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[Chomsky] Drain the swamp and there will be no more mosquitoes
by Saima Alvi
12 September 2002 05:47 UTC
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Drain the swamp and there will be no more mosquitoes 
By attacking Iraq, the US will invite a new wave of terrorist

Noam Chomsky
Monday September 9, 2002
The Guardian 

September 11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they
had better pay much closer attention to what the US government
does in the world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been
opened for discussion that were not on the agenda before. That's
all to the good. 
It is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the
likelihood of future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend
that our enemies "hate our freedoms," as President Bush stated,
but it is hardly wise to ignore the real world, which conveys
different lessons. 

The president is not the first to ask: "Why do they hate us?" In
a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described
"the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by
the governments but by the people". His National Security
Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and
oppressive governments and is "opposing political or economic
progress" because of its interest in controlling the oil
resources of the region. 

Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same
reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific
policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged,
western-oriented sectors in the region. 

To cite just one recent example: in the August 1 issue of Far
Eastern Economic Review, the internationally recognised regional
specialist Ahmed Rashid writes that in Pakistan "there is
growing anger that US support is allowing [Musharraf's] military
regime to delay the promise of democracy". 

Today we do ourselves few favours by choosing to believe that
"they hate us" and "hate our freedoms". On the contrary, these
are attitudes of people who like Americans and admire much about
the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official
policies that deny them the freedoms to which they too aspire. 

For such reasons, the post-September 11 rantings of Osama bin
Laden - for example, about US support for corrupt and brutal
regimes, or about the US "invasion" of Saudi Arabia - have a
certain resonance, even among those who despise and fear him.
From resentment, anger and frustration, terrorist bands hope to
draw support and recruits. 

We should also be aware that much of the world regards
Washington as a terrorist regime. In recent years, the US has
taken or backed actions in Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Sudan
and Turkey, to name a few, that meet official US definitions of
"terrorism" - that is, when Americans apply the term to enemies.

In the most sober establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel
Huntington wrote in 1999: "While the US regularly denounces
various countries as 'rogue states,' in the eyes of many
countries it is becoming the rogue superpower ... the single
greatest external threat to their societies." 

Such perceptions are not changed by the fact that, on September
11, for the first time, a western country was subjected on home
soil to a horrendous terrorist attack of a kind all too familiar
to victims of western power. The attack goes far beyond what's
sometimes called the "retail terror" of the IRA, FLN or Red

The September 11 terrorism elicited harsh condemnation
throughout the world and an outpouring of sympathy for the
innocent victims. But with qualifications. 

An international Gallup poll in late September found little
support for "a military attack" by the US in Afghanistan. In
Latin America, the region with the most experience of US
intervention, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama.

The current "campaign of hatred" in the Arab world is, of
course, also fuelled by US policies toward Israel-Palestine and
Iraq. The US has provided the crucial support for Israel's harsh
military occupation, now in its 35th year. 

One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would
be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international
consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states
in the region to live in peace and security, including a
Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps
with minor and mutual border adjustments). 

In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has
strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of
hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - perhaps more people "than have
been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction
throughout history", military analysts John and Karl Mueller
wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999. 

Washington's present justifications to attack Iraq have far less
credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as
an ally and a trading partner after he had committed his worst
brutalities - as in Halabja, where Iraq attacked Kurds with
poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer Saddam was more
dangerous than he is today. 

As for a US attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald
Rumsfeld, can realistically guess the possible costs and
consequences. Radical Islamist extremists surely hope that an
attack on Iraq will kill many people and destroy much of the
country, providing recruits for terrorist actions. 

They presumably also welcome the "Bush doctrine" that proclaims
the right of attack against potential threats, which are
virtually limitless. The president has announced: "There's no
telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the
homeland." That's true. 

Threats are everywhere, even at home. The prescription for
endless war poses a far greater danger to Americans than
perceived enemies do, for reasons the terrorist organisations
understand very well. 

Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military
intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made
a point that still holds true. "To offer an honourable solution
to the Palestinians respecting their right to
self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of
terrorism," he said. "When the swamp disappears, there will be
no more mosquitoes." 

At the time, Israel enjoyed the virtual immunity from
retaliation within the occupied territories that lasted until
very recently. But Harkabi's warning was apt, and the lesson
applies more generally. 

Well before September 11 it was understood that with modern
technology, the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly
of the means of violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on
home soil. 

If we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more
mosquitoes, with awesome capacity for destruction. 

If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing
the roots of the "campaigns of hatred", we can not only reduce
the threats we face but also live up to ideals that we profess
and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them

 Noam Chomsky 

New York Times Syndicate 

Noam Chomsky is professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and author of the US bestseller 9-11 


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