Bush
administration.  Secondly, as Chomsky observes in his
writings and in this dialogue, US “imperial
management” demands “obedience” and recognition of
“who’s boss.”  Those choosing an independent course
can generally expect a healthy dose of
Washington-directed regime change policy that won’t
end until the mission is accomplished even if it takes
decades.  So while the ISG proposal may table any
hostilities against Iran for now, once Iraq is
stabilized, if it ever is while US forces occupy the
country, Iranian help may no longer be needed and the
country may again be elevated to target status.  For
now though, that’s all just speculation.

Saddam learned about Washington-think the hard way,
and the US has been directing it at Hugo Chavez in
Venezuela for 8 years, the mullahs and new President
Ahmadinejad in Iran for nearly three decades and Fidel
Castro in Cuba for almost a half century.  Hegemons
are like elephants.  They never forget and never
forgive.  These countries and all others choosing to
serve the interests of their own people above those of
the “lord and master of the universe” will always face
the “almighty’s” wrath in the form of regime change
efforts sooner or later to bring them into line by
whatever means it takes to get the job done. That’s
how rogue hegemons operate. 

It may now just be saber-rattling bluff and bluster
that the corporate media has intensified a growing
level of WMD-type reporting about the Iranian nuclear
threat and a powerful US carrier multi-strike group
force happens to have converged in the Gulf and
eastern Mediterranean.  A failing administration needs
a steady drumbeat of media-led terror threat hysteria,
and it’s rather nice to stage it in that part of the
world this time of year.  It may just be intimidation
that for many months the US has been flying unmanned
aerials drones over Iran picking out targets and has
had as many as 1,000 covert operatives in the country
doing the same thing with 400 or more sites already
apparently chosen.  Famed musician Duke Ellington once
explained: “it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got
that swing,” and so far, “the fat lady” has done
little more than clear her throat.  No political
analyst knows for sure what the Washington neocons
have in mind when even those with final say may still
be undecided. They already have an uncontrollable
situation on their hands in Iraq, they have to
consider what comes out of the ISG, and they may be
unwilling to risk making a bad situation far worse.

The Israelis as well saw their best laid plans go awry
when Hezbelloh humiliated the vaunted IDF in its
summer blitzkrieg against the Lebanese people.  It
emerged from the conflict stronger than ever, has few
illusions about Israel’s intentions and will never
disarm and leave itself and its people defenseless.
It’s not likely Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora or his
government in Beirut will press for that either
although Chomsky calls Hezbollah’s failure to do it
its most controversial act. UN Resolution 1559 called
on its armed militia to disarm and disband, as
unreasonable and impossible as that now seems in the
wake of the summer conflict.  Hezbollah might suggest
it would do it provided the IDF did as much, but
that’s about as likely as convincing a carnivore to
become vegetarian.  As long as an armed-to-the-teeth
aggressive Israel pursues its imperial agenda for
unchallengeable regional dominance, the only effective
deterrent against it are the non-state actors like
Hezbelloh now more popular and resilient than ever.

Confrontation with Hamas and Hezbollah

Chomsky again explains the disdain the US and Israel
have for outliers - “deviant” states or organizations
that forget “who’s boss” and offend “the masters by
voting the wrong way in a free election.”  When it
happens, the whole population is made to pay the
supreme price for the transgression by being starved
to death economically and literally as well as being
beaten into submission by brute force with no
tolerance allowed to resist being pummelled by “shock
and awe” attacks, seeing their countries plundered and
land annexed, their people mass-murdered, raped,
arrested and tortured for decades. It’s called
imperial license to act with impunity while any
resistance in self-defense is called terrorism.

The US-Israeli joint aggression against Lebanon and
Hezbollah was days old when Chomsky commented on it.
When it was suspended in mid-August, it was on the
basis of an uneasy interregnum that still hangs by an
Israeli-controlled hair trigger it can squeeze off
starting the whole ugly business over again any time
it wishes and on any pretext.  Lebanon now lies in
ruins, thousands were killed or wounded, over a
million were displaced and it may take a few decades
of regeneration to come back if Israel will even allow
that to happen.  Only in the alternative media are
accusations of war crimes made and cries for
justifiable retribution that will never come from the
aggressors or those complicit with them by their
acquiescence or s


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