Facebook Badge

13 August 2007

Elliott Abrams on Chomsky on the US Media on Israel in Index of Censorship

For real.

This is funny if you have a dark sense of humor; if you don't, you best acquire one soon. I came across this priceless story about the Felonious Skunk himself (favorite composition, in re Iran-Contra conviction: "Evidence?") in the Nashua, NH, library, reading Pirates and Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World, a slim classic by the Chomster.

Elliott Abrams is now on the National Security Council, much concerned with "democracy promotion." This is a man who holds Demos close to his bosom.

Here's a PDF of Abrams' letter mentioned in the post linked in the title above. Actually, I'll repost the info below, fixing the reverse-chronological order of the e-mails that comprise it. I'll excise the e-mail address (!) and fix some spelling.

From: [e-mail removed]
To: PRETEXT Listserv
Sent: 9/14/2004 7:08 PM
Subject: QUESTION FOR NOAM CHOMSKY (INDEX ON CENSORSHIP)

Dear Noam:

Although the letter below (at the very end of the message) appears at the beginning of chapter 4 of your Pirates and Emperors Old and New, I think it has some relevance for discussions about H & S and some of the questions that have arisen over the last week about intellectual intervention and affairs of state. Elliot Abrams, now head of Middle East Affairs for the National Security Council, wrote this letter in 1986 (when he was head of Central American affairs at the State Dept.) to the editor of The Index on Censorship, a journal devoted to exposing censorship throughout the world. Abrams was indicted for lying to Congress in 1986, but was pardoned by Bush I. What’s remarkable about the letter is that it was written on State Dept. letterhead, suggesting that the Index on Censorship had not done an effective enough job in censoring your views on the Middle East and that Abrams was, in fact, speaking as a U.S. government official. Abrams wrote his letter in response to your “American Thought Control: The Case of the Middle East,” an article that questioned the very vocabulary framing discussions of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In this article, you discussed in detail how the phrase “peace process”– through a form of Newspeak–has been completely evacuated of meaning. Within the Newspeak lexicon, the whole world waits for the Palestinians to climb aboard the peace process. It’s not necessary, of course, to ask whether U.S. or Israel are aboard because the peace will be fashioned on their terms.

You suggest that there is a doctrinally enforced unwillingness among the American intelligentsia to critically probe some of the propositions that govern the U.S.-Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. This Newspeak: 1) leaves out mention of the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population (can’t be mentioned); 2) can’t articulate, much less fathom, that the U.S. and Israel have been actually blocking a comprehensive diplomatic settlement in the region for over thirty years (bombing of Lebanon occurred in 1982 because of the prospect of peace); 3) won’t recognize the racist assumptions that govern the “rejectionist” stance, (Palestinians are portrayed as rejecting the territorial rights of Israel, but the converse can’t be articulated) which if stated openly, would not be tolerated by the American general public, e.g., that Arabs are somehow civilizationally deficient; and 4) assures that the “security threats” will be those that Israel faces; no one ever asks whether or not Israel and the U.S. pose a security threat to the Palestinians. As a thought experiment, notice how when a “six-week cessation in violence” or a “new outbreak of violence” is reported by the U.S. press, it’s when Palestinians commit violence. However, when Palestinians are murdered it’s not considered murder or violence. All in all, your article highlighted the degree of discipline and level of commitment that can be maintained within a well-functioning propaganda system. Why do you cherish Abrams’ letter so much and what does it mean that your article caught the attention of a state department official?

For a state department official to write to an English journal, devoted to examining censorship, is perhaps comparable to a Soviet commisar [sic] writing to _In These Times_ here in the U.S. because it published the views of a Soviet dissident. What does the controversy that ensued, when the article was published, tells us about the intellectual communities within which we all travel?

Thanks, Matthew A. [took out his full last name, just on principle]

=================================

From: Noam Chomsky
To: Pretext Listserv
Sent: 9/15/2004 5:16 PM
Subject: Re: ma>nc: index on censorship

The story is in fact more interesting and complex. Some of it is mentioned in chapter 4, and considerably more in the article by Alexander Cockburn cited in the footnote, based on material leaked to journalists in England. There’s more, in fact, not uninteresting. Perhaps it will be told one day.

On the significance of the letter itself, my own view is as expressed in the chapter: “What the letter reveals is the deep totalitarian streak in the mentality of leading figures in the Reagan administration: not even the tiniest opening must be allowed to unacceptable thought.” And as I
go on to say, they are not alone, though they were at an extreme end of the spectrum, and their current inheritors are clustered even more at that extreme. We can add more about the significance today: Abrams was appointed by Bush II to the top position on Middle East Policy in the National Security Council.

Turning to your question — “What does the controversy that ensued, when the article was published, tells us about the intellectual communities within which we all travel” — I think it might be rephrased: “What does the lack of controversy that ensued tell us about the intellectual communities within which we all travel.” In England, the tremendous and unprecedented attack on the journal and its editor for daring to step out of line did elicit some controversy, mostly denials from thosen [sic] implicated. In the US, I don’t recall anything beyond the Cockburn article. I don’t recall anything in print about the Abrams letter. Perhaps — probably — I’ve forgotten some reactions, but I’m pretty sure they were slight at most. That presumably means that the events are considered quite normal and appropriate within the dominant intellectual culture.

Turning to your analogy, the reaction would no doubt have been dramatically different. Which also tells us something, perhaps.

Noam Chomsky

Update: Part 4. The U.S. Role in the Middle East (November 15, 1986)

It would only be proper for me to begin by presenting my credentials to talk to you on this topic, and since it would be unfair to present my own version, or even to rely on the very kind introductory remarks, let me read a letter of recommendation for me that was sent to a small journal in England, Index on Censorship, where I had a brief article on some aspects of our present topic. [1]

Dear Dan:

Forgive me for writing to you again in your capacity as a Director and Member of the Editorial Board of Index on Censorship, but I can't resist. In the latest issue which I have, July/August 1986, there appears a truly astonishing article, beginning on p. 2 and continuing at great length. This article is an attack on the United States, the United States Government, and the United States press by Noam Chomsky.

You probably know about Chomsky: he is a fanatical defender of the PLO who has set new standards for intellectual dishonesty and personal vindictiveness in his writings about the Middle East. There really isn't anyone left in the U.S. -- without regard to politics -- who takes Chomsky seriously in view of his astonishing record. I therefore find it inexplicable that he is given fully three pages to go on with his attack on one of the freest presses in the world. Clearly giving him this much space lends a certain respectability to his disreputable efforts. Can it be that your editors simply do not know who Chomsky is and are unfamiliar with his record? Can it be that, fully familiar with him, they nevertheless decided to give him this platform? If so, why?

Signed "Elliott," that is, Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, July 29, 1986, on official State Department stationery, and therefore counts, I presume, as a public document (some personal remarks omitted).

I cite this letter for two reasons. One, because I naturally treasure it, just as I treasure, for precisely the same reasons, the efforts of Soviet advisors in the Third World to have my books banned (as they have been for years in the USSR) [2] and the rejection of my only visa application to Eastern Europe. The reactions of the commissars often indicate that one is probably on the right course. But beyond that, the letter is germane to our topic. It gives a revealing (and not untypical) insight into the mentality of the Reagan Administration and also of the Israeli lobby -- I should mention that Abrams's letter was only one part of an impressive barrage launched against the journal for daring to publish remarks on the U.S. and Israel that were deemed improper by the guardians of the faith. [3] These are phenomena with which many of you have personal familiarity, a fact also germane to our topic, for obvious reasons.

Let me put aside the remarkable lack of a sense of irony; recall that this is a journal devoted to censorship, now under attack because it permitted brief expression of fact and analysis that is not to the taste of the commissars. What the letter reveals is the deep totalitarian streak in the mentality of leading figures in the Reagan Administration: not even the tiniest opening must be allowed to unacceptable thought. I do not want to suggest that it is outside the spectrum of American politics. Unfortunately, it is not. But in its practices, its style and its commitments, the Reagan Administration does represent an extreme position within this spectrum, an extreme of reactionary jingoism -- which has misappropriated the honorable term "conservative" -- marked by dedicated lying, lawlessness, enhancement of state power and violence, attacks on personal freedom and civil liberties, all developments that are ominous in character and important for the future of American politics and society, hence for the Middle East, and for the world, given the awesome scale of American power.

These features of the Reagan Administration have not gone unnoticed, and have naturally aroused concern among genuine conservatives here -- of whom there are very few in government or the media -- and abroad. Three years ago, David Watt, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, writing in Foreign Affairs, commented on the chasm that lies between current American perceptions of the world and the world's perception of America ... [W]ith the possible exceptions of the Israelis, the South Africans, President Marcos of the Philippines and a few right-wing governments in Central and South America, [most of the world believes] that the Reagan administration has vastly overreacted to the Soviet threat, thereby distorting the American (and hence the world) economy, quickening the arms race, warping its own judgment about events in the Third World, and further debasing the language of international intercourse with feverish rhetoric. He adds that "it is in my experience almost impossible to convey even to the most experienced Americans just how deeply rooted and widely spread the critical view has become" -- also an important fact. As if to confirm this judgment, in a companion article on the current international scene, Foreign Affairs editor William Bundy
writes that with regard to the "degree of threat from the Soviet Union . . . the Reagan administration's broad view seems to this observer nearer to reality than the often excessively sanguine and parochial stated positions of other major nations." [4]

Watt in fact exaggerates the "chasm." European elites are not so removed from Reaganite hysteria as he indicates, and the "exceptions" go beyond those he mentioned, including particularly France, where many Paris intellectuals have adopted Reaganite fanaticism as their current fad. Furthermore, as Bundy's comment indicates, what Watt is describing represents elite opinion in the U.S. well beyond the Reagan Administration; Bundy writes from near the opposite end of the elite spectrum. Watt is describing the extreme version of a general elite reaction to the problems caused by the Vietnam war, including the harm caused to the U.S. economy and the benefits to its industrial rivals, and the breakdown of discipline both in the Third World and at home, factors that require stern state action and thus an appeal to the ever-useful Russian threat, regularly invoked in such situations. But Watts's essential point is accurate enough.

The isolation of the U.S. has since increased, as revealed for example by votes in the United Nations on a wide range of issues. Within just the last few weeks, the General Assembly voted 124 to 1 in favor of a South Atlantic zone of peace and 94 to 3 calling on the U.S. to comply with the World Court ruling ordering cessation of the U.S. attack against Nicaragua; in the latter case, the U.S. was joined by two client-states, El Salvador (which is "independent" in the sense in which Poland is independent of the USSR) and Israel, which has chosen to become an armed mercenary of the United States. U.S. isolation on Middle East votes is notorious, but the
phenomenon is much more general. In 1980-85 alone the U.S. resorted to 27 vetoes in the Security Council, as compared to 15 in the earlier history of the UN (all since 1966) and four vetoes for the USSR in the 1980s. [5]

The reaction is interesting. In the early days of the UN, when it was firmly under U.S. control and could be used for Cold War purposes, the general attitude towards the organization was highly favorable and there was much earnest debate over what caused the USSR, then almost isolated, to be so negative; perhaps this resulted from the use of swaddling clothes for infants, which reinforced "negativism," some suggested -- a doctrine that a few skeptics called "diaperology." As U.S. global dominance declined from its quite phenomenal postwar peak and the relative independence of members of the UN increased, attitudes towards the UN became more critical, and by now are extremely hostile. We no longer read disquisitions on the curious negativism of the Russians, but rather on the equally curious fact that the world is out of step, as New York Times UN correspondent Richard Bernstein thoughtfully explains. [6]

Opinion polls in Europe show similar results. A recent classified USIA poll shows that outside of France, European opinion trusts Mikhail Gorbachev on arms control far more than Reagan, by four to one in England and seven to one in Germany.[7]

The international isolation is of little concern to the Reagan Administration. They have shown a shrewd understanding of the efficacy of violence and intimidation. Like some of their predecessors and models elsewhere in the world, they are well aware that cheap victories over weak and defenseless enemies can be manipulated to arouse jingoist sentiments and popular enthusiasm at home, if the population can be properly terrified by grave threats to its existence; among earlier examples that come to mind are Hitler's warnings of the encirclement of Germany by hostile states bent on its destruction, the Czech "dagger pointed at the heart of Germany," the aggressiveness and terror of the Czechs and Poles, and above all, the threat of the international Jewish conspiracy. The Reaganites understand very well what H. L. Mencken called "the whole aim of practical politics": "to keep the public alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." As for the rest of the world, U.S. cultural hegemony is sufficiently great so that doctrines contrived for domestic purposes will be adopted or taken seriously, however ludicrous they may be; and if not, the threat of escalated violence if U.S. allies prove intransigent, and its potential costs to them, remain credible and have been effectively exploited.

The propaganda campaign about international terrorism is one example of the skillful use of these techniques, both at home and abroad. Policy-makers of the Reagan Administration know that liberal elements in Congress and the media can easily be cowed by the charge that they are soft and insufficiently militant in the face of whatever hobgoblin happens to be the monster of the day, and hence will line up obediently in the "crusade against terrorism." They also understand that the overwhelming resources of violence at their command allow disdain for world opinion. In fact, they regularly exploit concerns over their violence, as in the Tokyo summit after the Libya bombings, when the Reaganites rallied Western elites by warning them that unless they fell in line, there is no telling what the "crazy Americans" might do next.[8]

The disdainful attitude towards Congress as well is revealed at every turn. For example, last month, in the military authorization bill, both houses of Congress insisted upon wording that called upon the Executive to comply with SALT II, in the interest of national security. A few weeks later, the Administration announced that it was proceeding to exceed the SALT II limits. An Administration spokesman explained that "Congress is out of town and the summit in Iceland is past. [Gorbachev] is not expected to come here for some time. So what's holding us back?"9 In other words, the cop is looking the other way, so why not rob the store? In actual fact, Congress has been out of town even when it is in town, as the Administration knows very well, and it has not proven too difficult for a gang of street toughs to ride roughshod over the generally pathetic opposition.

The attitude towards the public is revealed by what one Reagan official called "a vast psychological warfare operation" designed to set the agenda for debate over Nicaragua -- a disinformation campaign called "Operation Truth"; Goebbels and Stalin would have been amused.[10]

Disinformation has been an Administration specialty since the earliest days, though the media and Congress always profess to be shocked when a new example is exposed, recently during the 1986 disinformation campaign concerning Libya (see chapter 3). In this case, the display of outraged surprise necessitated a slight case of amnesia; as early as August 1981, Newsweek had
reported a government "disinformation program designed to embarrass Qaddafi and his government" along with assorted acts of U.S. terrorism within Libya to try to "demonstrate that Qaddafi was opposed by an indigenous political force." There have also been extensive disinformation campaigns, quite successful thanks to media cooperation, on the arms race and numerous other matters.[11]

We derive further insights from current revelations about the sophisticated program to evade Congressional restrictions on military aid to the terrorist proxy army attacking Nicaragua -- or the "resistance," as it is termed by the government and the loyal press, a "resistance" organized by the Hemispheric Enforcer to attack Nicaragua from bases established outside its borders (the term "proxy army," in contrast, is used in internal White House documents, and its terrorism is also not concealed in secret reports). To mention one illustration of the careful planning that lies behind the terrorist operations, consider the decision of the Reagan Administration to sell (probably quite useless) AWACs to Saudi Arabia in 1981. This was a politically unpopular move, and it was not clear at the time why the Administration was so determined to pursue it.

Some likely reasons have since emerged. The Reagan planners evidently anticipated potential difficulties in funding their proxy army, and when Congress, responding to public pressure, later sought to limit the terrorist war against Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia was called upon to repay its debt and to fund shipments of arms to the contras, apparently Soviet arms that Israel had captured during its Reagan-backed aggression in Lebanon. [12]

These are the machinations of sophisticated international terrorists, with a global vision. Now that they have finally surpassed the point where they can be easily suppressed, the partial exposures will elicit the pretense that the Reagan policy-makers are incompetent bunglers; the invariable elite response to failure of state plans is to focus attention on alleged personal inadequacies, so as to avert the threat that the public may come to understand the systematic nature of policy, the general support for it within elite circles (tactics aside), and the
institutional roots of these commitments. But no one should be deluded into believing that we are witnessing the operations of fools and bunglers; their achievements in organizing efficient international terrorism are impressive, from the Middle East to Central America, and beyond.
Another crucial fact should also be kept in mind: the current scandals are a great tribute to the popular movements of the 1960s and since, which forced the state to resort to clandestine operations to conceal its terrorism and violence, operations so complex that finally they could not be entirely kept from public view. Had the public been apathetic and quiescent, as in earlier years, Reagan could have emulated the practices of John F. Kennedy when he simply sent the U.S. Air Force to carry out large- scale bombing and initiated defoliation and crop destruction missions in South Vietnam from 1961-62, or Lyndon Johnson when he escalated the aggression against South Vietnam by land and air, extending it to the north as well, and sent 23,000 Marines to the Dominican Republic to avert the threat of democracy there, all in early 1965, with very little protest at the time.

Clandestine operations carry the risk of exposure, and of undermining the rhetorical pose of the government (for example, "combating terrorism"). This may inhibit the terrorist commanders, for a time at least. These facts serve to show that even in a generally depoliticized society like the United States, with no political parties or major media outside of the narrow business-based elite consensus, significant public action is quite possible and may influence policy, though indirectly, as during the Vietnam years and since. These are important facts to bear in mind in connection with the Middle East as well.

One element of the U.S.- organized international terror network is the World Anti-Communist League, a collection of Nazis, anti-Semites, death squad assassins, and some of the worst killers and thugs around the world, mobilized by the Reagan Administration into an effective network of murderers and torturers, worldwide in scope. Last month, the League attracted some attention in the course of the Hasenfus affair in Nicaragua. The New York Times, as usual reporting government propaganda as fact, claimed that the League had been purged of its more nefarious elements when General Singlaub took it over in the 1980s. The World Anti-Communist League had just then completed its annual conference in Europe (not reported in the media here to my knowledge). The leading Nazis were present, given respectful applause when their leaders -- Nazi killers from the days of Hitler -- mounted the podium to address the audience. The Latin American death squad leaders, allegedly expelled in 1984, reappeared at once in 1984-85 conferences sponsored by the U.S. affiliate -- a tax-exempt "educational" organization. The League continues to include Nazis, racists of various assortments and killers from around the world. It is supported by the U.S. and several of its client-states, particularly Taiwan and South Korea, but also reportedly by Syria and other Arab states; and its workings are concealed by the Israeli lobby here. In the introduction to their recent book on the League, Scott Anderson and John Anderson comment that the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, a leading component of the domestic Israeli lobby, refused to provide them with information on this notorious collection of anti-Semites, who now serve a useful purpose within the Reaganite international terror network that they generally support. [13]

All of this, and much more, reveals a sophisticated understanding of how to conduct international terrorism, on a scale with few historical precedents. The sordid record of the World Anti-Communist League should remind us that while Reaganite thuggery is unusual, it is not unique in U.S. history. Immediately after World War II, the U.S. turned to the task of
suppressing the anti-fascist resistance throughout much of the world, often in favor of fascists and collaborators. One component of this global program was the recruitment of Nazi gangsters such as Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of Lyons," who had been responsible for horrendous atrocities in France and was duly placed in charge of spying on the French for American intelligence. A far more important example was Reinhard Gehlen, in charge of Hitler's East European intelligence operations and quickly assigned the same tasks under the CIA, in West German intelligence. His organization was responsible for U.S. support for military actions within the USSR and Eastern Europe, in conjunction with armies that had been encouraged by Hitler. These operations were run out of George Kennan's office in the State Department according to John Loftus, who investigated these matters for the U.S. Justice department. Later, when many of these useful folk could no longer be protected in Europe, the U.S. authorities brought them here or to Latin America with the aid of the Vatican and fascist priests. They have continued to serve U.S. government interests, training torturers in methods devised by the Gestapo, helping establish the neo-Nazi National Security states in Latin America and the Central American death squad apparatus within the framework of the U.S.- trained security forces, and so on. [14]

We will understand very little about the world if we neglect the relevant historical context, commonly ignored or suppressed in official doctrine. The same is true when we turn directly to the Middle East. Consider U.S. relations with Iran, now in the news, but with the historical context largely excised, as is usually the case when it teaches inconvenient lessons. The Reagan Administration argues that the recently reported arms shipments to Iran via an Israeli connection are part of an effort to establish contacts with "moderate" elements in Iran. There is a sense in which this claim is true; namely, if we enter the domain of conventional Newspeak, in which the term "moderate" is used to refer to elements that are properly obedient to U.S. orders and demands; it is counterpoised to "radical," used to refer to those who do not follow orders properly. Notice that the terminology has nothing to do with the commitment to violence and terror of these groups, or even their social and political goals, apart from the crucial defining feature; thus the mass murderer Suharto in Indonesia is a respected "moderate," but a peasant self-help group organized by the Church in El Salvador is "radical," and must be exterminated by Pol Pot- style terror conducted by the U.S. mercenary forces.

In Iran, the U.S. restored "moderates" to power with a CIA coup in what the New York Times (August6, 1954) described as an "object lesson" to "underdeveloped countries with rich resources," an "object lesson in the cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism" and tries to take control of their own resources, thus becoming "radical." Iran remained "moderate" until the fall of the Shah in 1979 while compiling one of the worst human rights records in the world, as Amnesty International and other
human rights groups regularly documented, not affecting the classification of the Shah as a "moderate" or the applause for him among U.S. elites. The Shah was supported by the Carter Administration to the very end of his bloody rule. The U.S. then apparently looked into the possibility of a military coup, but without success. Since that time, a flow of arms to Iran has been maintained, in part via Israel, which had very close relations with the Shah and his military.

Notice that very much the same was true in the case of Somoza in Nicaragua, who fell at about the same time. The Carter Administration also backed him until the end, with Israel providing the arms, surely with tacit U.S. backing, while he was killing tens of thousands in a last paroxysm of fury. Carter attempted to impose the rule of the National Guard when Somoza could no longer be maintained. Shortly after, remnants of the Guard were reestablished in Honduras and Costa Rica with the aid of U.S. proxies such as Argentina (then under the neo-Nazi generals, and thus a useful "moderate" client-state), and were then taken over directly by the U.S. and organized as a terrorist proxy army dedicated to preventing the threat of social reform in Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, U.S. elites underwent a magical conversion; they became profoundly concerned, for the first time, with human rights and "democracy" in Nicaragua and Iran, a sudden moral awakening that failed to elicit the contempt it richly merits.[15]

Returning to Iran, according to Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Moshe Arens, in October 1982, Israel's supply of arms to Iran after the fall of the Shah was carried out "in coordination with the U.S. government... at almost the highest of levels." The objective "was to see if we could not find some areas of contact with the Iranian military, to bring down the Khomeini regime," or at least "to make contact with some military officers who some day might be in a position of power in Iran." Yaakov Nimrodi, the Israeli arms salesman and intelligence official who was under cover as military attache in Iran during the Shah's reign, described this plan in a BBC broadcast in 1982. Former Israeli de facto Ambassador to Iran Uri Lubrani of the Labor Party added further details, in the same program:

I very strongly believe that Tehran can be taken over by a very relatively small force, determined, ruthless, cruel. I mean the men who would lead that force will have to be emotionally geared to the possibility that they'd have to kill ten thousand people.

-- demonstrating that they are "moderates," in the technical sense. Similar ideas were expressed by David Kimche, head of Israel's Foreign Office and former deputy director of the Mossad. Kimche and Nimrodi are now identified in the media as among those who initiated the mid-1980s program of U.S. military aid to Iran via Israel in connection with U.S. hostages and the "search for moderates."

The publicized views of the Israelis concerned with these programs -- long before there were any hostages -- are suppressed, however. At the same time -- early 1982 -- these plans
were generally endorsed, with varying degrees of skepticism as to their feasibility, by Richard Helms (ex-director of the CIA and former Ambassador to Iran), Robert Komer (a leading candidate for war crimes trials in the late 1960s and a high Pentagon official under Carter, one of the architects of the Rapid Deployment Force which, he suggested, could be used to support "moderates" after a military coup), and others.[16] All this too is now suppressed.

Essentially the same facts were also reported more recently, though ignored, well before the scandals erupted, for example, by Israeli senior Foreign Ministry spokesman Avi Pazner, who confirmed in an interview that in 1982 Israel had sent Iran military supplies with the approval of the U.S., including spare parts for U.S.-made jet fighters.[17]

The arms flow to Iran through Israel (and probably other avenues) has very likely continued at a level sufficient to keep contacts with the proper elements of the Iranian military, though the U.S. is opposed to sending sufficient arms to enable Iran to win the Iran-Iraq war, which would be a disaster for the U.S. policy of support for Saddam Hussein. Thus the U.S. blocked a major Iranian arms deal with Israel last April, arresting an Israeli ex-general, among others.[18]

None of this is a discovery of late 1986, as these earlier references indicate. In 1982, a front-page story by current New York Times editor Leslie Gelb reported that half of the arms to Iran were "being supplied or arranged by Israel" -- surely with U.S. knowledge and at least tacit authorization -- "and the rest by free-lance arms merchants, some of whom may also have connections with Israeli intelligence," while the CIA was carrying out covert actions against the Khomeini regime from its bases in eastern Turkey.[19] And Arens's disclosures were prominently reported in the Boston Globe on successive days, among other cases. In more recent months, well before the "scandals," additional information surfaced. Thus in May, Patrick Seale reported that "Israeli and European arms dealers are rushing war supplies to Iran" as Israel now dispenses with "the usual roundabout arms routes"; "for example, a ship now at sea, carrying more than 25,000 tonnes of Israeli artillery, ammunition, gun barrels, aircraft parts and other war supplies" was ordered to proceed directly to Iran instead of transshipping through Zaire.[20] It is hard to take very seriously the current show of surprise on these matters.

Note again the continuing similarity between U.S. policy towards Iran and towards Nicaragua. There too, it is difficult to take seriously the current show of surprise over the fact that the Reagan Administration has been actively engaged in arranging military support for its proxy army, circumventing Congressional legislation, not to speak of the World Court ruling, irrelevant to a terrorist state, and laws going back to the eighteenth-century Neutrality Act. We can learn more about these matters by attending to recent history. Notice first that the pattern of arms sales to Iran is a classic one, another crucial fact evaded in current commentary. For example, relations between the U.S. and Indonesia became bitterly hostile 30 years ago, so much so that the CIA sponsored a failed military rebellion in Indonesia in 1958. During the period of hostility, the U.S. continued to provide arms to the Sukarno regime. In late 1965, the pro- American General Suharto carried out a military coup, leading to the slaughter of several hundred thousand people, mostly landless peasants, and the destruction of the only mass-based political
organization in Indonesia, the Indonesian Communist Party. Indonesia was thus restored to the Free World, opened to robbery and exploitation by U.S., Canadian, European and Japanese corporations, impeded only by the rapacity of the ruling generals, who imposed a corrupt and brutal dictatorship.

These developments were warmly welcomed by enlightened opinion in the West, and regarded as a vindication of U.S. aggression against South Vietnam (called "defense of South Vietnam" within the propaganda system), which provided a "shield" that encouraged the generals to carry out the necessary purge of their society. In Senate testimony after the slaughter, Defense Secretary McNamara was asked to explain the supply of arms to Indonesia during the period of intense hostility between the two countries. He was asked whether this arms supply had "paid dividends" and agreed that it had -- including some 700,000 corpses at that point according to his Indonesian friends. A Congressional report held that training and maintaining communication with military officers paid "enormous dividends" in overthrowing Sukarno.

Similarly, according to Pentagon sources, "United States military influence on local commanders was widely considered as an element in the coup d'etat that deposed Brazil's leftist President Joao Goulart in 1964,"21 installing a National Security State complete with torture, repression, and profits for the foreign investor, also greeted with acclaim by Kennedy liberals. The story was reenacted in Chile a few years later. During the Allende regime, the U.S. continued to supply arms while doing its best to bring down the regime, and was rewarded with the Pinochet coup, which again it welcomed.

The Iranian operations conform to a familiar pattern of policy planning, which is understandable and sometimes realistic. One can understand easily why it was publicly endorsed by Richard Helms and others in 1982. The nature of U.S.-Iran relations under the Shah must also be recalled, in this connection. Iran was assigned a central role in controlling the Middle East under the Nixon doctrine, which was based upon the recognition that the U.S. did not have the capacity to enforce its will everywhere and must therefore rely on local "cops on the beat" (as Defense Secretary Melvin Laird put it), local proxies that would carry out their "regional responsibilities" within the "overall framework of order" maintained by the United States, in Henry Kissinger's
phrase at the time. A (partially tacit) tripartite alliance was constructed linking Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel under the U.S. aegis, committed to "defending" U.S. domination of the world's major energy reserves and protecting them from the primary enemy, the indigenous population, which might be infected with the "radical" idea that they should have a share in controlling our resources which happen to be in their lands. This is, incidentally, only one example of a worldwide pattern.[22]

It is in this context that the "special relationship" with Israel developed as well. In 1958, the National Security Council noted that a "logical corollary" of opposition to radical Arab nationalism (in the technical sense of the term) "would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-West power left in the Near East." According to David Ben-Gurion's biographer, Michael Bar-Zohar, at that time Israel concluded a "periphery pact," which was "long-lasting," with Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia, encouraged by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

Through the 1960s, U.S. intelligence regarded Israel as a barrier to "radical nationalist" pressures against Saudi Arabia, and the conception of Israel as a "strategic asset" became institutionalized in U.S. policy after the U.S.-backed Israeli victory in 1967, and particularly after Israel's moves to block Syrian support for Palestinians being massacred in Jordan in 1970 at a time when the U.S. was unable to intervene directly for domestic reasons. The fall of the Shah enhanced Israel's role as a "strategic asset" serving as a base for enforcing U.S. interests in the region. Meanwhile, Israel increasingly provided subsidiary services to the U.S. in southern Africa, Asia and Latin America. [23]

About 1970, a split developed among U.S. elites over U.S. policy in the region. This was symbolized by the controversy between Secretary of State William Rogers, who advanced a plan for a political settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict along the lines of the international consensus of the time, and Henry Kissinger, who argued that we must maintain a "stalemate," his reason for backing Israel's rejection of Sadat's February 1971 offer of a full peace settlement along the general lines of official U.S. policy. Kissinger's views prevailed. Since that time his confrontationist, hard- line opposition to a genuine political settlement has dominated U.S. policy, which has preferred to see an Israeli "strategic asset" playing its role in U.S. control of the region by the threat or use of force. This explains the continued U.S. commitment to block a political settlement, that would probably lead to Israel's integration into the region.[24]

The U.S. has consistently sought to maintain the military confrontation and to ensure that Israel remains a "strategic asset." In this conception, Israel is to be highly militarized, technologically advanced, a pariah state with little in the way of an independent economy apart from high tech production (often in coordination with the U.S.), utterly dependent on the United States and hence dependable, serving U.S. needs as a local "cop on the beat" and as a mercenary state employed for U.S. purposes elsewhere, for example, in support of near genocide in Guatemala when domestic factors prevented Washington from participating as fully as it would have liked in this enterprise.[25]

What about U.S. relations with the Arab world? First, the U.S. will act to ensure that it controls the major energy resources of the Arabian peninsula: this is a central principle of U.S. foreign policy, as it has been throughout the post-World War II period. The U.S. will therefore support "moderate nationalists," such as the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia, well known for their "moderation." Saudi Arabia too is called upon to enlist in support of U.S. international terrorism, as already noted, and there should be little surprise at the revelation that it is deeply involved in the supply of arms to Iran along with its tacit Israeli ally and in U.S. terrorist activities in Central America, and probably elsewhere as well: southern Africa, for example. At the same time, the U.S. will consistently oppose "radical nationalists" who stand in the way of U.S. objectives. Libya is a case in point.

While the U.S. appears to have supported Qaddafi's effort to raise oil prices in the early 1970s "in order to strengthen the position of the 'moderates/ such as Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia,"[26] Libya has increasingly been an obstacle to U.S. objectives, and was designated as a prime target from the earliest days of the Reagan Administration under the pretext of a "war against international terrorism." [27]

In this connection, we should bear in mind that the Reagan Administration faced a rather serious problem, from the outset. Contrary to many illusions, its major policies have quite generally been unpopular. The population continues, as before, to support social rather than military spending and to oppose the program of enhancing state power and converting the state, even more than before, into a welfare state for the rich -- one major function of the Pentagon system, which provides a forced public subsidy to high technology industry in the system of public subsidy and private profit called "free enterprise." The public has also generally opposed the "activist" foreign policy of subversion, intervention, international terrorism and aggression hailed as "the
Reagan doctrine." There is a classic means to deal with the problem of bringing a reluctant population to accept policies to which it is opposed: induce fear, in accord with Mencken's dictum, quoted earlier.

Therefore, we must have confrontations with the Evil Empire bent on our destruction, "the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy" committed to thwart our global benevolence and to destroy us, in John F. Kennedy's phrase during a rather similar period of U.S. history. But a problem arises: confrontations with the Evil Empire are too dangerous. They might be costly to us, and therefore cannot be undertaken. The solution to the dilemma is to create "proxies" of the Evil Empire, which can be attacked with impunity, since they are weak and defenseless.

Libya is perfect for the role, particularly against the background of rampant anti-Arab racism in the United States, and within the general context of the "campaign against international terrorism" -- that plague of the modern age from which the terrorist commanders in Washington must defend us, according to various "Operation Truths" conducted by the ideological institutions. It is quite easy to kill many Libyans without cost to ourselves -- indeed with many cheers at home, including enlightened liberal opinion -- as we defend ourselves against the "evil scourge of terrorism."

The next two years could be dangerous. The Reaganites want to leave a permanent stamp on American politics, whatever the outcome of the next elections. They want to prove that violence pays. They want to overcome "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force" (Norman Podhoretz). The propaganda system has constructed a series of demons: the Sandinistas, who are a "cancer" that must be destroyed (George Shultz); Qaddafi, the "mad dog of the Middle East"; Arafat, "the father of modern terrorism"; Castro, who threatens to take over the Western Hemisphere in the service of the USSR; etc. If they can be destroyed by violence, the long-term effects on American culture will be profound. There will be no more "wimps" making treaties and entering into negotiations, no concern for political settlement, international law and similar tommy rot. Rather, the political system will be dominated by men lacking "sickly inhibitions" who get their kicks out of sending their client military forces and goon squads to torture people who cannot fight back -- what is called "conservatism" in contemporary Newspeak.

Notes:
1. See introductory notes.

2. That includes even books and technical papers on linguistics, because of sins of the kind that so offend Abrams, though with different targets.

3. On the facts as leaked in England, see Alexander Cockburn, Nation, November 22, 1986. Some of those involved claim that they were not objecting to the contents of the article but only to the inappropriateness of allowing a discussion of "thought control" in a society that "is unusual if not unique in the lack of restraints on freedom of expression" (my opening words). That claim is
transparently untenable, even if one accepts the remarkable principle that lies behind it. The journal has published articles of this nature without evoking a hysterical response, threats to cancel subscriptions, letters from the State Department, etc.; see, e.g., Carole and Paul Bass, "Censorship American-style," dealing with how controversial stories are killed by
"market forces and weak-kneed publishers" (Index on Censorship, 3/85). The difference is that in the present case, the article dealt with media treatment of states that are to be worshipped, not critically discussed by standards applicable to others.

4. America and the World 1983, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1983. In later years, the tendencies Watts described became a matter of elite concern in the U.S. as well. The prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington warned that for much of the world -- most, he suggests -- the U.S. is "becoming the rogue superpower," considered "the single greatest external threat to their societies." The dominant "realist" version of international relations theory predicts that coalitions may arise to counterbalance the rogue superpower, so the stance should be reconsidered, he argues, on pragmatic grounds. He was writing before the U.S.-UK bombing of Serbia, which aroused great fear and concern in much of the world. Commenting later on the unilateralism of the Clinton and (George W.) Bush Administrations, another distinguished political scientist, Robert Jervis (President of the American Political Science Association), reiterated
Huntington's conclusion, writing that "In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States." Foreign Affairs, March/April 1999; July/August 2001.

5. Boston Globe, October 28, 1986; November 4, 1986. Robert C. Johansen, "The Reagan Administration and the U.N.: The Costs of Unilateralism," World Policy Journal, Fall 1986.

6. Richard Bernstein, "The UN versus the United States," New York Times Magazine, January 22, 1984. Not "the U.S. versus the UN," on the assumptions he takes for granted.

7. Michael White, Guardian Weekly, November 9, 1986. This is not evidence that the world is being "Finlandized" or "taken over by Communists," as the U.S right-wing fantasizes; the same poll shows that the European population is very critical of the USSR, of course.

8. See chapter 3, note 45.

9. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, November 9, 1986.

10. The plan was apparently activated in a secret National Security directive of January 14,1983 (No. 77, Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security). Alfonso Chardy, "Secrets Leaked to Harm Nicaragua, Sources Say," Miami Herald, October 13, 1986.

11. Newsweek, August 3, 1981. On the disinformation program concerning Libya, see chapter 3. On other disinformation programs and media cooperation, see my Turning the Tide; Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead, The Bulgarian Connection (Sheridan Square, 1986).

12. Alfonso Chardy, Knight-Ridder Service, Boston Globe, October 28, 1986.

13. Robert Reinhold, "Ex-General Hints at Big Role as U.S. Champion of Contras," New York Times, October 14, 1986. Chris Horrie, New Statesman, October 31, 1986, reporting on the Annual Conference of the WACL, noting in particular the prominence of RENAMO (the South African-backed guerrillas terrorizing Mozambique) and their cozy relations with Singlaub, and probably the U.S. administration. Scott Anderson and John Lee Anderson, Inside the League (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986); only the ADL and the U.S. government concealed documentation and refused to cooperate with their research, they report. See Necessary Illusions, App. V.4, for more on connections between Reagan-Bush (No. 1) and neo-Nazis and related elements, who are guilty of only "antique and anemic" anti-Semitism as compared with the real anti-Semitism of those who support the international consensus on a two-state settlement (New Republic).

14. On these matters, see [unintelligible; coding error] and sources cited. See Michael McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft (Pantheon, 1992), on the reliance on Nazi manuals in developing postwar U.S. counterinsurgency documents, with the assistance of Wehrmacht generals. Also Jeffrey Burds, "The Early Cold War in Soviet West Ukraine, 1944-1948," The Carl Beck Papers No. 1505, January 2001, Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh, on Western support for Hitler's partisan armies during the war, in an effort to delay Russia's defeat of the Nazis.

15. On the ebb and flow of human rights concerns regarding Iran, closely tracking Iran's service to U.S. interests or defiance of them, see Mansour Farhang and William Dorman, The U.S. Press and Iran (University of California, 1987); and for further discussion, Necessary Illusions, chapter 5 and app. 5.2-3.

16. On these matters, see my FT, 457f.

17. Michael Widlanski, "The Israel/U.S.-Iran Connection," Tel Aviv, Austin American Statesman, May 2, 1986.

18. See William C. Rempel and Dan Fisher, "Arms Sales Case Putting Focus on Israel's Policies," Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1986, noting that "veteran American investigators" say that "Israel has long been regarded as a conduit for secret arms sales," and that "there is little question that the flow to Iran of Israeli arms, at least, has continued" during the past five years, citing a West German estimate of half a billion dollars of military equipment. Douglas Frantz, "Israel Tied to Iranian Arms Plot," Chicago Tribune, April 24, 1986; Reuven Padhatzur, Ha'aretz, April 28, 1986. Much material of this nature has been circulated by Jane Hunter, editor of the excellent journal Israeli Foreign Affairs.

19. Leslie H. Gelb, "Iran Said to Get Large-Scale Arms from Israel, Soviet and Europeans," New York Times, March 8, 1982.

20. Patrick Seale, "Arms Dealers Cash in on Iran's Despair," Observer (London), May 4, 1986.

21. Miles Wolpin, Military Aid and Counterrevolution in the Third World (Lexington Books, 1972), 8, 128, citing Congressional Hearings; on Brazil, New York Times, November 1, 1970. For more on the euphoric public response to the Indonesian massacre, and the background, see
my Year 501 (South End Press, 1993); and on 1958, Audrey and George Kahin, Subversion as Foreign Policy (New Press, 1995).

22. For further discussion, see Towards a New Cold War, Laird cited by Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Right Turn (Hill & Wang, 1986), 97, an important discussion of factors in domestic affairs.

23. For more on these matters, see Towards a New Cold War, Fateful Triangle, and references of chapter 3, note 6.

24. See chapter 1.

25. See my books cited earlier; also Allan Nairn, Progressive, May, September 1986.

26. Haley, Qaddafi and the U.S., 31.

27. See chapter 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment