The Current Crisis in the Middle East

author: Noam Chomsky, Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: Aug. 7, 2012,   recorded: September 2006,   views: 159
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True to form, Noam Chomsky makes a sweeping and copiously detailed indictment of U.S. Middle East policy, brooking no contrary or alternate views. His history-filled lecture (interrupted by occasional applause) focuses on four crises, involving the Palestinians, the Lebanon invasion, the Iraq war and the “impending catastrophe in Iran.”

While to many the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel seems hopeless, “degenerating to tribal warfare, an endless cycle of revenge and fanaticism,” says Chomsky, a “very clear solution” has long existed: For years, UN resolutions have proposed recognizing the rights of all states in the region to live in peace and security, and called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Chomsky says that while Arab states have supported these ideas, the U.S. and Israel have deliberately undermined and opposed them. The “threat of peace has arisen constantly,” says Chomsky, but U.S.-Israeli “rejectionism” has blocked all efforts and led to “continued theft of lands” and a “weakening of the Palestinian collective.”

Chomsky calls the Israeli rationale for attacking Lebanon “pure cynical farce.” The claim that Hizbollah’s capture of an Israeli soldier necessitated a savage assault flies in the face of Israel’s decades-long practice of kidnapping Lebanese civilians, says Chomsky. Israel, with U.S. collusion, he continues, did as much damage against the Lebanese infrastructure as possible before a ceasefire was accepted. Israeli rockets destroyed a fuel storage tank, creating a giant oil spill that has poisoned the coast line up to Syria.

With respect to Iraq, Chomsky believes the invading armies are obligated “to pay massive reparations for crimes of aggression,” and that the people responsible for the extreme crimes” should be put on trial. The prospect of “a sovereign Iraq would be a complete nightmare,” given the nation’s increasing solidarity with Shiite allies in oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since “controlling the world’s energy resources has been a prime objective” of U.S. foreign policy for much of the last century, serious withdrawal plans seem pretty remote to Chomsky.

Finally, Chomsky scoffs at the Bush Administration’s “willingness” to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear ambitions, since a U.S. precondition for talks requires no uranium enrichment, and the U.S. “refuses to withdraw threats of attack.” Chomsky claims that U.S. threats are real, with recent deployment of U.S. air power in the area. The impact of such threats harms Iranian democracy reformers, “who are complaining bitterly,” and further blackens the U.S. reputation in the world, where we are perceived as a peace-threatening “lawless and dangerous rogue state.”

Chomsky concludes by reminding everyone that this “awful news is actually good news,” since the “means and power to end these crimes and further ones lies in our hands.”

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