Free Speech:

Just what is real, and what isn't? What is the truth, and what isn't, and who's telling it? And who's lying to you?


Virus of the Mind:
The New Science of the Meme
by Richard Brodie

If you've ever wondered how and why people become robotically enslaved by advertising, religion, sexual fantasy, and cults, wonder no more. It's all because of "mind viruses," or "memes," and those who understand how to plant them into other's minds. This is the first truly accessible book about memes and how they make the world go 'round. Of course, like all good memes, the ideas in Brodie's book are double-edged swords. They can vaccinate against the effects of cognitive viruses, but could also be used by those seeking power to gain it even more effectively. If you don't want to be left behind in the coevolutionary arms race between infection and protection, read about memes. Such knowledge is as essential today as Machiavelli's The Prince was to Medieval politicians.

How Real Is Real?:
Confusion, Disinformation,
by Paul Watzlawick

Our everyday traditional ideas of reality are delusions which we spend substantial parts of our daily life shoring up, even if we have to force-fit facts into our definition of reality instead of viceversa. There is no one reality, but many versions of it, some contradictory, but all of which are the result of the interaction of three principles or actions: confusion, disinformation and communication.

Secret and Suppressed:
Banned Ideas and Hidden History
by Jim Keith (Ed.)

Historical truths are commodities written to reinforce the convictions of those in power. As such, opposing points of view are often driven underground to the nether regions of 'conspiracy theory'. Secret and Suppressed presents disquieting revelations on mind control, secret societies, media disinformation, cults and cabals. The object is to force the reader into a thinking stance, instead of parroting received opinion as fact.

Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American
History Textbook Got Wrong
by James W. Loewen

When textbook gaffes make news, as with the tome that explained that the Korean War ended when Truman dropped the atom bomb, the expeditious remedy would be to fire the editor. Loewen would rather hire a new team of authors bent on the pursuit of context instead of factoids. In Loewen's ideal text, events and people illuminating the multicultural holy trinity of race, gender, and social class would predominate over the fixation on heroes and acts of government. Such is the mood adopted throughout this critique of 12 American history texts in current use. Vetting 10 topics they commonly address--from the Pilgrims to the Vietnam War--Loewen bewails a long train of alleged omissions and distortions. To account for the deplorable situation, he offers this quasi-Marxist explanation: "Perhaps we are all dupes, manipulated by elite white male capitalists who orchestrate how history is written as part of their scheme to perpetuate their own power and privilege at the expense of the rest of us." Certainly students' appalling ignorance of history is troublesome, and broken families and excessive TV viewing are at least the equals of white male conspirators as the cause. However, libraries located where dissatisfaction with textbooks exists should be interested in Loewen's critique.

Necessary Illusions:
Thought Control in Democratic Societies
by Noam Chomsky

The role of the media in a capitalist society is, far from being that of a 'watchdog' for the interests of the people, that of serving the needs of those already in power. This work applies the propaganda model developed by Chomsky and Edward Herman, revealing the crucial function of the media and the educated elite in limiting democracy in the US.

Media Virus!:
Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture
by Douglas Rushkoff

Have you ever noticed that the word "media" refers both to the tool for disseminating information in human societies as well as the substrate upon which geneticists grow bacteria and viruses? Rushkoff has written one of the more provocative and insightful analyses of the paths of conceptual infection in human media, and about the techniques and goals of those who spread media viruses. This fun, hip, yet insightful book is well worth buying.

Manufacturing Consent:
The Political Economy of the Mass Media
by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (Contributor)

An brilliant analysis of the ways in which individuals and organizations of the media are influenced to shape the social agendas of knowledge and, therefore, belief. Contrary to the popular conception of members of the press as hard-bitten realists doggedly pursuing unpopular truths, Herman and Chomsky prove conclusively that the free-market economics model of media leads inevitably to normative and narrow reporting. Whether or not you've seen the eye-opening movie, buy this book, and you will be a far more knowledgeable person and much less prone to having your beliefs manipulated as easily as the press.

Media Control:
The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda
(The Open Media Pamphlet Series, No 1)
by Noam Chomsky

"Propaganda," says Noam Chomsky, "is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state"--in other words, the means by which leaders keep the masses in line. In this slim pamphlet, he looks at American propaganda efforts, from the warmongering of Woodrow Wilson to the creation of popular support for the 1991 military intervention in Kuwait, and reveals how falsification of history, suppression of information, and the promotion of vapid, empty concepts have become standard operating procedure for the leaders of the United States--both Democrats and Republicans--in their efforts to prevent citizens from raising awkward questions about U.S. policy.

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Is Big Brother in your Grocery Cart?

Saying goodbye to patriotism
by Robert Jensen

NoWar Collective

Information Clearinghouse


Iraq As Trial Run

By Noam Chomsky and V.K.Ramachandran

On March 21, a he spoke from his office for half an hour to V. K. Ramachandran on the current attack on Iraq.

V. K. Ramachandran: Does the present aggression on Iraq represent a continuation of United States' international policy in recent years or a qualitatively new stage in that policy?

Noam Chomsky: It represents a significantly new phase. It is not without precedent, but significantly new nevertheless.

This should be seen as a trial run. Iraq is seen as an extremely easy and totally defenceless target. It is assumed, probably correctly, that the society will collapse, that the soldiers will go in and that the U.S. will be in control, and will establish the regime of its choice and military bases. They will then go on to the harder cases that will follow. The next case could be the Andean region, it could be Iran, it could be others.

The trial run is to try and establish what the U.S. calls a "new norm" in international relations. The new norm is "preventive war" (notice that new norms are established only by the United States). So, for example, when India invaded East Pakistan to terminate horrendous massacres, it did not establish a new norm of humanitarian intervention, because India is the wrong country, and besides, the U.S. was strenuously opposed to that action.

This is not pre-emptive war; there is a crucial difference. Pre-emptive war has a meaning, it means that, for example, if planes are flying across the Atlantic to bomb the United States, the United States is permitted to shoot them down even before they bomb and may be permitted to attack the air bases from which they came. Pre-emptive war is a response to ongoing or imminent attack.

The doctrine of preventive war is totally different; it holds that the United States - alone, since nobody else has this right - has the right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential challenge to it. So if the United States claims, on whatever grounds, that someone may sometime threaten it, then it can attack them.

The doctrine of preventive war was announced explicitly in the National Strategy Report last September. It sent shudders around the world, including through the U.S. establishment, where, I might say, opposition to the war is unusually high. The National Strategy Report said, in effect, that the U.S. will rule the world by force, which is the dimension - the only dimension - in which it is supreme. Furthermore, it will do so for the indefinite future, because if any potential challenge arises to U.S. domination, the U.S. will destroy it before it becomes a challenge.

This is the first exercise of that doctrine. If it succeeds on these terms, as it presumably will, because the target is so defenceless, then international lawyers and Western intellectuals and others will begin to talk about a new norm in international affairs. It is important to establish such a norm if you expect to rule the world by force for the foreseeable future.

This is not without precedent, but it is extremely unusual. I shall mention one precedent, just to show how narrow the spectrum is. In 1963, Dean Acheson, who was a much respected elder statesman and senior Adviser of the Kennedy Administration, gave an important talk to the American Society of International Law, in which he justified the U. S. attacks against Cuba. The attack by the Kennedy Administration on Cuba was large-scale international terrorism and economic warfare. The timing was interesting - it was right after the Missile Crisis, when the world was very close to a terminal nuclear war. In his speech, Acheson said that "no legal issue arises when the United States responds to challenges to its position, prestige or authority", or words approximating that.

That is also a statement of the Bush doctrine. Although Acheson was an important figure, what he said had not been official government policy in the post-War period. It now stands as official policy and this is the first illustration of it. It is intended to provide a precedent for the future.

Such "norms" are established only when a Western power does something, not when others do. That is part of the deep racism of Western culture, going back through centuries of imperialism and so deep that it is unconscious.

So I think this war is an important new step, and is intended to be.

Ramachandran: Is it also a new phase in that the U. S. has not been able to carry others with it?

Chomsky: That is not new. In the case of the Vietnam War, for example, the United States did not even try to get international support. Nevertheless, you are right in that this is unusual. This is a case in which the United States was compelled for political reasons to try to force the world to accept its position and was not able to, which is quite unusual. Usually, the world succumbs.

Ramachandran: So does it represent a "failure of diplomacy" or a redefinition of diplomacy itself?

Chomsky: I wouldn't call it diplomacy at all - it's a failure of coercion.

Compare it with the first Gulf War. In the first Gulf War, the U.S. coerced the Security Council into accepting its position, although much of the world opposed it. NATO went along, and the one country in the Security Council that did not - Yemen - was immediately and severely punished.

In any legal system that you take seriously, coerced judgments are considered invalid, but in the international affairs conducted by the powerful, coerced judgments are fine - they are called diplomacy.

What is interesting about this case is that the coercion did not work. There were countries - in fact, most of them - who stubbornly maintained the position of the vast majority of their populations.

The most dramatic case is Turkey. Turkey is a vulnerable country, vulnerable to U.S. punishment and inducements. Nevertheless, the new government, I think to everyone's surprise, did maintain the position of about 90 per cent of its population. Turkey is bitterly condemned for that here, just as France and Germany are bitterly condemned because they took the position of the overwhelming majority of their populations. The countries that are praised are countries like Italy and Spain, whose leaders agreed to follow orders from Washington over the opposition of maybe 90 per cent of their populations.

That is another new step. I cannot think of another case where hatred and contempt for democracy have so openly been proclaimed, not just by the government, but also by liberal commentators and others. There is now a whole literature trying to explain why France, Germany, the so-called "old Europe", and Turkey and others are trying to undermine the United States. It is inconceivable to the pundits that they are doing so because they take democracy seriously and they think that when the overwhelming majority of a population has an opinion, a government ought to follow it.

That is real contempt for democracy, just as what has happened at the United Nations is total contempt for the international system. In fact there are now calls - from The Wall Street Journal, people in Government and others - to disband the United Nations.

Fear of the United States around the world is extraordinary. It is so extreme that it is even being discussed in the mainstream media. The cover story of the upcoming issue of Newsweek is about why the world is so afraid of the United States. The Post had a cover story about this a few weeks ago.

Of course this is considered to be the world's fault, that there is something wrong with the world with which we have to deal somehow, but also something that has to be recognised.

Ramachandran: The idea that Iraq represents any kind of clear and present danger is, of course, without any substance at all.

Chomsky: Nobody pays any attention to that accusation, except, interestingly, the population of the United States.

In the last few months, there has been a spectacular achievement of government-media propaganda, very visible in the polls. The international polls show that support for the war is higher in the United States than in other countries. That is, however, quite misleading, because if you look a little closer, you find that the United States is also different in another respect from the rest of the world. Since September 2002, the United States is the only country in the world where 60 per cent of the population believes that Iraq is an imminent threat - something that people do not believe even in Kuwait or Iran.

Furthermore, about 50 per cent of the population now believes that Iraq was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. This has happened since September 2002. In fact, after the September 11 attack, the figure was about 3 per cent. Government-media propaganda has managed to raise that to about 50 per cent. Now if people genuinely believe that Iraq has carried out major terrorist attacks against the United States and is planning to do so again, well, in that case people will support the war.

This has happened, as I said, after September 2002. September 2002 is when the government-media campaign began and also when the mid-term election campaign began. The Bush Administration would have been smashed in the election if social and economic issues had been in the forefront, but it managed to suppress those issues in favour of security issues - and people huddle under the umbrella of power.

This is exactly the way the country was run in the 1980s. Remember that these are almost the same people as in the Reagan and the senior Bush Administrations. Right through the 1980s they carried out domestic policies that were harmful to the population and which, as we know from extensive polls, the people opposed. But they managed to maintain control by frightening the people. So the Nicaraguan Army was two days' march from Texas and about to conquer the United States, and the airbase in Granada was one from which the Russians would bomb us. It was one thing after another, every year, every one of them ludicrous. The Reagan Administration actually declared a national Emergency in 1985 because of the threat to the security of the United States posed by the Government of Nicaragua.

If somebody were watching this from Mars, they would not know whether to laugh or to cry.

They are doing exactly the same thing now, and will probably do something similar for the presidential campaign. There will have to be a new dragon to slay, because if the Administration lets domestic issues prevail, it is in deep trouble.

Ramachandran: You have written that this war of aggression has dangerous consequences with respect to international terrorism and the threat of nuclear war.

Chomsky: I cannot claim any originality for that opinion. I am just quoting the CIA and other intelligence agencies and virtually every specialist in international affairs and terrorism. Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the high-level Hart-Rudman Commission on terrorist threats to the United States all agree that it is likely to increase terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The reason is simple: partly for revenge, but partly just for self-defence.

There is no other way to protect oneself from U.S. attack. In fact, the United States is making the point very clearly, and is teaching the world an extremely ugly lesson.

Compare North Korea and Iraq. Iraq is defenceless and weak; in fact, the weakest regime in the region. While there is a horrible monster running it, it does not pose a threat to anyone else. North Korea, on the other hand, does pose a threat. North Korea, however, is not attacked for a very simple reason: it has a deterrent. It has a massed artillery aimed at Seoul, and if the United States attacks it, it can wipe out a large part of South Korea.

So the United States is telling the countries of the world: if you are defenceless, we are going to attack you when we want, but if you have a deterrent, we will back off, because we only attack defenceless targets. In other words, it is telling countries that they had better develop a terrorist network and weapons of mass destruction or some other credible deterrent; if not, they are vulnerable to "preventive war".

For that reason alone, this war is likely to lead to the proliferation of both terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Ramachandran: How do you think the U.S. will manage the human - and humanitarian - consequences of the war?

Chomsky: No one knows, of course. That is why honest and decent people do not resort to violence - because one simply does not know.

The aid agencies and medical groups that work in Iraq have pointed out that the consequences can be very severe. Everyone hopes not, but it could affect up to millions of people. To undertake violence when there is even such a possibility is criminal.

There is already - that is, even before the war - a humanitarian catastrophe. By conservative estimates, ten years of sanctions have killed hundreds of thousands of people. If there were any honesty, the U.S. would pay reparations just for the sanctions.

The situation is similar to the bombing of Afghanistan, of which you and I spoke when the bombing there was in its early stages. It was obvious the United States was never going to investigate the consequences.

Ramachandran: Or invest the kind of money that was needed.

Chomsky: Oh no. First, the question is not asked, so no one has an idea of what the consequences of the bombing were for most of the country. Then almost nothing comes in. Finally, it is out of the news, and no one remembers it any more.

In Iraq, the United States will make a show of humanitarian reconstruction and will put in a regime that it will call democratic, which means that it follows Washington's orders. Then it will forget about what happens later, and will go on to the next one.

Ramachandran: How have the media lived up to their propaganda-model reputation this time?

Chomsky: Right now it is cheerleading for the home team. Look at CNN, which is disgusting - and it is the same everywhere. That is to be expected in wartime; the media are worshipful of power.

More interesting is what happened in the build-up to war. The fact that government-media propaganda was able to convince the people that Iraq is an imminent threat and that Iraq was responsible for September 11 is a spectacular achievement and, as I said, was accomplished in about four months. If you ask people in the media about this, they will say, "Well, we never said that," and it is true, they did not. There was never a statement that Iraq is going to invade the United States or that it carried out the World Trade Centre attack. It was just insinuated, hint after hint, until they finally got people to believe it.

Ramachandran: Look at the resistance, though. Despite the propaganda, despite the denigration of the United Nations, they haven't quite carried the day.

Chomsky: You never know. The United Nations is in a very hazardous position.

The United States might move to dismantle it. I don't really expect that, but at least to diminish it, because when it isn't following orders, of what use is it?

Ramachandran: Noam, you have seen movements of resistance to imperialism over a long period - Vietnam, Central America, Gulf War I. What are your impressions of the character, sweep and depth of the present resistance to U.S. aggression? We take great heart in the extraordinary mobilisations all over the world.

Chomsky: Oh, that is correct; there is just nothing like it. Opposition throughout the world is enormous and unprecedented, and the same is true of the United States. Yesterday, for example, I was in demonstrations in downtown Boston, right around the Boston Common. It is not the first time I have been there. The first time I participated in a demonstration there at which I was to speak was in October 1965. That was four years after the United States had started bombing South Vietnam. Half of South Vietnam had been destroyed and the war had been extended to North Vietnam. We could not have a demonstration because it was physically attacked, mostly by students, with the support of the liberal press and radio, who denounced these people who were daring to protest against an American war.

On this occasion, however, there was a massive protest before the war was launched officially and once again on the day it was launched - with no counter-demonstrators. That is a radical difference. And if it were not for the fear factor that I mentioned, there would be much more opposition.

The government knows that it cannot carry out long-term aggression and destruction as in Vietnam because the population will not tolerate it.

There is only one way to fight a war now. First of all, pick a much weaker enemy, one that is defenceless. Then build it up in the propaganda system as either about to commit aggression or as an imminent threat. Next, you need a lightning victory. An important leaked document of the first Bush Administration in 1989 described how the U.S. would have to fight war. It said that the U.S. had to fight much weaker enemies, and that victory must be rapid and decisive, as public support will quickly erode. It is no longer like the 1960s, when a war could be fought for years with no opposition at all.

In many ways, the activism of the 1960s and subsequent years has simply made a lot of the world, including this country, much more civilised in many domains.


Iraq: invasion that will live in infamy


SEPTEMBER 2002 was marked by three events of considerable importance, closely related. The United States, the most powerful state in history, announced a new national security strategy asserting that it will maintain global hegemony permanently. Any challenge will be blocked by force, the dimension in which the US reigns supreme. At the same time, the war drums began to beat to mobilise the population for an invasion of Iraq. And the campaign opened for the mid-term congressional elections, which would determine whether the administration would be able to carry forward its radical international and domestic agenda.

The new "imperial grand strategy", as it was termed at once by John Ikenberry writing in the leading establishment journal, presents the US as "a revisionist state seeking to parlay its momentary advantages into a world order in which it runs the show", a unipolar world in which "no state or coalition could ever challenge it as global leader, protector, and enforcer" (1). These policies are fraught with danger even for the US itself, Ikenberry warned, joining many others in the foreign policy elite.

What is to be protected is US power and the interests it represents, not the world, which vigorously opposed the concept. Within a few months studies revealed that fear of the US had reached remarkable heights, along with distrust of the political leadership. An international Gallup poll in December, which was barely noticed in the US, found almost no support for Washington's announced plans for a war in Iraq carried out unilaterally by America and its allies - in effect, the US-United Kingdom coalition.

Washington told the United Nations that it could be relevant by endorsing US plans, or it could be a debating society. The US had the "sovereign right to take military action", the administration's moderate Colin Powell told the World Economic Forum, which also vigorously opposed the war plans: "When we feel strongly about something we will lead, even if no one is following us" (2).

President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair underscored their contempt for international law and institutions at their Azores summit meeting on the eve of the invasion. They issued an ultimatum, not to Iraq, but to the Security Council: capitulate, or we will invade without your meaningless seal of approval. And we will do so whether or not Saddam Hussein and his family leave the country (3). The crucial principle is that the US must effectively rule Iraq.

President Bush declared that the US "has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security", threatened by Iraq with or without Saddam, according to the Bush doctrine. The US will be happy to establish an Arab facade, to borrow the term of the British during their days in the sun, while US power is firmly implanted at the heart of the world's major energy-producing region. Formal democracy will be fine, but only if it is of a submissive kind accepted in the US's backyard, at least if history and current practice are any guide.

The grand strategy authorises the US to carry out preventive war: preventive, not pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might be, they do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an invented or imagined threat, so that even the term "preventive" is too charitable. Preventive war is, very simply, the supreme crime that was condemned at Nuremberg.

That was understood by those with some concern for their country. As the US invaded Iraq, the historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote that Bush's grand strategy was "alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at the time of Pearl Harbor, on a date which, as an earlier American president [Franklin D Roosevelt] said it would, lives in infamy". It was no surprise, added Schlesinger, that "the global wave of sympathy that engulfed the US after 9/11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism" and the belief that Bush was "a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein" (4).

For the political leadership, mostly recycled from the more reactionary sectors of the Reagan-Bush Senior administrations, the global wave of hatred is not a particular problem. They want to be feared, not loved. It is natural for the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, to quote the words of Chicago gangster Al Capone: "You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone." They understand just as well as their establishment critics that their actions increase the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terror. But that too is not a major problem. Far higher in the scale of their priorities are the goals of establishing global hegemony and implementing their domestic agenda, which is to dismantle the progressive achievements that have been won by popular struggle over the past century, and to institutionalise their radical changes so that recovering the achievements will be no easy task.

It is not enough for a hegemonic power to declare an official policy. It must establish it as a new norm of international law by exemplary action. Distinguished commentators may then explain that the law is a flexible living instrument, so that the new norm is now available as a guide to action. It is understood that only those with the guns can establish norms and modify international law.

The selected target must meet several conditions. It must be defenceless, important enough to be worth the trouble, an imminent threat to our survival and an ultimate evil. Iraq qualified on all counts. The first two conditions are obvious. For the third, it suffices to repeat the orations of Bush, Blair, and their colleagues: the dictator "is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons [in order to] dominate, intimidate or attack"; and he "has already used them on whole villages leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or transfigured. If this is not evil then evil has no meaning." Bush's eloquent denunciation surely rings true. And those who contributed to enhancing evil should certainly not enjoy impunity: among them, the speaker of these lofty words and his current associates, and all those who joined them in the years when they were supporting that man of ultimate evil, Saddam Hussein, long after he had committed these terrible crimes, and after the first war with Iraq. Supported him because of our duty to help US exporters, the Bush Senior administration explained.

It is impressive to see how easy it is for political leaders, while recounting Saddam the monster's worst crimes, to suppress the crucial words "with our help, because we don't care about such matters". Support shifted to denunciation as soon as their friend Saddam committed his first authentic crime, which was disobeying (or perhaps misunderstanding) orders, by invading Kuwait. Punishment was severe - for his subjects. The tyrant escaped unscathed, and was further strengthened by the sanctions regime then imposed by his former allies.

Also easy to suppress are the reasons why the US returned to support Saddam immediately after the Gulf war, as he crushed rebellions that might have overthrown him. The chief diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, explained that the best of all worlds for the US would be "an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein", but since that goal seemed unattainable, we would have to be satisfied with second best (5). The rebels failed because the US and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view [that] whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression" (6).

All of this was suppressed in the commentary on the mass graves of the victims of the US- authorised paroxysm of terror of Saddam Hussein, which commentary was offered as a justification for the war on "moral grounds". It was all known in 1991, but ignored for reasons of state.

A reluctant US population had to be whipped to a proper mood of war fever. From September grim warnings were issued about the dire threat that Saddam posed to the US and his links to al-Qaida, with broad hints that he had been involved in the 9/11 attacks. Many of the charges that had been "dangled in front of [the media] failed the laugh test," commented the editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, "but the more ridiculous [they were,] the more the media strove to make whole-hearted swallowing of them a test of patriotism" (7). The propaganda assault had its effects. Within weeks, a majority of Americans came to regard Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the US. Soon almost half believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 terror. Support for the war correlated with these beliefs. The propaganda campaign was just enough to give the administration a bare majority in the mid-term elections, as voters put aside their immediate concerns and huddled under the umbrella of power in fear of a demonic enemy.

The brilliant success of public diplomacy was revealed when Bush, in the words of one commentator, "provided a powerful Reaganesque finale to a six-week war on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on 1 May". This reference is presumably to President Ronald Reagan's proud declaration that America was "standing tall" after conquering Grenada, the nutmeg capital of the world, in 1983, preventing the Russians from using it to bomb the US. Bush, as Reagan's mimic, was free to declare - without concern for sceptical comment at home - that he had won a "victory in a war on terror [by having] removed an ally of al-Qaida" (8). It has been immaterial that no credible evidence was provided for the alleged link between Saddam Hussein and his bitter enemy Osama bin Laden and that the charge was dismissed by competent observers. Also immaterial was the only known connection between the victory and terror: the invasion appears to have been "a huge setback in the war on terror" by sharply increasing al-Qaida recruitment, as US officials concede (9).

The Wall Street Journal recognised that Bush's carefully staged aircraft carrier extravaganza "marks the beginning of his 2004 re-election campaign" which the White House hopes "will be built as much as possible around national-security themes". The electoral campaign will focus on "the battle of Iraq, not the war", chief Republican political strategist Karl Rove explained : the war must continue, if only to control the population at home (10).

Before the 2002 elections Rove had instructed party activists to stress security issues, diverting attention from unpopular Republican domestic policies. All of this is second-nature to the re cycled Reaganites now in office. That is how they held on to political power during their first tenure in office. They regularly pushed the panic button to avoid public opposition to the policies that had left Reagan as the most disliked living president by 1992, by which time he may have ranked even lower than Richard Nixon.

Despite its narrow successes, the intensive propaganda campaign left the public unswayed in fundamental respects. Most continue to prefer UN rather than US leadership in international crises, and by two to one prefer that the UN, rather than the US, should direct reconstruction in Iraq (11).

When the occupying coalition army failed to discover WMD, the US administration's stance shifted from absolute certainty that Iraq possessed WMD to the position that the accusations were "justified by the discovery of equipment that potentially could be used to produce weapons" (12). Senior officials then suggested a refinement in the concept of preventive war, to entitle the US to attack a country that has "deadly weapons in mass quantities". The revision "suggests that the administration will act against a hostile regime that has nothing more than the intent and ability to develop WMD" (13). Lowering the criteria for a resort to force is the most significant consequence of the collapse of the proclaimed argument for the invasion.

Perhaps the most spectacular propaganda achievement was the praising of Bush's vision to bring democracy to the Middle East in the midst of an extraordinary display of hatred and contempt for democracy. This was illustrated by the distinction that was made by Washington between Old and New Europe, the former being reviled and the latter hailed for its courage. The criterion was sharp: Old Europe consists of governments that took the same position over the war on Iraq as most of their populations; while the heroes of New Europe followed orders from Crawford, Texas, disregarding, in most cases, an even larger majority of citizens who were against the war. Political commentators ranted about disobedient Old Europe and its psychic maladies, while Congress descended to low comedy.

At the liberal end of the spectrum, the former US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, stressed the "very important point" that the population of the eight original members of New Europe is larger than that of Old Europe, which proves that France and Germany are "isolated". So it does, unless we succumb to the radical-left heresy that the public might have some role in a democracy. Thomas Friedman then urged that France be removed from the permanent members of the Security Council, because it is "in kindergarten, and does not play well with others". It follows that the population of New Europe must still be in nursery school, at least judging by the polls (14).

Turkey was a particularly instructive case. Its government resisted the heavy pressure from the US to prove its democratic credentials by following US orders and overruling 95% of its population. Turkey did not cooperate. US commentators were infuriated by this lesson in democracy, so much so that some even reported Turkey's crimes against the Kurds in the 1990s, previously a taboo topic because of the crucial US role in what happened, although that was still carefully concealed in the lamentations.

The crucial point was expressed by the deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who condemned the Turkish military because they "did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected" - that is they did not intervene to prevent the Turkish government from honouring near-unanimous public opinion. Turkey had therefore to step up and say, "We made a mistake - let's figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans" (15). Wolfowitz's stand was particularly informative because he had been portrayed as the leading figure in the administration's crusade to democratise the Middle East.

Anger at Old Europe has much deeper roots than just contempt for democracy. The US has always regarded European unification with some ambivalence. In his Year of Europe address 30 years ago, Henry Kissinger advised Europeans to keep to their regional responsibilities within the "overall framework of order managed by the US". Europe must not pursue its own independent course, based on its Franco-German industrial and financial heartland.

The US administration's concerns now extend as well to Northeast Asia, the world's most dynamic economic region, with ample resources and advanced industrial economies, a potentially integrated region that might also flirt with challenging the overall framework of world order, which is to be maintained permanently, by force if necessary, Washington has declared.


* Noam Chomsky is professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

(1) John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2002.

(2) Wall Street Journal, 27 January 2003.

(3) Michael Gordon, The New York Times, 18 March 2003.

(4) Los Angeles Times, 23 March 2003.

(5) The New York Times, 7 June 1991. Alan Cowell, The New York Times, 11 April 1991.

(6) The New York Times, 4 June 2003.

(7) Linda Rothstein, editor, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 2003.

(8) Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times, 2 May 2003; transcript, 2 May 2003.

(9) Jason Burke, The Observer, London 18 May 2003.

(10) Jeanne Cummings and Greg Hite, Wall Street Journal, 2 May 2003. Francis Clines, The New York Times, 10 May 2003.

(11) Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland, April 18-22.

(12) Dana Milbank, Washington Post, 1 June 2003.

(13) Guy Dinmore and James Harding, Financial Times, 3/4 May 2003.

(14) Lee Michael Katz, National Journal, 8 February 2003; Friedman, The New York Times, 9 February 2003.

(15) Marc Lacey, The New York Times, 7/8 May 2003.