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Q&A on the Iraq War (Chomsky & Herman)

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo ZNet | Iraq Q/A on the Iraq War by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman November 29,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      ZNet | Iraq
      Q/A on the Iraq War
      by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman
      November 29, 2005

      1. On Reconstruction

      Anthony DiMaggio: The "humanitarian reconstruction" of Iraq
      has been acknowledged to a large degree as a failure in the
      corporate press. It's interesting, though, to see the
      reasons given for why: the resistance is hampering
      reconstruction, there wasn't perfect foresight by the Bush
      administration in the reconstruction coordination planning
      process, the excessive "rapid personnel shifts" of those
      Americans involved in rebuilding, American money has
      "necessarily" gone to "pacification" instead of rebuilding,
      etc. What seems to be systematically omitted here is any
      real responsibility placed on the Bush Administration for
      its failure to make humanitarian reconstruction a high priority.

      Chomsky: The excuses also overlook the fact that the
      insurgency was created by the brutality of the invasion and
      occupation -- which is, in fact, one of the most astonishing
      failures in military history. The Nazis had less trouble in
      occupied Europe, and the Russians held their satellites for
      decades with far less difficulty. It is difficult to think
      of an analog. A few months after the invasion, I met a
      highly experienced senior physician with one of the leading
      relief organizations, who has served in some of the worst
      parts of the world. He had just returned briefly from
      Baghdad, where he was trying to reestablish medical
      facilities, but was unable to because of the incompetence of
      the CPA. He told me he had never seen such a combination of
      "arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence," referring to the
      Pentagon civilians in charge. In fact, it was monumental.
      They even failed to guard the WMD sites that had been under
      UN supervision, so that they were systematically looted,
      handing over to someone -- probably jihadis --
      high-precision equipment suitable for producing missiles and
      nuclear weapons, dangerous bio-toxins, etc., which had been
      provided to their friend Saddam by the US, UK and others.
      The ironies are almost indescribable.

      Another fact overlooked, though it is finally beginning to
      leak, is the immense corruption under the CPA, beside which
      anything attributed to the UN pales in insignificance.
      Plenty of information has been readily available, but only
      tidbits were reported here.

      One can go on. But the major and crucial point overlooked is
      the judgment of Nuremberg, declaring that aggression is "the
      supreme international crime differing only from other war
      crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated
      evil of the whole." All of the "accumulated evil." Also
      overlooked are the stern words of the US Chief Counsel
      Justice Jackson: "If certain acts of violation of treaties
      are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does
      them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared
      to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which
      we would not be willing to have invoked against us . . . We
      must never forget that the record on which we judge these
      defendants is the record on which history will judge us
      tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to
      put it to our own lips as well." Until at least this is
      recognized, all other discussion is merely footnotes, and
      shameful ones.

      Herman: The U.S. specialty is destruction, not
      reconstruction, in accord with the U.S. elite's longstanding
      giving of primacy to military means, and the use of force in
      dealing with target states. We save them by destroying them,
      and then move on to the next creative project. This is how
      it works even when we succeed in bringing into power an
      amenable client regime, as in Nicaragua after the ouster of
      the Sandinistas or Afghanistan after the removal and
      dispersal of the Taliban. There have been explicit
      leadership statements to the effect that "nation-building"
      is not our business -- we specialize in dismantlement, not

      In Iraq, there has been a lot of construction, but not much
      reconstruction. What have been constructed are massive U.S.
      military bases and facilities, repairs of oil extraction
      facilities, and protective walls in and around the Green
      Zone, which is essentially an occupied fortress within
      Baghdad. Not much has been done for Iraqi benefit. There are
      two incentives for reconstruction in Iraq: one is to serve
      U.S. companies, obviously mainly donor companies like
      Halliburton and Bechtel, who want the business, especially
      under conditions where looting is relatively easy given the
      difficult conditions and fiscal confusion. There is also an
      incentive to reconstruct in order to help sell the client
      government to the Iraqi people. The first incentive has been
      effective, with the donor companies getting lots of business
      with lots of overpayment, but most of their work has been in
      base, oil industry, and Green Zone construction, not
      reconstruction helpful to Iraqis. The second incentive might
      have had some potency except for the extreme difficulties of
      working in the highly insecure environment of occupied Iraq,
      plus the fact that Bush priorities and the unexpectedly high
      costs of the occupation have made this form of help to the
      client government too expensive; so helping the client
      government has been reduced to the U.S. specialty --
      pacification by violence.

      2. On Civil War in Iraq

      DiMaggio: A common argument made against de-escalation and
      withdrawal is that Iraq would fall into civil war. Should
      this argument be taken seriously by the American public?
      Many have argued that the U.S. is already promoting civil
      war in Iraq by training Iraqi security forces to fight other
      Iraqis (the resistance). In addition, others have pointed
      out that U.S. occupation is hardly going to change the
      dynamics of long-standing sectarian and cultural divides
      between Iraq's various groups (Shia, Kurds, Sunni); in fact
      it may make them worse by exacerbating relations between
      Sunni insurgents/resistance and the Shia and Kurds. Is there
      any legitimacy to the argument that the U.S. should prevent
      civil war?

      Chomsky: Aggressors have no rights, only responsibility. One
      is to provide massive reparations (not aid). Another is to
      withdraw forthwith, unless there is very strong evidence
      that the population wants them to stay. To say that such
      evidence is lacking is a serious understatement. The most
      recent poll (August 2005), undertaken by the British
      Ministry of Defense and leaked to the right-wing British
      press, reveals that over 80% of the population want the
      US-UK forces out, that 1% think they increase security, and
      that 45% approve of attacks on US-UK forces. If this means
      all Iraqis, as reported, it must be that opposition to the
      occupiers is far higher in Arab Iraq, where they are
      actually deployed and engaged. This is not too surprising in
      the light of earlier information that has been released.

      Herman: The Bush war has already started a civil war as part
      of the evolving occupation strategy. The character of the
      occupation, with its murderous use of firepower and harsh
      treatment of the populace, has steadily enlarged and
      consolidated a resistance. Having failed to get a puppet
      effectively installed without even nominal democratic forms,
      the Bush war managers opted for a tacit alliance with the
      Shiites and Kurds, who would be given nominal and possibly a
      modicum of real power via an electoral process, but with
      much of the legal and power arrangements of the occupation
      left intact and with the United States staying on to protect
      the new quasi-rulers from the Sunni-based insurgency. This
      provoked and institutionalized a civil war, with the
      occupation maintained as the military arm of one side. Thus
      the idea that the United States should stay on to avert a
      civil war is a laugher -- it produced the resistance and
      then moved on to a tacit alliance with the Shiites and Kurds
      to fight the Sunnis on behalf of the latter two groups while
      trying to train and arm these to be able to pacify the
      Sunnis on their own, which is to say in a civil war with the
      foreign military's direct assistance and participation.

      3. On U.S. Withdrawal

      DiMaggio: Most Americans seem to be considering withdrawal
      within the next year or so. Do you think there is any
      serious role to be played by the U.N. or Arab League in
      ensuring a power-vacuum does not replace the American
      occupation, should the U.S. decide to leave? In other words,
      are these two organizations necessary for promoting security
      in Iraq? From what polling has revealed, the people of Iraq
      seem to prefer that Iraqi security forces should take over
      stabilizing and policing the country, rather than the U.S.
      or some other power. Is this realistic at all? Would
      bringing Arab League forces in not just subject Iraq to
      outside political pressures from neighboring regimes? And
      does the U.N. really have any credibility there after nearly
      15 years of murderous sanctions?

      Chomsky: In Western propaganda, the murderous sanctions are
      called "UN sanctions," which is technically accurate, but a
      cowardly evasion. It has always been perfectly obvious that
      they were initiated and conducted under US initiative, with
      the "spear carrier for Pax Americana" -- as Blair's Britain
      is described in Britain's leading journal of international
      affairs -- trailing politely behind. And the cruel and
      savage character of the sanctions (as well as the illegal
      oil shipments) trace right back to Washington,
      overwhelmingly. By April 2003, a large majority of Americans
      felt that the UN, not the US, should take responsibility for
      Iraq -- approximately the position that Spanish voters
      approved a year later, but in the US, democracy has
      deteriorated to the point that public opinion has little
      influence on policy, on a very wide range of issues. The
      discussion, in any event, is idle. It is for Iraqis to make
      these decisions. The invaders may have whatever uninformed
      subjective judgments they like, but they are of only
      marginal interest, no matter who the invaders are.

      Herman: With a U.S. withdrawal there would be a strong
      incentive for the three sub-national groups to come to some
      kind of accommodation, without any outside assistance. The
      U.S. withdrawal would cut out a major part of the rationale
      for an insurgency, so accommodation would become possible.
      The very assurance of a specific and near-term U.S. timed
      exit would probably induce serious indigenous attempts to
      produce reconciliation and end a struggle that is so costly
      to all sides, but mostly to the Sunnis and Shiites.

      Other Arab states did perform a useful mediation service in
      Lebanon in earlier years, so their utility in this service
      is not out of the question. The UN is pretty thoroughly
      discredited and probably has no useful role to play here.
      But the possibility of purely indigenous accommodation in
      the absence of the aggressor-occupier from abroad should not
      be discounted. The United States has wrecked the country and
      continues to do further wrecking in its pacification
      operations, so that ending its operations there would be a
      gigantic plus. It is not likely that the situation would be
      as bad or worse with the United States and its "coalition of
      the bribed" out of Iraq, and there is an excellent chance
      that it would be much better. The Iraqis surely ought to be
      given that chance of freedom from an aggression-occupation
      following their long years of non-freedom under Saddam Hussein.

      The United States should not only get out quickly, it ought
      to be compelled or shamed into paying huge sums to a free
      Iraq to compensate for the enormous damage that resulted
      from its commission of the "supreme crime" and murderous

      Anthony DiMaggio teaches Middle East Politics and American
      Government at Illinois State University. He is the Senior
      Editor of The Indy, an independent newspaper based out of

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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