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Chomsky's 'deadly connections'

Paula Rochman — April 1984

“Militarism vs. Development” was the theme of a conference held March 16-19 at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.

The keynote address was given by Professor Noam Chomsky of M.I.T. in Boston, Massachusetts. Professor Chomsky is the author of numerous works on international relations. However, to many people in the peace movement, he is most well known for showing the links – the “deadly connections,” as he calls them — between interventionist policies and the nuclear arms race.

Chomsky prefaced his talk on these “deadly connections” by noting that political groups often draw connections, both real and alleged, between events in the world. For example, Chomsky pointed out that US President Ronald Reagan sees the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union as the underlying cause of all political unrest. According to Reagan, “the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on. Without it there wouldn’t be any hot spots in the world. “

For Chomsky, however, the allegation that communist aggression is at the root of every political disturbance reflects little of the real situation. In support of this view, Chomsky referred to data compiled by arms expert Ruth Sivard which shows that since World War II, there have been 125 military interventions, of which 79% have been instigated by Western nations, particularly in the Third World. Only 6% have been instigated by Communist nations, mainly in eastern Europe.

For Chomsky, the “deadly connection” is not communism, but rather the efforts, or the threatened efforts, of less powerful governments to take responsibility for their people. Such efforts, he said, undermine the need of the US to freely exploit any country it chooses. For this reason, apparently “insignificant” nations, like East Timor and Grenada, pose a greater threat than their size would suggest, for, “if they pull themselves out of a Western system of control, so can another.”

To prevent this undermining of Western dominance, the US has continually followed a policy of backing or creating police states. For example, in 1951, the US began training Latin American officers. By 1954, the US-backed invasion of Guatemala overthrew the democratically elected government. In 1975, the US backed the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

According to Chomsky, after any armed invasion, the US usually attempts to ensure that a diplomatic solution won’t be found. For example, after the invasion of East Timor, US Democrat Daniel Moynihan said “The US wished things to turn out as did, and I helped to bring this about. The State Department desired that the UN prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook (to negotiate a settlement). This task was given to me and I carried it forward.” This task resulted in the massacre of 60,000 people.

Having presented the need of the US to exploit other countries as the real “deadly connection,” Chomsky addressed the question of why the US pursues such exploitation. In dealing with this issue, Chomsky referred to an explanation given by George Kennan in 1948.

Kennan at the time was the head of a State Department planning group which issued a report entitled “Review of Current Trends.” Chomsky referred to the following statement from that report: “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population In this situation, we cannot fail but to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity, without due detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all the sentimentality and day dreaming We should cease to talk about vague objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standard, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal with straight power concepts. “

Efforts to maintain this disparity – by whatever means possible — continue today. According to Chomsky, Canada has played along with the US in this regard, rarely questioning US intentions.

When US President Johnson informed Prime Minister Lester Pearson that he intended to extend the bombing of Vietnam, Chomsky noted that Pearson’s response was that it was an admirable idea but asked that the US not use nuclear but only conventional weapons.

Chomsky also stated that we are protected on a day-to-day basis from facing the fact. that our consumptive lifestyle is being maintained by the suffering of millions the world over. Chomsky feels that, “if we were honest and had the real moral courage, we would not let a day pass without listening to the cries of the victims.” But we ignore these cries, and thus “sink to a level of moral I depravity, that has very few counterparts in the modern world.”