Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ali versus Chomsky

The debate between supporters of conflicting (either-or) perspectives on Iraq; Sunni Arab versus Shi'i sympathizers, is being increasingly brought into the open—needless to say that our protagonists cannot conceive of any consociational-patriotic alternative. For example, in a Stockholm conference yesterday evening (April 4, 2005), New Left Review’s Tariq Ali expressed views about the Iraqi Shi’a and the Iranians as "US collaborators;" in particular, he didn’t enjoy the idea of al-Sistani being a Nobel Prize nominee. Tariq Ali didn’t exactly name Chomsky, whose posture is the opposite in those matters, but the latter’s idea of betting on a Shi’a Crescent-like geopolitical alternative to US domination in the region has been questioned, if only indirectly.

On Globalization, Iraq, and Middle East Studies
Noam Chomsky
interviewed by Danilo Mandic
March 29, 2005

NC: Actually I agree that the elections were a success … of opposition to the United States. What is being suppressed - except for Middle East specialists, who know about it perfectly well and are writing about it, or people who in fact have read the newspapers in the last couple of years - what's being suppressed is the fact that the United States had to be brought kicking and screaming into accepting elections. The U.S. was strongly opposed to them. I wrote about the early stages of this in a book that came out a year ago, which only discussed the early stages of U.S. opposition. But it increased. The U.S. wanted to write a constitution, it wanted to impose some kind of caucus system that the U.S. could control, and it tried to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal rules, like you mentioned, which even Iraqi businessmen were strongly opposed to. But there has been a very powerful nonviolent resistance in Iraq - far more significant than suicide bombers and so on. And it simply compelled the United States step by step to back down. That's the popular movement of nonviolent resistance that was symbolized by Ayatollah Sistani, but it's far broader than that. The population simply would not accept the rules that the occupation authorities were imposing, and finally Washington was compelled, very reluctantly, to accept elections. It tried in every way to undermine them. […] Then right now there's a struggle going on, as to whether the United States will be able to subvert the elections that it reluctantly accepted. I think you'll have a hard time finding a serious Middle Eastern scholar or anyone who pays attention who won't agree with this. In fact it's quite obvious just from reading the serious press reports on this. Of course once the United States was forced into accepting elections, the government and the media immediately pronounced that it was a great achievement of the United States. But it was quite the opposite. But it's a good thing that it happened, in opposition to the U.S. In fact it's a major triumph of nonviolent resistance, and it should be understood as such. And maybe it's a basis - now comes the question of whether Iraqis can succeed, in reaching, moving towards a stage where they will actually be able to run their own country, which the U.S. is certainly going to oppose. There is no doubt of this. The last thing the United States wants is a democratic, sovereign Iraq. To see why, it's enough to think for five minutes about what its policies are likely to be. Let's suppose there were a democratic Iraq with some degree of sovereignty. The first thing it'll do is try to improve relations with Iran. It's not that they love Iran particularly, but they'd rather have friendly relations with the neighboring Shiite state than hostile relations. So, they'll move towards improving relations with Iran, especially because it has a Shiite majority. If they're democratic enough, so the Shiite majority has a significant part. The next thing that will happen - and it's already beginning to happen - is that the victory of the Iraqis against the United States has begun to stir up similar sentiments in the Shiite areas (mostly Shiite areas) of Saudi Arabia, which is a neighbor.

DM: …and a US ally.

NC: Yeah, but that's inside Saudi Arabia, and that happens to be where most of the oil is. They have been excluded by the US and Saudi leadership, but they're not going to be likely to accept that if there is a sovereign, democratic Iraq next door. It's really a Shiite-dominated Iraq. And it's already beginning to happen. Well, you know, that'll lead towards a situation in which most of the world's oil would be under the control of a relatively autonomous Shiite alliance. The US won't tolerate that for a moment. The next thing that would happen in a sovereign Iraq is that they would try to resume their very natural position as a leading state in the Arab world. They're the most educated country, the most advanced and so on. In many ways, it should be the leader in the Arab world. Actually, those are factors that go back to Biblical times. And they'll try to resume that position, which means they'll try to rearm. They will confront the regional enemy, namely Israel, which has virtually turned into a US military outpost. They may even develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against Israel's overwhelming advantage, both militarily and in weapons of mass destruction. Those are very natural developments to be expected. Can you see the US accepting any of this? I mean, those are the likely consequences - not certain, but likely consequences - of a relatively sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq. It's a nightmare for the United States. It's no wonder it tried to prevent elections in any possible way, and is now trying to undermine the results. […]

Related readings:

Iraq Elections And The Liberal Elites
A Response To Noam Chomsky

By Ghali Hassan
10 March, 2005

In a recent opinion piece, Naom Chomsky writes, "In Iraq, the January elections were successful and praiseworthy. However, the main success is being reported only marginally: The United States was compelled to allow them to take place. That is a real triumph, not of the bomb-throwers, but of non-violent resistance by the people, secular as well as Islamist, for whom Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani is a symbol" (Khaleej Times Online, 4 March 2005). Mr. Chomsky is either completely out of touch with reality in Iraq, or simply ignorant of the legitimate rights of the Iraqi people to self-determination.
Secondly, to describe the Iraqi people resisting this violent and illegal Occupation of their nation as simply "bomb-throwers" is to ignore the gross atrocities committed against the Iraqi people by US forces. This is like saying that, the Iraqi Resistance is responsible for all the violence and destruction in Iraq, and ignoring the violence of the Occupation and the many criminal elements working with the Occupation against the principle aim of the Iraqi people. The violence is brought by the Occupation, not by the people fighting to end it. Everywhere, violent resistance arises from a violent foreign military occupation. No word about the trigger-happy US soldiers and mercenaries, who not only enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for their crimes against the Iraqi people, but also the support of the mainstream media, and the protection of the "new Iraqi army". Those who obliged to kill to defend their country and people are called "terrorists"; those who kill en masss, using napalm, chemical and nuclear weapons, to enforce their tyranny of domination are the noble(wo)men of Western "civilisation".
Chomsky is the darling of the left and right. He is an icon for many people, and sometime provides useful information on US foreign policy. Mr. Chomsky has every right to his views, but he does not have the right to distort what the Iraqi people struggling for. The Iraqi people have legitimate right to resist the Occupation. The US and its allies will not leave Iraq; they have to be forced to leave. Armed resistance to the occupation of Iraq will continue until the foreign occupiers withdraw their armies.

The Myth of the Clash of Fundamentalisms
Takis Fotopoulos
16 October, 2004

A myth that has been heavily promoted recently is that of the clash of fundamentalisms which supposedly shakes the present world. Schematically, it is argued that what we face today is a conflict between the "extremists" of the West and those of the East, namely, of the political fundamentalism of the Washington neoconservatives versus the religious fundamentalism of extreme Islamists. However, as I will attempt to show briefly, such views are not only completely false and misleading, constituting part of the "progressive" liberal ideology supported by both the centre-left (in the framework of today’s social-liberal consensus), and the reformist Left (see, e.g. Tariq Ali’s The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Verso 2003), but also bear no relation to an antisystemic problematic on this crucial issue. The common denominator of such views is that today’s social resistance movements should turn against these two fundamentalisms rather than against the system of the capitalist market economy itself and its political complement, representative "democracy". It is not, therefore, surprising that analysts of the reformist Left like Tariq Ali and Chomsky end up with the baseless conclusion that the Left must support the Democratic candidate in the elections, "forgetting" that when the "progressive" Clinton succeeded Bush senior he went on, as representative of the transnational elite, to bombard Yugoslavia, while preparing the ground for the present invasion and occupation of Iraq through a crushing embargo and remorseless bombardments! [...]


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