World Order Old and New

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In WORLD ORDER OLD AND NEW Noam Chomsky, like a Biblical prophet, decries hypocrisy and all it cloaks: greed, vice, murder, corruption, rape, violence, and wars of oppression. He is also like a Biblical prophet in that the central target of his careful and accurate invective is his own tribe, the Americans (more specifically, the very rich ones) and in that although he is dismissed, when listened to at all, with various epithets (academic, left-wing), the epithets do not seem fitting when reading his words. He could just as well be called a realist and a conservative. Morality and a sense of right and wrong are what underlie his argument; they are often considered conservative values. Mustering a library’s worth of facts and documentation, with a scholar’s patience and with levelheaded rage, Chomsky debunks the mythology about recent world events that the mainstream media presents, and, in its place, establishes a clear and stark picture of what the world’s powers are accomplishing and why.

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For example, why was no voice raised among the free press of the United States to point out that the U.S. invasion of Panama was largely the same in purpose, means, destruction, and illegality as Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait? In both cases, a large, powerful nation invaded a small, weak nation that had a valuable resource. In both cases, the leadership of the country was deposed so that a leadership willing to follow the orders of the invading force might be installed. In both cases, bombing and gunfire racked up considerable “collateral damage.” The news-speak standard that makes one of these actions bad and the other good is, Chomsky argues, that Iraq’s invasion did not serve the interests of the powers that be, and that the American invasion of Panama did.

Similarly, oil-rich Indonesia can continue its slaughter in East Timor without a news report. Frank and open connections between the U.S. government and military forces that murder and torture in Central America are not named as such. These and other mystifying lapses in the media’s attention are convincingly explained as a part of a larger pattern: the not-so-new world order. Relentlessly realistic about the behavior of empire, Chomsky notes at one point: “It is difficult to imagine that the world would be a better place if some other country were to have had a comparable position of power.”

Much of the book is devoted to a history of recent developments in what, in perfectly Orwellian terminology, is often referred to as the Mideast peace process. Chomsky avails himself of public record—voting and proposals in the United Nations, government documents, and news reports—to construct a telling portrait of the great powers in the United States and Israel trembling with rage and fear whenever peace threatens to break out. It was only through skillful and tireless maneuvering that they have been able, most of the time, to keep it from happening. Readers may find some of the reasons for this maneuvering quite revelatory. This information alone makes the book worth reading.

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