By Mamoon Alabbasi – London Palestine Chronicle November 3, 2009
As people across the world breathed a sigh of relief to see the back of former US president George W. Bush, top American intellectual Noam Chomsky warned against assuming or expecting significant changes in the basis of Washington's foreign policy under President Barack Obama.
During two lectures organized by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, Chomsky cited numerous examples of the driving doctrines behind US foreign policy since the end of World War II.
"As Obama came into office, Condoleezza Rice predicted that he would follow the policies of Bush's second term, and that is pretty much what happened, apart from a different rhetorical style," said Chomsky. "But it is wise to attend to deeds, not rhetoric. Deeds commonly tell a different story," he added.
"There is basically no significant change in the fundamental traditional conception that we if can control Middle East energy resources, then we can control the world," explained Chomsky.
Chomsky said that a leading doctrine of US foreign policy during the period of its global dominance is what he termed as "the Mafia principle."
"The Godfather does not tolerate 'successful defiance'. It is too dangerous. It must therefore be stamped out so that others understand that disobedience is not an option," said Chomsky.
Because the US sees "successful defiance" of Washington as a "virus" that will "spread contagion," he explained.
The US had feared this "virus" of independent thought from Washington by Tehran and therefore acted to overthrow the Iranian parliamentary democracy in 1953.
"The goal in 1953 was to retain control of Iranian resources," said Chomsky.
However, "in 1979 the (Iranian) virus emerged again. The US at first sought to sponsor a military coup; when that failed, it turned to support Saddam Hussein's merciless invasion (of Iran)."
"The torture of Iran continued without a break and still does, with sanctions and other means," said Chomsky.
"The US continued, without a break, its torture of Iranians," he stressed.
Chomsky mocked the idea presented by mainstream media that a future-nuclear-armed Iran may attack already-nuclear-armed Israel.
"The chance of Iran launching a missile attack, nuclear or not, is about at the level of an asteroid hitting the earth -- unless, of course, the ruling clerics have a fanatic death wish and want to see Iran instantly incinerated along with them," said Chomsky, stressing that this is not the case.
Chomsky further explained that the presence of US anti-missile weapons in Israel are really meant for preparing a possible attack on Iran, and not for self-defence, as it is often presented.
"The systems are advertised as defense against an Iranian attack. But ...the purpose of the US interception systems, if they ever work, is to prevent any retaliation to a US or Israeli attack on Iran -- that is, to eliminate any Iranian deterrent," said Chomsky.
Chomsky reminded the audience of America's backing of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during and even after Iraq's war with Iran.
"The Reaganite love affair with Saddam did not end after the (Iran-Iraq) war. In 1989, Iraqi nuclear engineers were invited to the United States, then under George Bush I, to receive advanced weapons' training," said Chomsky.
This support continued while Saddam was committing atrocities against Iraqis, until he fell out of US favour when in 1990 he invaded Kuwait, an even closer alley of Washington.
"In 1990, Saddam defied, or more likely misunderstood orders, and he quickly shifted from favourite friend to the reincarnation of Hitler," Chomsky added.
Then the people of Iraq were subjected to "genocidal" US-backed sanctions.
Chomsky explained that although the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was launched under many false pretexts and lies, was a "major crime", many critics of the invasion - including Obama - viewed it as merely as "a mistake" or a "strategic blunder".
"It's probably what the German general staff was telling Hitler after Stalingrad," he said
"There's nothing principled about it. It wasn't a strategic blunder: it was a major crime," he added.
Chomsky credited the holding of elections in Iraq in 2005 to popular Iraqi demand, despite initial US objection.
The US military, he argued, could kill as many Iraqi insurgents as it wished, but it was more difficult to shoot at non-violent protesters in the streets out on the open, which meant Washington at times had to give in to public Iraqi pressure.
But despite being pressured to announce a withdrawal from Iraq, the US continues to seek a long term presence in the country.
The US mega-embassy in Baghdad is to be expanded under Obama, noted Chomsky.
Chomsky stressed that public pressure in the 'West' can make a positive difference for people suffering from the aggression of 'Western' governments.
"There is a lot of comparison between opposition to the Iraq war with opposition to the Vietnam war, but people tend to forget that at first there was almost no opposition to the Vietnam war," said Chomsky.
"In the Iraq war, there were massive international protests before it officially started... and it had an effect. The United Sates could not use the tactics used in Vietnam: there was no saturation bombing by B52s, so there was no chemical warfare - (the Iraq war was) horrible enough, but it could have been a lot worse," he said.
"And furthermore, the Bush administration had to back down on its war aims, step by step," he added.
"It had to allow elections, which it did not want to do: mainly a victory for non-Iraqi protests. They could kill insurgents; they couldn't deal with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. Their hands were tied by the domestic constraints. They finally had to abandon--officially at least--virtually all their war aims," said Chomsky.
"As late as November 2007, the US was still insisting that the 'Status of Forces Agreement' allow for an indefinite US military presence and privileged access to Iraq's resources by US investors--well they didn't get that on paper at least. They had to back down. OK, Iraq is a horror story but it could have been a lot worse," he said
"So yes, protests can do something. When there is no protest and no attention, a power just goes wild, just like in Cambodia and northern Laos," he added.
Chomsky said that Turkey could become a "significant independent actor" in the region, if it chooses to.
"Turkey has to make some internal decisions: is it going to face west and try to get accepted by the European Union or is it going to face reality and recognise that Europeans are so racist that they are never going to allow it in?," said Chomsky.
The Europeans "keep raising the barrier on Turkish entry to the EU," he explained.
But Chomsky said Turkey did become an independent actor in March 2003 when it followed its public opinion and did not take part in the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Turkey took notice of the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its population, which opposed the invasion.
But 'New Europe' was led by Berlusconi of Italy and Aznar of Spain, who rejected the views of their populations--which strongly objected to the Iraq war--and preferred to follow Bush, noted Chomsky.
So, in that sense Turkey was more democratic than states that took part in the war, which in turn infuriated the US.
Today, Chomsky added, Turkey is also acting independently by refusing to take part in the US-Israeli military exercises.
Chomsky explained that although 'Western' government use "the maxim of Thucydides" ('the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must'), their peoples are hurled via the "fear factor".
Via cooperate media and complicit intellectuals, the public is led to believe that all the crimes and atrocities committed by their governments is either "self defence" or "humanitarian intervention".
Chomsky noted that Obama has escalated Bush's war in Afghanistan, using NATO.
NATO is also seen as reinforcing US control over energy supplies.
But the US also used NATO to keep Europe under control.
"From the earliest post-World War days, it was understood that Western Europe might choose to follow an independent course," said Chomsky. "NATO was partially intended to counter this serious threat," he added.
Middle East Oil
Chomsky explained that Middle East oil reserves were understood to be "a stupendous source of strategic power" and "one of the greatest material prizes in world history," the most "strategically important area in the world," in Eisenhower's words.
Control of Middle East oil would provide the United States with "substantial control of the world."
This meant that the US "must support harsh and brutal regimes and block democracy and development" in the Middle East.
Chomsky noted that public opinion in the US and Britain is increasingly becoming more aware of the crimes committed by Israel.
"Public opinion is shifting substantially."
And this is where a difference can be made, because Israel will not change its policies without pressure from the 'West'.
"There is a lot to do in Western countries...primarily in the US."
Chomsky also stressed the importance of taking legal action in 'Western' countries against companies breaking international law via illegitimate dealings with Israel, citing the possible involvement of British Gas in Israeli theft of natural gas off the coast of Gaza, as one example that should be investigated.
In the conclusion of one of the lectures, Chomsky quoted Antonio Gramsci who famously called for "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will."
- Mamoon Alabbasi contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Last updated 12/11/2009