Edward Herman, Brad Delong and Noam Chomsky

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 25 10:25:12 MDT 2003


My Very, Very Allergic Reaction To Brad Delong On Chomsky
by Edward S. Herman

July 24, 2003
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In his “Thoughts” on Chomsky, under the title “My Very,Very Allergic 
Reaction to Noam Chomsky: Khmer Rouge, Faurisson, Milosevic,”  Brad DeLong 
is long on name calling,  smears by selective choice of  decontextualized 
words and sentences, straightforward misrepresentation,  and 
numerous  assertions unsupported by evidence 
(http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/archives/000155.html). He is 
short on tolerance of  viewpoints that he doesn’t like and very short on 
just plain intellectual integrity. His preening self-regard and pomposity 
in straightening out Chomsky and his misguided “surprising number” of 
“followers” is also impressive.

In his first two paragraphs he makes the point that Chomsky’s admirers 
“form a kind of cult,” but no evidence is given supporting this insult, 
which is a familiar form of smear to denigrate people admiring someone with 
whom one disagrees. He then compares teaching such folks to teaching Plato 
to pigs. So his opening is pure name-calling.

In his next paragraph he tries to engage in substance, and this effort is 
worth a close look. He says: “Consider Chomsky’s claim that: ‘In the early 
1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the U.S. selected Bosnian 
Muslims as their Balkan clients
’ On its face this is ludicrous. When the 
United States selects clients for cynical great power reasons it selects 
strong clients—not ones whose unarmed men are rounded up and shot by the 
thousands. And Bosnian Muslims as a key to U.S. politico-military strategy 
in Europe? As Bismarck said more than a century ago, ‘There is nothing in 
the Balkans that is worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.’ It 
holds true today as well: the U.S, has no strategic or security interest in 
the Balkans that is worth the death of a single Carolinian fire-control 
technician. U.S. intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s was 
‘humanitarian’ in origin and intention (even if we can argue about its 
effect). Only a nut-boy loon would argue otherwise.”

The first substantive statement in this paragraph, that the United States 
always selects strong clients, is truly “ludicrous”: the United States 
supported the Nicaraguan contras, Savimbi’s UNITA in Angola, the little 
rag-tag forces in Nicaragua that it organized to invade Guatemala in 
1954,  Somoza’s Nicaragua, the Florida and Nicaragua-based invasion force 
for the Bay of Pigs, the remnants of Chiang Kai Shek’s defeated army in 
northern Burma following the victory of the communists in China  in 
1949,  Chiang’s Taiwan from 1949, the Persian Gulf Emirates, and many other 
similarly “strong clients.” The implication that because the Bosnian 
Muslims were shot in large numbers they couldn’t have been  U.S. clients is 
not only a non sequitur, it also flies in the face of massive evidence that 
they were U.S. clients, as any serious book on the subject makes clear 
(e.g., Lord David Owen’s Balkan Odyssey,  Susan Woodward’s Balkan Tragedy, 
or  Diana Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade).  This client status is not even 
controversial.  DeLong’s ignorance of this subject area is apparently close 
to complete, as he fails to note that our Bosnian clients also shot a lot 
of unarmed men, and that we, in collaboration with the Saudis and Bin Laden 
, ferried massive supplies and mujahadin troops into Bosnia (as described 
in detail in the Dutch report on Srebrenica) and bombed the Serbs on behalf 
of our Bosnian Muslim client in the lead-up to the Dayton agreement.

His next sentence about the Bosnian Muslims as “a key to U.S. 
politico-military strategy in Europe” misrepresents and therefore lies 
about Chomsky’s language—Chomsky didn’t say “key...in Europe,” he said 
merely that the U.S. selected the Bosnian Muslims as clients in the 
Balkans, a narrower statement. DeLong then gives his quote from Bismarck, a 
phony parade of  “learning” as we can’t know whether Bismarck was correct 
or whether he even believed what he said, and what was true a century back 
might not be true now.

DeLong then goes on to say that it is true today that the United States has 
no strategic or security interest in the Balkans. It goes without saying 
that he doesn’t offer evidence on this point or discuss contrary facts and 
views. Many analysts have pointed to: (1) the huge U.S. military base built 
in Kosovo, which must have some security interest function; (2)  the fact 
that the NATO intervention destroyed the one independent political body in 
Europe not integrated into the Western political economy--Yugoslavia--and 
facilitated that integration; (3) the importance of the Caspian oil area 
and the interest of Western oil companies in possible Balkans transport 
routes; (4)  the link between the Kosovo War and the April 1999 celebration 
of the 50th anniversary of the birth of NATO with an imminent NATO military 
triumph; (5) the possible interest of the United States in reasserting its 
domination of NATO by taking the lead in the Balkans struggles; and (6) the 
admissions by Clinton, Blair, and Defense Secretary Cohen that the 
“credibility of NATO” was a prime reason for the bombing.

But DeLong knows that all this is irrelevant because the U.S. intervention 
was based on “humanitarian” motives!  This is one of those higher patriotic 
truths that DeLong  grasps by intuition. But although Clinton and Blair 
were proceeding on the basis of humanitarian motives, you can be sure 
DeLong will not stop to explain why both of these humanitarians were 
consistent supporters of, and arms suppliers to, both Suharto and the 
Turkish regime that was ethnic-cleansing Kurds throughout the 1990s. The 
same Blair who fought for humanitarian ends with Clinton in 1999 also 
claims to have been fighting for  humanitarian ends with Bush in Iraq in 
2003. I wonder if DeLong buys that patriotic line now, or is it only a 
highly moral Democrat like Clinton who will pursue humanitarian ends? I 
should mention that  Andrew Bacevich’s  recent book, American Empire, 
highly praised in the mainstream, asserts strongly that the United States 
had no humanitarian concerns at all in its Balkans war-making and that 
Clinton’s resort to force was merely to establish “the cohesion of NATO and 
the credibility of American power.”

So who is the “nut-boy”—Chomsky, or the man who misrepresents his target’s 
language, regurgitates foolish patriotic truths, displays abysmal ignorance 
on matters on which he writes as if an authority, and rules out evidence 
and rational discourse on these matters?

After this proof  of Chomsky as a nut-boy, DeLong has a few lines on what 
Chomsky admirers say when he presents them with that nut-boy phrase on 
Bosnia. No quotes from the admirers, just alleged paraphrases, with words 
like “Oil pipelines!” with an exclamation point, but no serious analyses or 
answers—just cute little putdowns.

One paraphrased reply mentions Chomsky’s “insights.” DeLong then goes on as 
follows: “Insights? Like his writing a preface for a book by Robert 
Faurisson,” which he follows up with selective partial quotes like that 
Chomsky said that Faurisson seemed to be “a relatively apolitical liberal” 
and that  Chomsky admitted to “no special knowledge” of the topic Faurisson 
dealt with  and hadn’t read anything by Faurisson “that suggests that the 
man was pro-Nazi.”

Neither Chomsky nor his ”followers” ever claimed these phrases were 
“insights”—that is the trick of  a smear artist, who searches for 
vulnerable language in the target, takes the words out of context, and 
elevates them to supposed “insights.” Note too the illogic—it was an 
alleged “insight” to write a “preface.” Note also the dishonesty in not 
mentioning that the preface was only written as an independent avis and 
inserted in the book as a preface without Chomsky’s prior approval (see 
Chomsky’s “The Right to Say It,” The Nation, Feb. 28, 1981: 
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/8102-right-to-say.html).

Most important in this phase of the smear enterprise is DeLong’s refusal to 
recognize that the avis was solely a defense of  the right of free speech 
and that from beginning to end that was all the struggle was about for 
Chomsky. It was certainly not about Faurisson’s views or in any way a 
defense of those views, and DeLong fails to mention that Faurisson was 
dismissed from his job teaching French literature because the authorities 
claimed they couldn’t defend him against his enemies, and he was brought to 
court not for his political views  but for “Falsification of History” (in 
the matter of gas chambers) and for “allowing others” to use his work for 
nefarious ends. This was a major civil liberties case in which, for perhaps 
the first time in the West, a court decided that the state has a right to 
determine historical truth.

full: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=3948


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