Review: Hegemony or Survival–America’s Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project)

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Congress (Failure, Reform), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform)

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Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Apex of Moral Critical Thinking,

November 14, 2003
Noam Chomsky
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to restate importance of this work and add links.

UPDATED to comment on Hugo Chavez at UN.

Hugo Chavez and his Iranian counterpart, together with the leaders of Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia, among others, brought reality to America with the United Nations presentations. It is noteworthy that not a single member of the General Assembly disagreed with their harsh assessments of the Bush-Cheney regime. I reviewed this book before it was made popular by Chavez, and I will say just two things: 1) order it now, it is worth the wait; and 2) Bush-Cheney may not be interested in reality, but reality is assuredly interested in us. It’s time the public realized that Chomsky, not Bush, is the real deal.

Yes, Chomsky tends to be repetitive and to rehash old stuff, so take away one-star. However, and I say this as the #1 Amazon reviewer of non-fiction about national security, to suggest that Chomsky is ever anything less than four stars is to betray one’s ignorance and bias. He adds new material in this book, and perhaps even more importantly, he delivers this book at a time when America is faced with what may well be its sixth most important turning point in history (after independence, the civil war, two world wars, and the cold war). How America behaves in the 2004 election is going to determine whether the Republic deteriorates into a quasi-totalitarian and bunkered society with a lost middle class and a gated elite, or whether we restore the world’s faith in American goodness, moral capitalism, and inclusive democracy.

Chomsky brilliantly brings forth a theme first articulated in recent times by Jonathan Schell (The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People) by pointing out that the *only* “superpower” capable of containing the neo-conservative, neo-totalitarian, neo-Nazi militarism and unilateralism of the current Bush Administration is “the planet’s public.”

Chomsky updates his work with both excellent and well-balanced footnotes and an orderly itemization of the arrogance, militarism, contempt for international law, arbitrary aggression, and–Bible thumpers take note–proven track record for supporting dictators, Israeli genocide against Palestinians, and US troop participation in–directly as well as indirectly–what will inevitably be judged by history to be a continuing pattern of war crimes.

Chomsky, past master of the topic of “manufacturing consent” now turns his attention to the manner in which the Bush Administration is attempting to establish “new norms” that, if permitted to stand, will reverse 50 years of human progress in seeking the legitimization of governance, respect for human rights, and collective decision-making and security.

He is especially strong on documenting the manner in which US aid grows in direct relation to the degree to which the recipient country is guilty of genocidal atrocities, with Colombia and Turkey being prime examples. The case can be made, and Chomsky makes it, that the US arms industry, and US policies on the selling and granting of arms world-wide, are in fact a direct US commitment to repression, genocide, and terrorism sponsored by one big state: the US. He is most interesting when he discusses the new US approach to repression, the privatization of actions against the underclasses of the world.

Morality plays big with Chomsky, who brings new ideas in with his discussion of moral asymmetry and the lack of moral integrity in US decision-making. Sadly, the US public is too busy trying to survive the abuses of the Bush-Cheney regime, and do not realize the crass immorality of all that is being done “in their name.”

Chomsky reminds us that George Bush the Second pardoned a known international terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, because of his ties to the extremist Cuban-American community that his brother Jeb Bush is so dependent upon for support.

Over the course of the middle of the book Chomsky addresses the competing models for national development, with Cuba prominent as an alternative model that the US has sought to destroy, as the US worked very hard to destroy Catholic “liberation theology” because of its temerity in believing that the poor should be protected against repressive governments and their American corporate paymasters. Chomsky is correct, I believe, when he states and documents that the US model of capitalism has pathologically high rates of inequality and poverty (even CNN has noticed–as I waited for an airplane in Salt Lake City, a bastion of common sense, the lead story was the collapse of the US middle class).

Chomsky moves from his discussion of exceptions to US capitalism to a discussion of the importance of regional differentiation, and this is of course in direct competition with the US view that the world should be a homogenized generic variation of the US culture, with one big difference: 80% of the benefits for the US, while the rest of the world shares the left-overs.

Chomsky agrees with Dr. Col Max Manwaring and other mainstream strategists (see my review of The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century when he identifies the legitimacy of governments, and the sanctity of human and civil rights, as the two litmus tests for determining if balance and fairness exist in a society. By this measure, the US is now failing.

The book begins to conclude with a semantic discussion of terrorism, what is terror, who sponsors terror, and here Chomsky draws on both his linguistic and historical background to make the case that the US is the primary sponsor of terrorism in the world (something both the Indonesian and Malaysian leadership would tend to agree with), and he notes that the US, in a bi-partisan manner among the elite, has consistently been hypocritical about terrorism. Nelson Mandela, and his resistance party, were labeled terrorists by the US for many years.

Are we in a passing nightmare, or the beginning of a renaissance? The jury is still out. I personally believe that John McCain would have been a vastly superior president that this lightweight bully that we have now, with his out-of-control neo-conservatives, none of whom ever served in uniform and some of whom–as with Dick Cheney–were active draft dodgers. However, I also believe that both John McCain, and Dick Gephardt if he were to be elected, are too close to the “business as usual” crowd of beltway politicians capitalized by beltway bandits. In other words, Howard Dean would not have been possible without the excesses of George Bush Junior. God does indeed work in mysterious ways, and I pray that the American public will both read Chomsky, and understand that they represent the only super-power that can restore legitimacy, sanity, comity, and prosperity to the American Republic. Down with the carpetbaggers–El Pueblo Avansa–EPA!.

Recent books supporting the moral intelligence of Noam Chomsky:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart

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Review: Manufacturing Consent–The Political Economy of the Mass Media

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Capitalism (Good & Bad), Censorship & Denial of Access, Communications, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Information Society, Misinformation & Propaganda

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars 25 Years Ahead of the Crowd–Vital Reading Today,

August 22, 2003
Edward S. Herman
Edit of 22 Dec 07 to add links.

It is quite significant, in my view, that today as I write this Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right is #2 at Amazon, and Sheldon Rapton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraqis #114 at Amazon. Not only are the people awakening to the truth, which is that they have been had through a combination of inattention and manipulation, but these two books and several others in this genre are validating what Chomsky was telling us all in the past 25 years.

The ability to set the agenda and determine what is talked about and how it is talked about is at the root of hidden power in the pseudo-democratic society. Chomsky was decades ahead of his time in studying both the power of language and the power of controlling the media message. Today, as we recall that so-called mainstream news media *refused* fully-funded anti-war advertisements that challenged the White House lies (62 of which have been documented with full sourcing in various blogs, notably Stephen Perry’s Bush at War blog), we must come to grips with the fact that America is at risk.

Thomas Jefferson said “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry” and Supreme Court Justice Branstein said “The greatest threat to liberty is an inert public.” Today we lack the first and have the second, but as Amazon rankings show, the people, they are awakening. It is through reading, and following the links, and informed discussion, that the people can come together, using new tools for peer-to-peer information sharing and MeetUp’s, and take back the power.

Chomsky had it right. It took 25 years for all of us to realize he had it right. I rise in praise of this great man.

Other links that validate his ethics and intellect:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Al On America

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Review: The Umbrella of U.S. Power–The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of U.S. Policy

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Big Money Buys Poverty and Kills, Citizens Being Looted,

March 10, 2002
Noam Chomsky
This is one of Noam Chomsky’s most interesting pamphlets (actually a quarter-size booklet of 78 pages). It has a special relevance and importance to citizens in the aftermath of 9-11 because he directly links our corporate criminality (“Justice Department estimates the cost of corporate crime as 7 to 25 times as high as street crime”) to our national policies against human rights (poverty pays, for the corporate class that strives to liquidate Third World nations in their predatory roving of the planet).He pointedly identifies the U.S. arms industry as being among the worst violators, but even more importantly, points out that U.S. policies favoring our arms dealers are opposed by 96% of the U.S. population. While that number might be high, I believe there is no question but that Washington is being instructed by corporations rather than its citizens on this vital point of policy. It is time for citizens to take the power back.

Chomsky notes that in 1996 the World Health Organization characterized extreme poverty as the world’s most ruthless killer and the greatest cause of suffering on earth. This ties in with the United Nations finding that human suffering is now a legitimate basis for intervention, and with George Soro’s observation in The Washington Post of 24 February 2002, that “We can’t be successful in fighting terrorism, unless we fight that other axis of evil–poverty, disease and ignorance.”

This little gem of a book also includes well-footnoted observations about how nations seek to carry out trade negotiations in secrecy, in part because they are agreeing to overlook if not actively participate in the looting of poor countries as a condition for prosperous trade among the already developed nations.

The book begins and ends with thoughts from Chomsky on the intellectual discipline he founded, the relationship between linguistics, ethics, and action. He begins with pointed observations on how the most horrible crimes are allowed to go without comment because of *self* censorship, and ends by noting that our citizens do not need to be forbidden to speak of these monstrous deeds that our corporations and government are secretly agreeing to perpetuate, because we have chosen to remain ignorant and silent.

U.S. policy today is *not* founded on moral values, and it is *not* representative of the will of the people in so far as it is carried out in secret collaboration with major corporations and in opposition to the minimal mandatory needs of developing nations for water, food, disease, and economic security.

This is not about political ideology–Ralph Nader, the ultimate spoiler, has one thing right: the parties are irrelevant, this is now about the people versus the corporations. Absent a huge popular turn-out *prior* to each election, to make it clear to candidates that they will be held accountable by the people for keeping all trade and other negotiations in the public domain, and for voting on issues mindful of the will of the people rather than their corporate Enron-like paymasters, then we are the ones ultimately responsible for U.S. policy’s misdirection.

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Review: Profit Over People–Neoliberalism & Global Order

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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5.0 out of 5 stars Pay Attention or Pay the Price,

March 10, 2002
Noam Chomsky
Edit of 20 Jun 09 to add links (feature not available back then)

This book begins with a very fine introduction by Robert McChesney, who defines neoliberalism as an economic paradigm that leaves a small number of private parties in control and able to maximize their profit (at the expense of the people). He goes on to note that a distracted or apathetic or depoliticized public essentially “goes along” with this, resulting in the loss of community and the rise of consumerism.

Chomsky himself, over the course of 167 pages, points out the damages of neo-liberalism (public abdicating power to corporations), not just to underdeveloped nations and their peoples, but to the American people themselves, who are suffering, today, from a fifteen year decline in education, health, and increased inequality between the richest and the poorest.

Over the course of several chapters, he discusses various U.S. policies, including the U.S. policy of using “security” as a pretext for subsidizing the transfer of taxpayer funds to major arms dealers. The declaration of Cuba as a threat to U.S. national security is one that Mexico could not support–as one of their diplomats explained at the time: “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

At the end of it all, Chomsky comes down to the simple matter of protecting both civilization and the civilians from their own governments in cahoots with corporations. His observations on the deaths by disease, starvation, and so on, at the same time that billions are being spent on arms which perpetuate the cycles of violence, are relevant. So also are his observations on the dramatic increase in both the extent and the damages caused by increasingly unregulated financial markets. He singles out the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) as an especially pernicious organization whose machinations are invisible to the public and harmful as well.

I note with interest a review of this book that seeks to call Chomsky a liar, uninformed, and a laughingstock among “serious” scholars. I wish to address that point of view kindly. I can understand, when scholarship consists largely of going through the motions, reading a limited number of works, and answering by rote with the prescribed thought, how so many of our allegedly educated people in business and government are simply socially tuned in. I have myself come to the conclusion that Washington runs on 2% of the available international information (and is largely witless about the 75% or so that is in foreign languages), and I also agree with Howard Bloom’s observation in Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, to wit, that half one’s brain cells are killed off by the time one is an adult, due to normal biological adjustments to accommodate the prescribed social, cultural, and intellectual parameters that are demanded if one is to “get along.” In that light, I view Chomsky as one of our more important vaccinations against premature stupidity among our loosely-educated adult policymakers. For myself, with considerable reading and a 25-year national security career behind me, I find that while Chomsky is repetitious, he is generally meticulous about foot-noting (something that cannot be said for the lazy authors residing in most think tanks, all of them being paid to think along very specifically prescribed directions).

The bottom line for me is clear: citizens must read and think, or perish from the earth as slaves to those who control money. There is only one thing that matters more than money in this world, and that is the vote. In a representative democracy, the vote can be bought with ease *until* the moment comes when citizens realize that they can combine the use of public sources to reach conclusions (open source intelligence) with self-organization via the Internet, with civil action (cyber-advocacy, street-advocacy, communication and voting) to *take back the power.* It is not terrorism that scares the corporate carpetbaggers, it is something much more powerful: thinking citizens willing to spend the time keeping their corporate servants in line.

Chomsky has labored for over fifty years to keep that part of our brain alive that our schools, seeking to train obedient factory workers, have worked so hard to kill. It can be disheartening, to see citizens so freely give up their rights and their powers, but I do believe, that with the The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (Halstead and Lind), The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Rya and Anderson) and other books I have reviewed, there is, without question, a tipping point. The Internet has changed everything-now we need for the people to notice, and act. Chomsky sheds light in a way that no prostituted scholar or preppy business acolyte will respect-but if the workers wish to begin reading for the future salvation of their children’s rights, Chomsky is as good a place as any from which to step off into true democracy.

See also:
The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
The People’s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy

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Review: 9-11

4 Star, 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs

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Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Predictable but Potent, Irritating But Illuminating,

December 10, 2001
Noam Chomsky
Chomsky is somewhat predictable and irritating in his repetitive condemnation of all past and present U.S. interventions around the world, and he harps heavily on the U.S. being the only country in the world actually condemned for terrorism (against Nicaragua) by the World Court but one has to give him credit–his is one of the few credible voices seeking to enlighten the American people with respect to two major global realities: first, that America is violating others with impunity and regularity; and second, that we have no idea just how hated we are for these actions.There were a couple of tid-bits in this book that made me especially glad to have obtained it for reading and retention. His evaluation of the Sudan situation, and his detailed review of the impact on Sudanese reliant on the low-cost medicines from the factory bombed into oblivion on the now-disputed suggestion of the CIA, provides a perspective that needs more respect.

His lengthy discussion of the contradictory record of the United States on human rights–in favor when it does not interfere with business, actively obstructionist when it takes place in Saudi Arabia or Indonesia where financial equities (generally mining and energy company equities) are great, is disturbingly sensible.

I will always read Chomsky, for he provides a leavening of forthright candor and intellectual honesty that is too often absent from mainstream discussions. Indeed, as I was reading the bit on Sudan, it occured to me that we are long over-due for the next revolution in learned discourse–the digitization of all such books so that a reader can, to take Sudan as an example, see on their screen a “map” of Sudanese issues, and then select from across a range of competing viewpoints on any issue. One has to seek out Chomsky now–in the future it may be salutory to find him automatically served up as a side dish whenever the pundits wax too pontifical.
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Review: Acts of Aggression

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Off-Set to Conventional Wisdom (Inherent Blindness),

August 27, 2000
Noam Chomsky
This small 65-page paperback is part of The Open Media Pamphlet Series. In three separate articles by internationally-recognized humanists, it makes three important points: first, that U.S. policies toward “rogue states” comprised largely of embargoes that result in infant mortality, local epidemics, starvation, infertility, and so on, are a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; second, that the U.S. appears to have been both an active practitioner of bio-chemical warfare resulting in the deaths and deformation of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians (Agent Orange) as well as a passive practitioner in biological warfare qua disease promulgation through embargo and non-intervention; and third, that the U.S. has consistently refused to abide by international arbitration and other means for settling disputes, but instead generally utilized force as its preferred vehicle for getting its own way, regardless of international agreements to which it has been a signatory. Too few write credibly in this vein, and this pamphlet is therefore a helpful off-set to the more conventional wisdom that comes from the military-industrial complex and the politicians this complex supports.
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