Fw: ZNet Commentary / Noam Chomsky / Escaping Orthodoxies / Dec 31
hatchet.job at SPAMvirgin.net
Tue Jan 2 02:58:29 MST 2001
List members may be interested in this recent Z-Net mailing, particularly in
respect of the US State Department's views on Hitler and Mussolini Paul F
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Escaping Orthodoxies
Barsamian Interviews Chomsky Part 3
DB: Talk in concrete ways about liberating the mind from orthodoxies. Take for
example, humanitarian intervention.
NC: Humanitarian intervention is an orthodoxy, and its taken for granted that if
we do it, its humanitarian. The reason is because our leaders say so. But you
can check. For one thing, there's a history of humanitarian intervention. You
can look at it. And when you do, you discover that virtually every use of
military force is described as humanitarian intervention. I don't expect people
to have the time to go look at the casebooks of international law, but if you do
you find that yes, humanitarian intervention is near universal, if by that you
mean what leaders claim when they use force. The major recent academic study of
humanitarian intervention is by Sean Murphy, Humanitarian Intervention: The UN
in an Evolving World Order. He's now an editor of the American Journal of
International Law. He points out, correctly, that before the Second World War,
there was the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 that outlawed war. Between the
Kellogg-Briand Pact and the U.N. Charter in 1945, there were three major
examples of humanitarian intervention. One was the Japanese invasion of
Manchuria and north China. Another was Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, and a
third was Hitler's takeover of the Sudetenland. They were accompanied by quite
exalted and impressive humanitarian rhetoric, which as usual was not entirely
false. Even the most vulgar propaganda usually has elements of truth. In fact,
the propaganda was similar in its rhetoric to other so-called humanitarian interventions,
and about as plausible. Furthermore, here you have to look elsewhere. What you
have to do is look and see what was the U.S. reaction. Some of it is public, but
parts of it are from the internal record, which is now partially declassified.
The reaction is commonly called appeasement. But that's a little misleading,
because that makes it seem as if you're groveling before the tyrants. It doesn't
convey the fact that the reaction was actually approval and was rather
When it was critical, it was on very narrow grounds. So in the case of the
Japanese invasion of Manchuria and north China these are things I wrote about
over thirty years ago, because these were public records the official U.S.
reaction was, We don't like it, but we don't care, really, as long as American
interests in China, meaning primarily economic interests, are guaranteed. The
U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Grew, who was a very influential figure in Asian policy
in the Roosevelt Administration, in 1939, pretty late, ridiculed the idea that
the Japanese were big bullies and the Chinese were oppressed people. By then
there had been huge atrocities, the Nanking massacre and on and on. Grew said
the only real problem was that the Japanese were not protecting U.S. interests
in China. If they did that, it would be OK. At the same time Roosevelt's
Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, said that we could reach a modus vivendi with
Japan if they were to protect U.S. commercial interests in China. If they wanted
to massacre a couple of hundred thousand people in Nanking, its another story.
Same with Mussolini. There was extreme support. The State Department hailed
Mussolini for his magnificent achievements in Ethiopia and also, incidentally,
for his astonishing accomplishments in raising the level of the masses in Italy.
This is the late 1930s, several years after the invasion. Roosevelt himself
described Mussolini as that admirable Italian gentleman. In 1939 he praised the
fascist experiment in Italya's did almost everyone, its not a particular
criticism of Roosevelt and said it had been corrupted by Hitler, but other than
that it was a good experiment. How about Hitler's taking over the Sudetenland in
1938? One of Roosevelt's major advisors was A.A. Berle. He said that there's
nothing alarming about the takeover. It was probably necessary for the Austrian
Empire to be reconstituted under German rule, so its all right. The State
Department, internally, was much more supportive of Hitler, on interesting
grounds. He was a representative of the moderate wing of the Nazi Party,
standing between the extremes of right and left. In 1937 the European Division
of the State Department held that fascism must succeed or the dissatisfied
masses, with the example of the Russian Revolution before them, will swing to
the Left, joined by the disillusioned middle classes. That would be the real
tragedy. Notice this is the late 1930s. There's no concern about Russian
aggression. That's a typical remark. That's the way every monster is described,
a moderate standing between the extremes of right and left, and we have to
support him, or too bad. That's a famous remark of John F Kennedy's about
Trujillo reported by Arthur Schlesinger, the liberal historian and Kennedy aide.
Kennedy said something like, We dont like Trujillo. Hes a murderous gangster.
But unless we can be assured that there wont be a Castro, well have to support
Trujillo. We can never be assured that there wont be a Castro. Remember how
Castro was regarded at the time.
We know that from declassified records. Kennedy was going to focus on Latin
America. He had a Latin American mission, including Arthur Schlesinger, who
transmitted the conclusions of the mission to Kennedy. Of course they discussed
Cuba. Schlesinger said the problem of Cuba is the spread of the Castro idea of
taking matters into your own hands. He later explained that its an idea that has
a lot of appeal to impoverished and oppressed people all over Latin America who
face similar difficulties, oppression and misery and might be inspired by the
example of the Cuban revolution. So thats the Cuban threat. Schlesinger also
mentioned the Soviet threat. He said, Meanwhile the Soviet Union hovers in the
wings, offering development loans and presenting itself as a model for achieving
modernization in a single generation. So that's the Cuban threat and the Soviet
threat. You have to stop that. It was the same reason that the State Department
gave for supporting Hitler in the 1930s, and in fact just about every other
Case after case after case. The threat of a good example, or its sometimes
called the virus effect. The virus of independent nationalism might succeed and
inspire others. Actually, the war in Vietnam started the same way.
DB, I think; maybe check: There was a comment attributed to FDR about a Latin
American dictator, I think it was the elder Somoza. He may be an SOB, but he's
Thats falsely attributed, but it's the right idea.
DB: Speaking of Nazi Germany, Goebbels once said, It would not be impossible to
prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people
concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can
be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.
It's worth remembering where he got that idea. We ought to come back to
humanitarian intervention, because of course the fact that Hitler and Mussolini
and the Japanese fascists called it humanitarian intervention is not enough to
prove that other cases are not humanitarian intervention. It just raises some
questions that a serious person would want to look at. Goebbels got that idea,
as did Hitler, from the practice of the democracies. They were very impressed.
Hitler in particular talked about the successes of Anglo-American propaganda
during World War I and felt, not without reason, that that's partly why Germany
lost the war. It couldn't compete with the extensive propaganda efforts of the
democracies. Britain had a Ministry of Information, or some Orwellian term, the
purpose of which, as its leaders put it, was to control the thought of the
world, and in particular to control the thought of liberal American
intellectuals. Remember the circumstances. Britain had to get the U.S. into the
war somehow, or it wasn' t going to win. That meant it had to appeal to the
educated sectors in the U.S. and get them on its side, and they did. If you read
back, John Dewey's circle, I'm sorry to say, what they produced about the First
World War is very similar to the chorus of self-adulation that similar circles
produced during the bombing of Yugoslavia last year, full of praise for their
enlightenment. They were very pro-Wilson's war, and the population wasn't.
Wilson in fact was elected on a kind of pacifist program. Peace without victory,
was his slogan. He immediately tried to turn the country into raving warmongers,
which they did, through propaganda. But the educated sectors, especially the
progressives, the liberal, educated sector took great pride publicly, in The New
Republic, for example, the main journal, that this was the first war in history,
as they said, which was not due to military conquest or crass economic motives
but just for values and that had been led by the educated sectors who understood
this and brought the population to war. It was a new era in human history.
Incidentally, this is the same thing we heard last year in Yugoslavia. The first
war ever fought for principles and values. We are an enlightened state. There
was a huge chorus of self-praise. Not at all new, very similar to the First
At that time the educated sectors here were transmitting tales about Hun
atrocities, tearing arms off Belgian babies. Like most propaganda, there was
some element of truth to it, but it turned out that it was mostly fabrication.
In fact the picture wasn't pretty, but it was not what was being presented. One
of very few people who resisted was Randolph Bourne. He had been in Dewey's
circle and was more or less thrown out, barred from participation, because he
was telling the truth, what later was recognized to be the truth, about what the
war was really about and why Wilson was trying to get us into it. That was not
acceptable just as its not acceptable here, right now. In fact, the similarities
are very striking, as is the style, and intellectual and moral level, of the
defense of orthodoxy. For people who want to think about humanitarian
intervention, its worth looking at.
So the British had the Ministry of Information. The U.S. had the Committee on
Public Information, the Creel Commission, which was mostly liberals like Walter
Lippmann and Edward Bernays. The latter went on to found the public relations
industry. They succeeded. They were very impressed with their success in turning
a pacifist population very quickly into raving anti-German fanatics. It was real
hysteria about the Germans. It happened pretty effectively. A number of groups
were impressed. One group was the progressive intellectuals. Tha's the
background for the influential social and political theories that developed in
the 1920s, mostly from progressive circles. Its part of the founding of modern
political science and the public relations industry and the media. The new
insight the new art of democracy, in Lippmann's phrase is that we have ways, as
Bernays put it, of regimenting
the minds of men just as an army regiments their bodies, and we should do it.
Because were the good guys and smart guys and they're stupid and dumb, and
therefore we have to control them for their own good. And we can do it because
we have these marvelous new techniques of propaganda. It was honestly called
propaganda in those days. Bernays' book is called Propaganda. Lippmann's the
same. Harold Lasswell, Reinhold Niebuhr, it goes on and on. That's one group
that was impressed. Another group that was impressed was business leaders.
That's where you'd have the real explosion of the huge advertising and public
relations industry. And their leaders were again pretty frank. We have to impose
on people a philosophy of futility and ensure that they're focused on the
superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption. They have to try to
pursue what were called fancied wants, invented needs. We create the needs and
then get them to focus their attention on it. Then they don't bother us, they're
out of our hair. Its not hard to see the consequences years later. This wasn't
These ideas start with the Industrial Revolution, but there was a real upsurge
in the 1920s and since. These are the huge industries of domination and control.
Another group that was impressed was what became the Nazis, who recognized,
Hitler discusses this, I think it must be in Mein Kampf, that the Germans simply
couldn't compete with the Anglo-American propaganda. And next time, he says,
well be ready with our own propaganda. That's the
background of the Goebbels quote. So yes, they recognized it and they got it
from a good source, the democracies.
Incidentally, its not in the least surprising. It should be expected that its in
the democracies that these ideas would develop. Because in a democracy you have
to control peoples minds. You can't control them by force. There's a limited
capacity to control them by force, and since they have to be controlled and
marginalized, be spectators of action, not participants, as Lippmann put it, you
have to resort to propaganda. This was well understood and very self-conscious.
It was a very reasonable reaction.
You can trace it right back to the seventeenth century, the first democratic
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