Calling Out Noam Chomsky

By Guy Crittenden

Noam Chomsky.

Finally someone said it. In a new article on his blog, progressive writer Stephen Gowans — author of such books as Washington's Long War on Syria and Israel: A Beachhead in the Middle East — calls out Noam Chomsky for his drift in recent years toward support of imperial wars in the Middle East and North Africa and his routine sheep-dogging of liberals into "lesser-of-two-evils" voting strategies. Chomsky's shift to the center-right has occurred at a dangerous time in human history when reactionary and even explicitly fascist forces are ascending. With Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning languishing in prison — and the recent intimidation of independent journalist Max Blumenthal — the need for clear and unwavering progressive voices is dire.

An awkward discussion has been underway for some time among progressives about leftist intellectual Chomsky. The discussion centers on questions about what happened to the former leading voice of anti-imperialism? Something has shifted with this public intellectual who at one time could be relied upon to criticize the bombing by the United States and other NATO countries of countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. And who opposed coup d'etat in places like Chile and Argentina. In recent years Chomsky has parroted imperial narratives on several conflicts — namely Syria and Libya, and also Ukraine (where an explicitly Neo Nazi government was installed) — making comments that are very damaging at crucial junctures. 

Chomsky's promotion of centrist or reactionary ideas is especially troubling because he commands great respect among left-leaning Americans and liberals everywhere. His support of a "no fly zone" over Libya and his repeating CIA talking points about Assad and Russia committing war crimes helped deflate opposition to US-backed coups and proxy wars in those countries, at the very same time as the US government was funding, training and arming al-Qaida and ISIS affiliates (along with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and Israel). It was all part of a war that had everything to do with hegemony and competing gas pipeline projects, and nothing to do with the fig leaf of human rights.

MIT professor Noam Chomsky in the 1960s was a reliable opponent of imperial wars and defender of international law.

Chomsky's promotion of centrist or reactionary ideas is especially troubling because he commands great respect among left-leaning Americans and liberals everywhere. His support of a "no fly zone" over Libya and his repeating CIA talking points about Assad and Russia committing war crimes helped deflate opposition to US-backed coups and proxy wars in those countries, at the very same time as the US government was funding, training and arming al-Qaida and ISIS affiliates (along with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and Israel). It was all part of a war that had everything to do with hegemony and competing gas pipeline projects, and nothing to do with the fig leaf of human rights. Chomsky's position in regard to Syria — which includes calling for US troops to remain in order to protect the Kurds — is a misshapen view, requiring an almost deliberate misinterpretation of why American soldiers and special forces are in the country. Chomsky has described himself as an Anarcho-syndicalist in the past, and as such he must be very supportive of the experiment in Rojava, where a group of Kurds has implemented stateless self-government. There are things to support in Rojava, for sure, though the experiment may not be as sincerely anarchist and anti-capitalist as some believe. We can support that — and the aspirations of the Kurds for some kind of political autonomy — without making excuses for a textbook imperial war that has cost 500,000 Syrians their lives. Libya is now a failed state with open-air slave markets, nothing lasting has been accomplished in Afghanistan after an occupation of almost two decades, and the illegal siege warfare in Yemen is causing a humanitarian crisis that borders on genocide.

Stephen Gowans' book captures the truth about the proxy war on Syria that dates back decades.

Thankfully, people are rising up in countries around the world to protest four decades of failed neoconservative and neoliberal policies. Whether it's Bolivia or Chile or France or Egypt, or countries devastated by war like Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria or Libya, the citizens of these countries need the moral support of our progressive intellectuals. We need the old Noam Chomsky back. (Times one hundred.)

CONTRIBUTOR/RESEARCHER:

Guy Crittenden: 
Environment and business journalist and award-winning book author (The Year of Drinking Magic: Twelve Ceremonies with the Vine of Souls, Apocryphile Press) based in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada and Principal of Crittenden Communication. Contact Guy at guy@crittendencommunication.com

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