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2004-03-30

Chomsky on the Invasion of Iraq 

Glad to see that Noam Chomsky, the genius scientist and, for many leftists, political idol, has (or at least officially licenses?) his own blog, Turning the Tide. As one might expect, the analysis is razor-sharp, if provocative.

In a March 27 2004 commentary on today's perspective on the invasion of Iraq, there is a lot I'm happy to see written, and some stuff that seems irritatingly hollow.

Here the quotes I loved:

All opponents of the invasion of Iraq ... took for granted that there would be beneficial effects, as is often the case with military interventions: the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for example, which led to the expulsion of Western imperial powers from Asia, saving millions of lives. Does that justify Japanese fascism and its crimes?

...

Uncontroversially, the invasion struck a serious blow at the system of international law and institutions that offers at least some hope of saving the world from destruction. And though victors do not tabulate the consequences of their crimes, there is little doubt that the numbers of Iraqis killed is in the tens of thousands.

I believe this estimate of Iraqi victims must be correct (that is, the number must be somewhere between 10,000 and several ten thousands, most of them in the military due to air and artillery bombardments) - it is incomprehensible to me why it is mentioned so seldomly as the counterweight of the benefits of the overthrow of Saddam.

(and earlier:)

Unless the population is at least given the opportunity to overthrow a murderous tyrant, as they did in the case of the other members of the rogue's gallery supported by the US and UK (including the current incumbents), there is no justification for resort to outside force to do so.

Note however, in the last quote, the reference to an argument Chomsky supports at length in his commentary, namely that the population of Iraq was denied the chance to overthrow Saddam by the regime of international sanctions that was in place before the invasion. Chomsky argues that if the sanctions had been lifted (or restricted to weapons purchases), the likelihood that Saddam would be overthrown would have increased dramatically. I see no reason at all why this assumption should hold; removing a negative does not automatically trigger a desired, but unrelated positive. As a sceptic, I'm inclined to believe that the social forces in Iraq were such that an overthrow of Saddam by the population would have been quite improbable in either scenario for a considerable period of time.


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