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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now says Assad now best for Syria

Maybe Noam Chomsky is getting senile. Perhaps that is the kindest thing I can say. In the Syria section of his hour long interview on Democracy Now, Wednesday, 26 April 2017, he would capture a glimmer of truth here and there, but he failed to put those pieces together into a coherent pattern, so instead he fell back on well-wore talking points of the "anti-imperialist" Left and gave aid and comfort to the killers when all he really wants to do is help those fleeing the war.

Host Amy Goodman asked him about the recent sarin attack at Khan Sheikhoun and Trump's response:
But, well, there are some things we know for sure. There was a serious chemical weapons attack. Nobody doubts that. It’s plausible that it was the Syrian government, which does raise some questions. It’s not so obvious why the Assad regime would have carried out a chemical warfare attack at a moment when it’s pretty much winning the war, and the worst danger it faces is that a counterforce will enter to undermine its progress. So it does raise some questions. It also—even though maybe you can think up some reason why the Assad regime, which is a murderous, brutal regime, might have done it, there’s even another question as to why the Russians would have allowed it. Now, remember, this is a—the air base is a joint Russian-Syrian base. Russia has plenty of clout in Syria. And for them, it’s a total disaster. They have global concerns, not just local concerns in Syria. So there are some concerns.
He begins by acknowledging what everybody, including Putin and Assad, agrees on: There was a chemical attack on 4 April 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun. He doesn't say a word about the victims, but instead jumps straight into the "Cui Bono" [who benefits] defense of Assad so popular with the Russians and the rest of the "anti-imperialist" crowd. "But why would he risk using sarin now when he's winning? It just doesn't make sense!" They made the same as argument in 2013, and Assad's still winning after all these years.

Near the end of this paragraph he says "Russia has plenty of clout in Syria," and that is quite the understatement. As I reported in A valuable admission: Russia controls Syria & Putin runs the war, on Monday, it is the Russian military command that is running the war. No Syrian air force plane flies without its permission. All military operations are controlled by a single command. That is the way armies do things. In the Vietnam War, it was the US command. It ran the South Vietnamese, Korean, Australian, all the armies, under a single command. In Syria today, that command is Russian. Chomsky acknowledged it was "a joint Russian-Syrian base." Who does he think runs the base? Two armies don't share a military base the way two people share an apartment. There will be a single unified command. This sarin attack almost certainly wasn't a renegade operation carried out by Assad on his own authority. If Chomsky thinks Assad has too much to lose from the chance of western intervention to risk it, he has everything to lose should Putin disapprove and pull the plug. Assad is not that wreckless. This sarin attack was done under Putin's authority.

This means that any "Cui Bono" analysis should be applied to Putin, not Assad, and makes Chomsky's "question as to why the Russians would have allowed it," a very good one. Then he answers that question by implying they had no motive, "for them, it’s a total disaster," without any further explanation or analysis even while acknowledging "They have global concerns." Think man! Take the next step.

Instead he diverts to the latest en vogue "anti-imperialist" theory of how Assad didn't do it, the Postol pipe dream:
And there are further concerns. There has been—the White House did put out a careful—you know, a justification, an intelligence report, to explain and account for, showing why they had absolute confidence that it was a Syrian government attack. This was analyzed closely by a very serious and credible analyst, Theodore Postol, professor at MIT, who has a long record of highly successful, credible analysis. He’s a highly regarded strategic analyst and intelligence analyst. And he gave a pretty devastating critique of the White House report. You might—you can pick it up online and take a look at it. So there certainly are some questions.
Just as he doesn't spare word one on the suffering of the sarin victims, he never addresses their claims as to who done it. Instead he takes on the White House Report, presumably because he, like Postol, has elected the Trump administration as the best champions of the Syrians in Khan Sheikhoun. I've just torn through Ted Postol's thesis in Sincerely yours, Theodore A. Postol, 26 April 2017, and I turn on Democracy Now to hear Chomsky singing his praises like a movie poster:
"analyzed closely" "a very serious and credible analyst"
"professor at MIT"
"long record of highly successful, credible analysis"
"highly regarded strategic analyst and intelligence analyst"
"a pretty devastating critique"
This is how all these Left celebs sell themselves and each other. They all claim great legacies which they are selling for a song, and they ask us to trust them on Syria because of what they have done in the past. Noam Chomsky knows the Assad regime is a criminal regime that is murdering it people wholesale, he doesn't think we should do anything to stop the murders, but he is strongly critical of how little we do to help the survivors. Truly he treats Assad's assault on his people as if it was a natural disaster in which all we can do is help the victims. Even in the case of forest fires, we don't just help the victims, we try to put out the fire!
That there’s—that Syria is capable of a monstrous act like that, the Syrian government, that much is not in doubt. But one question that arises is: Before doing something, could you find out what happened? OK? I mean, let’s have an inquiry, take a look and see what in fact actually happened.
Sure, plenty of time for an inquiry. It's not like people are dying everyday. Noam Chomsky, Theodore A. Postol and Amy Goodman don't treat Syria as a crime in progress because it's not happening to them. That is why they have all the time in the world for a proper inquiry. That is why they demand proof beyond a reasonable doubt before they are willing to do anything to stop it.

Chauvinism colors Noam Chomsky's view of Assad's opposition, as does his reliance on Assad mouthpieces like Patrick Cockburn. He sees all of Assad's opposition as jihadist terrorists. He has bought the Putin/Assad mindmelt on that score:
If reporters go into the rebel-held areas and don’t do what they’re told, you know, get your head cut off. Patrick Cockburn and others have written about this. You just can’t seriously report from those areas.
This is a great insult to thousands of Syrian revolutionaries. Noam Chomsky should apologize.
When Noam Chomsky talks about Trump's response, he reveals a chemical weapons fetish common to many western observers of the Syrian conflict:
Well, apparently, the Tomahawk missiles were targeting a part of the airfield that doesn’t seem to be used. And, in fact, the next day, planes were taking off. And, in fact, the village that was attacked by the chemical weapons has been even more heavily attacked by straight bombing from the Assad government after the 59 Tomahawk missiles.
What I want you to notice here is that Noam Chomsky has no trouble assigning blame for the conventional bombing of Khan Sheikhoun on the day after the chemical attack. No need for an international investigation in that case. And he likely won't dispute that it has been Russian and Syrian planes that have been bombing the town before 4 April 2017, but the chemical attack, you can't prove he did the chemical attack. Most likely the rebels gassed their own people.

As he goes on to talk about Trump's reasons for the cruise missile attack, we can see that he almost gets it, but can't quite connect the dots:
So whatever they were intended to do doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Syria. I suspect that what they were intended to do was pretty much what you described, to shore up Trump’s image as—I think it was Nikki Haley at the U.N., said, "There’s a new sheriff in town." So now we’ve got Wyatt Earp, you know, pulling out his gun and getting rid of the bad guys. No more of this soft stuff. So, it was probably an attempt to shore up that image.
Yes, these events took place in Syria but they really have little to do with Syria, and he gets that the retaliatory strike was an attempt to shore up Trump's image, but he doesn't take the next step. If he did he would note that one of the major problems with Trump's image at this particular time is his perceived ties with Russia, so staging a falling out with Putin over the sarin attack was a big part of shoring up his image. If Chomsky thought about the investment Putin has made into the Trump presidency, he would see why it might be in Putin's interest as well, and Putin had the power to order the sarin attack. This is how the cui bono question should be addressed in this case. Chomsky may want to re-think his conclusion that for Russia "it’s a total disaster" from the point of view of their "global concerns."

With regards to Syria, he sees it's a terrible catastrophe, but he doesn't think much can be done about it because the Russian's have nukes:
In Syria, it’s a terrible catastrophe. And, you know, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that can be done about it. There are some things that can be done. I mean, the idea that you can send in the Marines and bomb and so on, that has a small problem. If you do, you probably set off a nuclear war, and not only is Syria destroyed, the rest of Syria, but the rest of the world, too.
This is a theme that seems to be gaining currency among the "Home of the Brave" Left; We dare not do anything serious to oppose atrocities committed by a client of Russia because it has nukes. I suppose if Chomsky was in the Soviet Union or China while the United States was creating a holocaust in Vietnam, he would have opposed any military support from those countries for Vietnamese independence because the US has nukes. "You can't do that!"
But there are things that could be done, not what we would like to see. You know, it would be nice to see: "Here’s a solution that will make everybody happy and end the destruction." But those just don’t seem on the possible agenda, because—for all kinds of reasons, including the threat of a very serious war if Russia and the United States don’t act in a high level of concert in pursuing whatever they may be doing.
What a dark vision of the future he gives us. We may have to give up what we would like to see, things like freedom, justice and democracy, while our hope for peace rests on the two major imperialist powers acting "in a high level of concert in pursuing whatever they may be doing."

Sorry Noam, that's not the future I have planned for my children.

What passes for an anti-war protest in Los Angeles these days.
Oppose the White Helmet rescue worker but not Putin's killers.
To quote our esteemed President Donald Trump, "Sad!"

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya


  1. Don't forget that Putin gave Bashar Assad the famous excuse in 2013 "I'd have to be crazy to use CW's with U.N. Inspectors right here" as Putin did not veto their deployment to investigate three earlier gas attacks.
    "....one of the major problems with Trump's image at this particular time is his perceived ties with Russia, so staging a falling out with Putin over the sarin attack was a big part of shoring up his image."
    Liberals just don't get it, vapidly cheering the big rat Bernie Sanders so loudly demanding no punishment at all for Assad in 2013, daring to use the expense as the reason.

  2. Thank you for sharing this common sense blog. The Left needs to recognize that Putin/Assad are the enemy of decency and democracy and support all legitimate resistance to those two. The free state of Rojava is arguably the only fully democratic socialist state in the Middle East. They deserve our support.

  3. that is a really shoddy piece of writing. Noam Chomsky may or may not have got some things wrong. But her very clearly does NOT support Assad. To say he does is ridiculous.