Chomsky: No Wonder the World Is Terrified of America — We’re the Biggest Threat…


From AlterNet

Keeping the world safe from America…

As the year 2013 drew to an end, the BBC reported on the results of the WIN/Gallup International poll on the question: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”

The United States was the champion by a substantial margin, winning three times the votes of second-place Pakistan.

By contrast, the debate in American scholarly and media circles is about whether Iran can be contained, and whether the huge NSA surveillance system is needed to protect U.S. security.

In view of the poll, it would seem that there are more pertinent questions: Can the United States be contained and other nations secured in the face of the U.S. threat?

In some parts of the world the United States ranks even higher as a perceived menace to world peace, notably in the Middle East, where overwhelming majorities regard the U.S. and its close ally Israel as the major threats they face, not the U.S.-Israeli favorite: Iran.

Few Latin Americans are likely to question the judgment of Cuban nationalist hero José Martí, who wrote in 1894 that “The further they draw away from the United States, the freer and more prosperous the [Latin] American people will be.”

Martí’s judgment has been confirmed in recent years, once again by an analysis of poverty by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean, released last month.

The U.N. report shows that far-reaching reforms have sharply reduced poverty in Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and some other countries where U.S. influence is slight, but that it remains abysmal in others – namely, those that have long been under U.S. domination, like Guatemala and Honduras. Even in relatively wealthy Mexico, under the umbrella of the North American Free Trade Agreement, poverty is severe, with 1 million added to the numbers of the poor in 2013.

Sometimes the reasons for the world’s concerns are obliquely recognized in the United States, as when former CIA director Michael Hayden, discussing Obama’s drone murder campaign, conceded that “Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.”

A normal country would be concerned by how it is viewed in the world. Certainly that would be true of a country committed to “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” to quote the Founding Fathers. But the United States is far from a normal country. It has had the most powerful economy in the world for a century, and has had no real challenge to its global hegemony since World War II, despite some decline, partly self-administered.

The U.S., conscious of “soft power,” undertakes major campaigns of “public diplomacy” (aka propaganda) to create a favorable image, sometimes accompanied by worthwhile policies that are welcomed. But when the world persists in believing that the United States is by far the greatest threat to peace, the American press scarcely reports the fact.

The ability to ignore unwanted facts is one of the prerogatives of unchallenged power. Closely related is the right to radically revise history.

A current example can be seen in the laments about the escalating Sunni-Shiite conflict that is tearing apart the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria. The prevailing theme of U.S. commentary is that this strife is a terrible consequence of the withdrawal of American force from the region – a lesson in the dangers of “isolationism.”

The opposite is more nearly correct. The roots of the conflict within Islam are many and varied, but it cannot be seriously denied that the split was significantly exacerbated by the American- and British-led invasion of Iraq. And it cannot be too often repeated that aggression was defined at the Nuremberg Trials as “the supreme international crime,” differing from others in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, including the current catastrophe.

A remarkable illustration of this rapid inversion of history is the American reaction to the current atrocities in Fallujah. The dominant theme is the pain about the sacrifices, in vain, of the American soldiers who fought and died to liberate Fallujah. A look at the news reports of the U.S. assaults on Fallujah in 2004 quickly reveals that these were among the most vicious and disgraceful war crimes of the aggression.

The death of Nelson Mandela provides another occasion for reflection on the remarkable impact of what has been called “historical engineering”: reshaping the facts of history to serve the needs of power.

When Mandela at last obtained his freedom, he declared that “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength. . [Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa . a turning point for the liberation of our continent – and of my people – from the scourge of apartheid. . What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”

Today the names of Cubans who died defending Angola from U.S.-backed South African aggression, defying American demands that they leave the country, are inscribed on the “Wall of Names” in Pretoria’s Freedom Park. And the thousands of Cuban aid workers who sustained Angola, largely at Cuban expense, are also not forgotten.

The U.S.-approved version is quite different. From the first days after South Africa agreed to withdraw from illegally occupied Namibia in 1988, paving the way for the end of apartheid, the outcome was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as a “splendid achievement” of American diplomacy, “one of the most significant foreign policy achievements of the Reagan administration.”

The reasons why Mandela and South Africans perceive a radically different picture are spelled out in Piero Gleijeses’ masterful scholarly inquiry “Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991.”

As Gleijeses convincingly demonstrates, South Africa’s aggression and terrorism in Angola and its occupation of Namibia were ended by “Cuban military might” accompanied by “fierce black resistance” within South Africa and the courage of Namibian guerrillas. The Namibian liberation forces easily won fair elections as soon as these were possible. Similarly, in elections in Angola, the Cuban-backed government prevailed – while the United States continued to support vicious opposition terrorists there even after South Africa was compelled to back away.

To the end, the Reaganites remained virtually alone in their strong support for the apartheid regime and its murderous depredations in neighboring countries. Though these shameful episodes may be wiped out of internal U.S. history, others are likely to understand Mandela’s words.

In these and all too many other cases, supreme power does provide protection against reality – to a point.


Leave it to Uncle Noam to state the obvious.

People in the US don’t like to think about it, but the US tries to put a hobnail boot on the necks of anyone it can, anywhere in the World, and usually succeeds. Empires have always fed on violence, dispossession and sometimes, simple extirpation of inconvenient people. It is a general case that the group or nation that has the greatest credibility as a source of mindless violence will dominate any imperial system. The Roman’s would say (at its roots we are still Roman’s in our thinking), “We don’t care if people respect us as long as they fear us.”

Think of it as organized crime’s basic business plan that it installs in all countries ruled by the Empire. While prosperity can be sought honestly, once a group introduces violence prosperity is the property of might, as is right. Once nuclear weapons came on the scene threats of nuclear attack became routine, with Nixon even saying that he wanted to appear crazy enough to use them. A world organized around fear of violence and dispossession, the most violent group always gets its way.

It is all of a piece. Nuclear war, counterinsurgency (a word that means killing disaffected poor people), politics at home and abroad, and especially economic warfare are all part of the might makes right paradigm. Every relevant thing is directed to maintaining dominance. All the kinder virtues are expelled from virtually every institution or it is destroyed. A harder sell is to point out that we have been fighting WWIII, with virtually no pause after WWII. Of course people fear the US. It is the only way current affairs makes sense, and it is a deliberate policy, most succinctly laid out in the Project for a New American Century. Total dominance is the goal. Killing anyone who gets in our way is the means, as has always been true of empires. Chalmers Johnson, may he RIP, wrote a book about this called The Sorrows of Empire. If you liked this post you will like Johnson.

Maybe it would be more accurate to call the US the Last Empire, not, as the troglodyte mindset reasons that it is, and will retain its power, but because environmental destruction, contributed to by every hegemon down through history, has accumulated to the point of no return. As the consequences of our violent use of resources ramp up in an exponential fashion, the natural wealth that empires always needed to rape and plunder will no longer exist. The Earth has been vanquished by our hyper-masculine consumer culture, or so it seems until we face the fact that we have devised the means for our own extinction, and discover, like Pogo, that we are our own enemies. We have vanquished ourselves. The continued success of violent means of problem solving will just mean our extinction will happen sooner.

That is the overwhelming probability, but after I am done with reality I turn to fantasy for comfort. Maybe something completely unexpected will happen to pull the sword of aggressive industrial culture out of our hearts. So by all means fight the power, but, as Noam says, it is also OK to just watch and wait.


    Thanks Herb aka ybera. I once thought that the insatiable need to import vast amounts of petroleum and minerals, as well bananas, so as to maintain our status as the richest country was the driving force for all of this imperialism. Now I can see that it is only to maintain the wealth of the richest 5% of us. The other 95% are mere consumers and worker bees.

    The top 5% do not seem to possess any profound thoughts nor even goals to explain their lust for dominance. They now hide behind security gates in sprawljng mansions and travel in well-guarded motor convoys and jet aircraft, eschewing even the accolades of the increasingly impoverished worker class, as had been customary in the Roman-style Coliseums of yesteryear. The rich are left with bulging pockets and overwhelming power and nothing else. They appear as confused as children staring at the trays of gooey pastries in bakery shops.

    No goals of freedom, equality and prosperity seem capable of uniting the other 95%. Their hope is that by emulating the wealthy, working hard and having a bit of luck, they will somehow ascend into the top 5% before this shaky imperial structure collapses upon us all. Perhaps we should instead focus upon the vision of a peaceful afterlife and stop wringing our hands, in emulation of Noam Chomsky.

    Jim Houle

      I don’t think we have to wait for the “afterlife.” Peace may be intermittent, but can generally be found to the mind willing to accommodate reality. The Buddha, so the story told by the late Shunryu Suzuki in his treasured little book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, was confronted by some Brahmin who demanded to know if he was God. No. Then did he speak for God. No. Then to know what he was then. Answer, awake. Sometimes, when nothing else will do, anger can create the possibility of awakening. Certainly denying righteous anger out of fear is a killer. Anger, as Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, is a natural, even biochemical thing. Like all biological processes, left to itself anger dissipates after doing its job of directing our attention to injustice. Holding on to anger is just as bad as denying it. So, when I first encounter an injustice I am flooded with anger and know to honor the feeling without giving in to it confident that it will pass and wisdom, hopefully, can come to the fore to moderate the anger, at least when I don’t screw up, which happens regularly. The out of control situation with our society is terrifying the more one knows about it. I honor those who choose not to know, but knowing means handling extreme anger, unavoidable, which in turn causes us to suffer, diminish our happiness. If we hold on to anger, at the betrayal of our species by dominant individuals for instance, then we can not return to our inner happiness. Happiness, after all, is the best revenge one can have against as******.

      Best as I can tell, we are caught in an evolutionary conundrum. Our social proclivities are adapted to functioning in small, intimate groups. We still do this locally, but the greater society imposes massive groupings in which we are as ants defending ourselves from sociopathic elephants. Daniel Quinn, in his book Beyond Civilization, sketches out what would be a reasonable way for us to live, essentially a return to village life. This always happens after the collapse of giant superstructures like empires. A couple of hundred years after the demise of the Roman Empire we can tell by the bones that people were bigger, healthier and no doubt happier. As centralized authority returned, aristocracies rebuilt, the story can be read in the bones. Disease, shortened lifespans, short stature characterize the bones of people who are oppressed by centralized authority imposed by violence. Just maybe the species will dodge the bullet of climate catastrophe and learn from the experience. The Universe is kind. If we fail to learn from a lesson, the Universe will send the same problem back to us in a larger, more troubling format. If our species does not return to being part of Nature rather than its rapist, this may be the last iteration of the problem of learning to choose love over fear.

      Wonderful that we have rain!!!


Dear Ybera:
I had thought the universe was totally indifferent to us humanoids. Now you tell me that it has human feelings such as kindness and can be vindictive when we fail to listen to its warnings. I will need to rethink. In the meantime, putting thoughts of the after life to one side, I shall attempt to “accomodate reality” and use anger more righteously.
Thanks. Jim

To be without a higher power is lonely.

The minimalist version of a higher power is the totality I call the Universe. There are many patterns of experience that defy the anthropomorphic, rationalist, materialist point of view. No one point of view encompasses the entire universe, after all. Analogous to the statement that all Gods have feet of clay, is my assertion that all perspectives, being themselves products of mere thought, lack comprehensiveness, are necessarily incomplete. Gladwell, in one of his books describes the fact that an inordinate number of people accidentally miss air flights that subsequently crash. When interviewed these people, according to Gladwell, report the usual list of difficulties that cause people to miss flights, lost car keys, etc. But there is the stubborn fact that it happens more often in the case of flights that crash, which defies the materialist viewpoint.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so overeducated and able to easily indulge in superstition. There is the temptation to ignore or deny these sorts of patterns in hyper-materialist thinking that is, in the final analysis, intellectually dishonest. Homey tries not to do that. Folk wisdom is full of these things. Like “What goes around comes around.” Love at first sight, a staple of entertainment fiction, is another. We are surrounded by things that, as Hamlet stated, are beyond our philosophy. I am fine with that, so, when I see the phenomenon of recurrent challenges becoming progressively more challenging for an individual, or group in an obvious progression in a self fulfilling fashion, I sense one of these patterns that materialist rationality wants to ignore. Robin Williams did a movie on this idea using reincarnation through a series of lives where his character faced the same dilemma in each reincarnation. So, when reality defies statistical probability, rather than invoke some superstitious anthropomorphic entity, I just say the Universe is acting, I know not how.

In my weak understanding of Buddhism I grapple with the conundrum of unreality. If, as I observe to be true, all ideas are illusions, but having no illusions is to be unconscious. Therefore one has a spiritual obligation to choose to believe in those illusions that have the most positive influence. Consequently, I believe in a nebulous something, acting without any correspondence to human consciousness and therefore fundamentally ineffable, that results in folks with harmful beliefs hitting bottom if they choose to not learn from their stupidity. Another way of looking at this, and there need to be many ways, is that suffering is the only cure for stupidity, and a kind Universe arranges somehow for us to suffer more and more the more stubbornly we hold on to harmful illusions. Or something like that.