19 January 2014 **** Front Page
By Tapani Lausti
Noam Chomsky and Laray Polk, Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe. Seven Stories Press 2013.
The United States has recently made a lot of noise about supposed security threats posed to the US by China. The latest crisis follows China 's decision to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) extending some 400 miles from the coast into the East China Sea. Beijing said the zone was aimed at halting intrusive military maneuvers by US spy planes over its territory. As analyst Finian Cunningham points out, the US has been conducting military flights over Chinese territory for decades without giving Beijing the slightest notification.
The US immediately sent two B52 bombers into the air space without giving the notification of flight paths required by Beijing. American arrogance has a history, as Cunningam points out: “Back in April 2001, a Chinese fighter pilot was killed when his aircraft collided with a US spy plane. The American crew survived, but the incident sparked a diplomatic furor, with Beijing saying that it illustrated Washington 's unlawful and systematic violation of Chinese sovereignty.”
In this book of interviews by Laray Polk, Chomsky points out that not long ago, the US was conducting naval excercises in the waters off China. Chomsky says: “China was protesting particularly over the plans to send an advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, into those waters, which, according to China, has the capacity to hit Beijing with nuclear weapons — and they didn't like it.” (p. 47)
Chomsky wryly comments: “So if China is trying to control waters off its coasts, that's aggression and it's harming our security.” He adds: “The basic assumption is “We own the world,” and any exercise of sovereignty within our domains, which is most of the world, is aggression.” (pp. 47-48)
Chomsky is good at pointing out reality in this upside-down world. For instance, the “officially” approved version of history tells that the industrial revolution was a natural process which changed the world for better with all the material comforts it brought. Reality was different: “In the early days of the American Industrial Revolution, working people bitterly condemned the industrial system into which they were being driven as an assault on their fundamental values.” (pp. 66-67) In England people were horrified by the acquisition for private use land which used to be common property which guaranteed livelihood for all.
After many ups and downs in the system's ability to keep working people in a reasonable state of satisfaction, it has now started a decline which is probably irreversable. People are losing their faith in the institutons which were supposed to guarantee a democratic process.
Chomsky comments: “The trust in institutions is extremely low, and, unfortunately that has some resonances rather similar to late Weimar Germany – plenty of differences, but there are some similarities that are worth concern.” (p. 65)
In our increasingly dangerous world, there are two questions which tend to be ignored or belittled in public discussions: the possibility of nuclear war and approaching climate catastrophe.
Many people seem to think that the threat of nuclear war is not real because surely world leaders aren't that stupid. Chomsky points out that actually nuclear war has come “unpleasantly close” many times since 1945. And things are getting worse. There doesn't seem to be any real will to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There is also a possibility of a dirty bomb, in New York , for instance, Chomsky notes.
On many occassions recently Chomsky has pointed out the stark difference in attitudes towards climate change between rich and poor nations. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, The country some time ago held a People's Summit which called for “a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, an appeal voiced by indigenous people worldwide and a challenge to the predatory and lemminglike pursuit of short-term gain by the rich.” (p. 82)
Chomsky warns of serious consequences if there are not sufficient attempts to tackle the climate issue: “Not only in Bolivia, but worldwide, indigenous communities (“first nations,” “aboriginal,” “tribal,” whatever they call themselves) have been in the forefront of recognizing that if there is to be hope of decent survival, we must learn to organise our societies and lives so that care for “the commons” — the common possessions of all of us — must become a very high priority, as it has been in traditional societies, quite often.” (p. 83)
Tackling the looming catastrophe is made more difficult by the fact that US society is run by a highly class-conscious business elite who don't care about the destructive consequences of their short-term pursuit of interests. Their well-funded propaganda institutions make a realistic debate about the dangers ahead more difficult.
Visit the archive: Noam Chomsky, Gabriel Kolko, Phyllis Bennis, John Pilger, United States, Environment, International politics, NATO
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