Saturday, September 18

The Resort to Force

Anything written by Noam Chomsky is a must read for me. He breaks it down like no one else. I don't agree with all of his perceptions, but more of his are accurate than anyone else I know. And no one knows as much. You talk about an encyclopedic knowledge.

Published on Friday, September 17, 2004 by

The Resort to Force
by Noam Chomsky
As Colin Powell explained the National Security Strategy (NSS) of September 2002 to a hostile audience at the World Economic Forum, Washington has a ``sovereign right to use force to defend ourselves'' from nations that possess WMD and cooperate with terrorists, the official pretexts for invading Iraq. The collapse of the pretexts is well known, but there has been insufficient attention to its most important consequence: the NSS was effectively revised to lower the bars to aggression. The need to establish ties to terror was quietly dropped. More significant, Bush and colleagues declared the right to resort to force even if a country does not have WMD or even programs to develop them. It is sufficient that it have the ``intent and ability'' to do so. Just about every country has the ability, and intent is in the eye of the beholder. The official doctrine, then, is that anyone is subject to overwhelming attack. Colin Powell carried the revision even a step further. The president was right to attack Iraq because Saddam not only had ``intent and capability'' but had ``actually used such horrible weapons against his enemies in Iran and against his own people''-- with continuing support from Powell and his associates, he failed to add, following the usual convention. Condoleezza Rice gave a similar version. With such reasoning as this, who is exempt from attack? Small wonder that, as one Reuters report put it, ``if Iraqis ever see Saddam Hussein in the dock, they want his former American allies shackled beside him.''

In the desperate flailing to contrive justifications as one pretext after another collapsed, the obvious reason for the invasion was conspicuously evaded by the administration and commentators: to establish the first secure military bases in a client state right at the heart of the world's major energy resources, understood since World War II to be a ``stupendous source of strategic power'' and expected to become even more important in the future. There should have been little surprise at revelations that the administration intended to attack Iraq before 9-11, and downgraded the ``war on terror'' in favor of this objective. In internal discussion, evasion is unnecessary. Long before they took office, the private club of reactionary statists had recognized that ``the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'' With all the vacillations of policy since the current incumbents first took office in 1981, one guiding principle remains stable: the Iraqi people must not rule Iraq.

The 2002 National Security Strategy, and its implementation in Iraq, are widely regarded as a watershed in international affairs. ``The new approach is revolutionary,'' Henry Kissinger wrote, approving of the doctrine but with tactical reservations and a crucial qualification: it cannot be ``a universal principle available to every nation.'' The right of aggression is to be reserved for the US and perhaps its chosen clients. We must reject the most elementary of moral truisms, the principle of universality -- a stand usually concealed in professions of virtuous intent and tortured legalisms.

Arthur Schlesinger agreed that the doctrine and implementation were ``revolutionary,'' but from a quite different standpoint. As the first bombs fell on Baghdad, he recalled FDR's words following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, ``a date which will live in infamy.'' Now it is Americans who live in infamy, he wrote, as their government adopts the policies of imperial Japan. He added that George Bush had converted a ``global wave of sympathy'' for the US into a ``global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism.'' A year later, ``discontent with America and its policies had intensified rather than diminished.'' Even in Britain support for the war had declined by a third.

Find the finale here: The Resort To Force


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