7 brilliant insights from Noam Chomsky on American empire


Reposted from AlterNet.  Note: I rearranged the entries in the article from shorter to longer.

by Laura Gottesdiener, AlterNet

Noam Chomsky is an expert on many matters — linguistics, how our economy functions and propaganda, among others. One area where his wisdom especially shines through is in articulating the structure and functioning of the American empire. Chomsky has been speaking and publishing on the topic since the ’60s. Below are seven powerful quotes on the evils, atrocities and ironies of the American empire taken from his personal site and from a fan-curated Web site dedicated to collecting Chomsky‘s observations.

1. “[The U.S. still names] military helicopter gunships after victims of genocide. Nobody bats an eyelash about that: Blackhawk. Apache. And Comanche. If the Luftwaffe named its military helicopters Jew and Gypsy, I suppose people would notice.” — Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

2. “Suppose that, say, China established military bases in Colombia to carry out chemical warfare in Kentucky and North Carolina to destroy this lethal crop [tobacco] that is killing huge numbers of Chinese.” — Noam Chomsky on the irony of the drug war waged by the United States in Central and South America

3. “If something is right (or wrong) for us, it’s right (or wrong) for others. It follows that if it’s wrong for Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and a long list of others to bomb Washington and New York, then it’s wrong for Rumsfeld to bomb Afghanistan (on much flimsier pretexts), and he should be brought before war crimes trials.” — “On Terrorism,”Noam Chomsky interviewed by John Bolender, Jump Arts Journal, January 2004

4. “Globalization is the result of powerful governments, especially that of the United States, pushing trade deals and other accords down the throats of the world’s people to make it easier for corporations and the wealthy to dominate the economies of nations around the world without having obligations to the peoples of those nations.” — Profit over People: Neoliberalism and the Global Order

5. “Could we stop the militarization of space? It certainly looks like we could. The reason is that the U.S. is alone, literally alone, in pressing for it. The entire world is opposed, because they’re scared, mainly. The U.S. is way ahead. If other countries are not willing to even dream of full-spectrum dominance and world control, they’re way too far behind; they will react, undoubtedly. But they’d like to cut it off. And there are several treaties, which are in fact already in place, that are supported literally by the entire world and that the U.S. is trying to overturn. One is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which bans placing weapons in outer space. Everyone signed it, including the United States. Nobody has tried to put weapons in outer space. It has been observed and would be easily detected if anyone broke it. In 1999, the treaty came up at the UN General Assembly, and the vote was around 163 to 0 with 2 abstentions, the U.S. and Israel, which votes automatically with the U.S.” — “Militarizing Space ‘to protect U.S. interests and investment,” International Socialist Review Issue 19, July-August 2001

6. [In early 2007] there was a new rash of articles and headlines on the front page about the “Chinese military build-up.” The Pentagon claimed that China had increased its offensive military capacity — with 400 missiles, which could be nuclear armed. Then we had a debate about whether that proves China is trying to conquer the world or the numbers are wrong, or something. Just a little footnote. How many offensive nuclear armed missiles does the United States have? Well, it turns out to be 10,000. China may now have maybe 400, if you believe the hawks. That proves that they are trying to conquer the world.

It turns out, if you read the international press closely, that the reason China is building up its military capacity is not only because of U.S. aggressiveness all over the place, but the fact that the United States has improved its targeting capacities so it can now destroy missile sites in a much more sophisticated fashion wherever they are, even if they are mobile. So who is trying to conquer the world? Well, obviously the Chinese because since we own it, they are trying to conquer it. It’s all too easy to continue with this indefinitely. Just pick your topic. It’s a good exercise to try. This simple principle, “we own the world,” is sufficient to explain a lot of the discussion about foreign affairs. — from “We Own the World” January 1, 2008.

7. The U.S. is, of course, concerned over Iranian power. That is one reason why the U.S. turned to active support for Iraq in the late stages of the Iraq-Iran war, with a decisive effect on the outcome, and why Washington continued its active courtship of Saddam Hussein until he interfered with U.S. plans for the region in August 1990. U.S. concerns over Iranian power were also reflected in the decision to support Saddam’s murderous assault against the Shiite population of southern Iraq in March 1991, immediately after the fighting stopped. A narrow reason was fear that Iran, a Shiite state, might exert influence over Iraqi Shiites. A more general reason was the threat to “stability” that a successful popular revolution might pose: to translate into English, the threat that it might inspire democratizing tendencies that would undermine the array of dictatorships that the U.S. relies on to control the people of the region.

Recall that Washington’s support for its former friend was more than tacit; the U.S. military command even denied rebelling Iraqi officers access to captured Iraqi equipment as the slaughter of the Shiite population proceeded under Stormin’ Norman’s steely gaze. — “Stability,” excerpted from The Fateful Triangle,1999

For further reading, check out AlterNet’s collection of Chomsky’s best quotes on how the corporate media really works in the United States.

20 responses to “7 brilliant insights from Noam Chomsky on American empire

  1. Yeah, Chomsky has always hated America and, to a lesser extent, the entirety of the West. I’m sure this post will resonate with some of the readers here.


    • Chomsky combines the highest levels of intellect, common sense, and morality. He certainly doesn’t hate America; he simply points out the hypocrisies of the American imperialist project. And there’s probably a lot less truth in your second sentence than you might imagine; it took me years to “get” Chomsky.


      • As I said, Chomsky’s anti-American rhetoric would resonate with certain sorts who frequent Moe’s blog. Sometimes being right is just too easy.

        And no, Arbourist, neither I nor any American has ever really wondered why we’re hated. The answer is simply that there are those who hate what America and Americans stand for and gnash their teeth whenever we’re successful due to standing up for what we believe in.

        Not that this is inherently wrong. Americans’ interests are not necessarily the same interests as those of our foreign and domestic antagonists and it’s normal to hate the enemy when they’re more successful than you are.


    • Yeah, Chomsky has always hated America

      Oh! You must mean thoughtfully look at the actions of empire without the goggles of American Exceptionalism?

      Being honest and critical of what we do allows to understand what is happening in the world and our place in it. The funny thing is that the history and political analysis Chomsky offers is known in the rest of the world, especially by those who are on the receiving end of the club.

      But hey, queue up a few more jingoistic choruses of “Why do they hate us?” while the answer remains squarely in front of you.


  2. Well, if it WERE true, inspite of the goodness of Americans, there is plenty to hate


    • I hate the hypocrisy: the thirst for power, the mindless greed, the lawlessness, the endless killings in the name of saving lives, the savagery to defend civilization, the enslavement to perpetuate freedom, the domination to uphold equality, the brutal dictators propped up to preserve democracy.


      • Or, far less hyperbolically and partisanly – and a damned sight less wordily to boot – you hate America defending its interests and protecting the lives and ways of life of its own people.


        • Perhaps jonolan, you would define ‘protect’ for us.


        • True, I hate that “defending its interests” means murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents just so some fuckwit CEO can have a house in the Hamptons. And there’s nothing hyperbolic about a bullet in the head–it’s exactly what it is, no matter what kind of idiotic pseudo-patriotic justifications you come up with.


          • It’s a lot more than the CEOs who you love to hate. It’s a bunch of supposedly poor people here in the states that need cheap resources to survive in the style they’ve become accustomed to.

            But then, those are people who are the crux of so many matters that Americans and Liberals disagree upon. Almost everything comes down to keeping the “poor” comfortable and providing them with as much luxury as we can…and pretending that those luxuries are needs and that those needs are somehow rights.


            • Yes, wealth and poverty are relative, their meaning dependent on time and place. America is now moving towards a two-tier society, a classic third word model, comprising a tiny ruling class and a huge underclass. Liberals and progressives want to stop or reverse this process.


              • Frankly, I think you’re delusional from your hatred of the wealthy but I could be blinded myself.

                You see this giant “underclass” being created in the US and I see a bunch of people who are part of the global 1% – and we’re talking about the same people!

                It may just be that I’ve been too many places that were filled with real poor people and I can’t abide by the people in the US who claim they’re poor when they have more material wealth and economic security than almost anyone else in the world.


                • There are places in the world where a man who owns ten goats is a wealthy and respected member of his community. Here in the US wealth is measured differently; a person may have a car and a television, yet live a marginal, paycheck to paycheck existence, working a job with no security, no healthcare, no future, and no dignity. This the direction America is now heading for 99% of the population.


                • America is certainly, in some ways, heading in the direction that you’re saying but not for the reasons that you’re alluding to in this comment and have spoken of openly in others.

                  You’re both part of- and have identified the problem quite well, if unintentionally. You think of wealth as a prerequisite of dignity and the old idea of “proud but poor” means nothing to you. You also seem to demand a “future” of some sort for people that is also based upon their work and their wage.

                  Money is not the root of all evil; the love of it is. This holds true from lowest to the highest, ojmo, and our society is sunk deep in that evil.


                • Yes I do demand a future for people who have followed the rules. If capital is unable or unwilling to ease the burden caused by its bad bets, or just moves on seeking cheaper labor elsewhere, it’s the job of government to step in and rectify the situation. On the other hand, I echo your statement about the love of money at all economic levels.


  3. Below are seven powerful quotes on the evils, atrocities and ironies of the American empire

    1. I would suggest that we name our gunships after those nations in honor of their martial qualities

    1a. Are we sure that the Apache, Blackhawk and Comanche never engaged in warfare with any other nations?

    2. Before China bombed Kentucky and Carolina, did they ask the United States to contain their criminal activity? That being said, I do resonate with the argument that says we should just make Columbia’s crop legal.

    3. What pretexts would be used to bomb New York and Washington?

    4. Others might see Globalization and rejoice as millions upon millions of Chinese are yanked out of abject, bone jarring poverty.

    5. I think he rambles in 5. The same arguments could be used to stop the demilitarization of water. I fail to see why space would be off limits when it comes to defending our interests.

    6. I think that China has a right to defend its self interests too.

    7. I think we get it wrong sometimes, but I’m sure that our goal over there is a stable and peaceful region. Not having anything to do with “controlling the people.”


    • When it comes to foreign policy, especially intervention, there’s quite a bit of overlap between a libertarian socialist like Chomsky and a Libertarian. Much of what Ron Paul said in the Republican debates regarding Iraq and Iran could have come right from Chomsky.


  4. Pingback: Chomsky-ish | Whatever Works

  5. Pingback: Chomsky-ish…Whatever Works….. | Politicaldog101.Com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s