A Warning From Noam Chomsky on the Threat Posed By Elites
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Chomsky is especially concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, and U.S.-Israel treatment of the people of Gaza in particular. He notes that Hamas is regularly attacked in the U.S. press, but there has not been comparable attention given to the U.S./Israeli decision to inflict daily collective punishment on the people of Gaza since they democratically elected Hamas in January 2006. He quotes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1950, which states that “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she had not personally committed” and reports how Israel, fully supported by U.S. leaders, continues to inflict precisely such punishment on the people of Gaza by destroying their economy, limiting their access to food and water, denying them health care, restricting their movement, and engaging in kidnapping, assassination and bombing—a program he calls “imposing massive suffering on the animals in the Gaza prison.”
Perhaps the most basic reason Americans should read Chomsky’s work today, therefore, is simply to understand the real world in which they live, that which is obscured by their leaders and the U.S. mass media. The purpose of “Newspeak” in the novel “1984” was to eliminate whole categories of thought. In our time, one such category is the fact that “U.S. leaders regularly and illegally kill enormous numbers of foreign innocent civilians.” The elimination of this thought-category in our cognitive framework understandably led President George W. Bush to explain 9/11 by saying “they hate our freedom”—a logical conclusion to someone ignorant of the trail of blood left by his predecessors. As Chomsky notes, however, “historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon ... because it lays the groundwork for crimes ahead” and, it should be noted, increased dangers of terrorism against Americans.
This increased threat of terrorism, which, Chomsky reports, citing the New American Foundation, has increased sevenfold because of the invasion of Iraq, is a second area in which Americans are today increasingly threatened by their leaders’ imperial mentality. As many experts noted in the wake of the Times Square bombing attempt, Barack Obama’s vast increase in drone strikes in Pakistan—and r elaxing targeting rules to include “low-level fighters whose identities may not be known”—has further increased the danger of terrorist attacks in the U.S.
As the elites’ imperial mentality comes home, Americans are also increasingly threatened by climate change—produced by a system that statutorily requires elites to pursue short-term profit for their firms, even at the cost of destroying the biosphere their own children and grandchildren will depend on for life itself.
In today’s system, Chomsky explains, to “stay in the game,” CEOs must maximize their own short-term profits while treating the costs of doing so as “externalities” to be paid by the taxpayer. In the case of climate change, however, “externalities happen to be the fate of the species.” An imperial mentality which has primarily threatened the Third World in the past, in other words, has now become a threat to the survival of not only America but all civilization as we know it.
Chomsky thus argues that human survival requires changing the system, not merely periodically replacing those running it. His “Hopes and Prospects” covers President Obama’s first year in office and the many “hopes” that he has so profoundly disappointed because of a system that virtually requires “doublethink” of its leaders. Obama was undoubtedly as sincere when he spoke of “our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution” at West Point on May 22 as he was six months earlier when he secretly approved Gen. David Petraeus’ proposal for a “broad expansion of clandestine military activity” worldwide that “does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress.”