[forward from CHOMSKY: POR QUÉ BUSH PRACTICA UNA DIPLOMACIA MAFIOSA [I]. Entrevista de Michael Shank*
It's very hard to predict the Bush administration today because they're deeply irrational. They were irrational to start with but now they're desperate. They have created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. This should've been one of the easiest military occupations in history and they succeeded in turning it into one of the worst military disasters in history. They can't control it and it's almost impossible for them to get out for reasons you can't discuss in the United States because to discuss the reasons why they can't get out would be to concede the reasons why they invaded.
We're supposed to believe that oil had nothing to do with it, that if Iraq were exporting pickles or jelly and the center of world oil production were in the South Pacific that the United States would've liberated them anyway. It has nothing to do with the oil, what a crass idea. Anyone with their head screwed on knows that that can't be true. Allowing an independent and sovereign Iraq could be a nightmare for the United States. It would mean that it would be Shi'ite-dominated, at least if it's minimally democratic. It would continue to improve relations with Iran, just what the United States doesn't want to see. And beyond that, right across the border in Saudi Arabia where most of Saudi oil is, there happens to be a large Shi'ite population, probably a majority.
Moves toward sovereignty in Iraq stimulate pressures first for human rights among the bitterly repressed Shi'ite population but also toward some degree of autonomy. You can imagine a kind of a loose Shi'ite alliance in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, controlling most of the world's oil and independent of the United States. And much worse, although Europe can be intimidated by the United States, China can't. It's one of the reasons, the main reasons, why China is considered a threat. We're back to the Mafia principle.
China has been there for 3,000 years, has contempt for the barbarians, is overcoming a century of domination, and simply moves on its own. It does not get intimidated when Uncle Sam shakes his fist. That's scary. In particular, it's dangerous in the case of the Middle East. China is the center of the Asian energy security grid, which includes the Central Asian states and Russia. India is also hovering around the edge, South Korea is involved, and Iran is an associate member of some kind. If the Middle East oil resources around the Gulf, which are the main ones in the world, if they link up to the Asian grid, the United States is really a second-rate power. A lot is at stake in not withdrawing from Iraq.
I'm sure that these issues are discussed in internal planning. It's inconceivable that they can't think of this. But it's out of public discussion, it's not in the media, it's not in the journals, it's not in the Baker-Hamilton report. And I think you can understand the reason. To bring up these issues would open the question why the United States and Britain invaded. And that question is taboo.
It's a principle that anything our leaders do is for noble reasons. It may be mistaken, it may be ugly, but basically noble. And if you bring in normal moderate, conservative, strategic, economic objectives you are threatening that principle. It's remarkable the extent to which it's held. So the original pretexts for the invasion were weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaida that nobody but maybe Wolfowitz or Cheney took seriously. The single question, as they kept reiterating in the leadership, was: will Saddam give up his programs of weapons of mass destruction? The single question was answered a couple of months later, the wrong way. And quickly the party line shifted. In November 2003, Bush announced his freedom agenda: our real goal is to bring democracy to Iraq, to transform the Middle East. That became the party line, instantly.
But it's a mistake to pick out individuals because it's close to universal, even in scholarship. In fact you can even find scholarly articles that begin by giving the evidence that it's complete farce but nevertheless accept it. There was a pretty good study of the freedom agenda in Current History by two scholars and they give the facts. They point out that the freedom agenda was announced on November 2003 after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, but the freedom agenda is real even if there's no evidence for it.
In fact, if you look at our policies they're the opposite. Take Palestine. There was a free election in Palestine, but it came out the wrong way. So instantly, the United States and Israel with Europe tagging along, moved to punish the Palestinian people, and punish them harshly, because they voted the wrong way in a free election. That's accepted here in the West as perfectly normal. That illustrates the deep hatred and contempt for democracy among western elites, so deep-seated they can't even perceive it when it's in front of their eyes. You punish people severely if they vote the wrong way in a free election. There's a pretext for that too, repeated every day: Hamas must agree to first recognize Israel, second to end all violence, third to accept past agreements. Try to find a mention of the fact that the United States and Israel reject all three of those. They obviously don't recognize Palestine, they certainly don't withdraw the use of violence or the threat of it -- in fact they insist on it -- and tey don't accept past agreements, including the road map.
I suspect one of the reasons why Jimmy Carter's book has come under such fierce attack is because it's the first time, I think, in the mainstream, that one can find the truth about the road map. I have never seen anything in the mainstream that discusses the fact that Israel instantly rejected the road map with U.S. support. They formally accepted it but added 14 reservations that totally eviscerated it. It was done instantly. It's public knowledge, I've written about it, talked about it, so have others, but I've never seen it mentioned in the mainstream before. And obviously they don't accept the Arab League proposal or any other serious proposal. In fact they've been blocking the international consensus on the two-state solution for decades. But Hamas has to accept them.
It really makes no sense. Hamas is a political party and political parties don't recognize other countries. And Hamas itself has made it very clear, they actually carried out a truce for a year and a half, didn't respond to Israeli attacks, and have called for a long-term truce, during which it'd be possible to negotiate a settlement along the lines of the international consensus and the Arab League proposal.
* Michael Shank is the policy director for the 3D Security Initiative. Foreign Policy In Focus
Photo: Noam Chomsky
Posted on February 26, 2007, Printed on March 18, 2007