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A simple request

My friend Danny Postel, senior editor of OpenDemocracy, calls my attention to this recent interview with Noam Chomsky in the New Statesman.  Specifically, to this passage:

“Remember, the Milosevic Tribunal began with Kosovo, right in the middle of the US-British bombing in late ‘99 . . . Now if you take a look at that indictment, with a single exception, every charge was for crimes after the bombing.

“There’s a reason for that. The bombing was undertaken with the anticipation explicit [that] it was going to lead to large-scale atrocities in response. As it did. Now there were terrible atrocities, but they were after the bombings. In fact, if you look at the British parliamentary inquiry, they actually reached the astonishing conclusion that, until January 1999, most of the crimes committed in Kosovo were attributed to the KLA guerrillas.

“So later they added charges [against Milosevic] about the Balkans, but it wasn’t going to be an easy case to make. The worst crime was Srebrenica but, unfortunately for the International Tribunal, there was an intensive investigation by the Dutch government, which was primarily responsible—their troops were there—and what they concluded was that not only did Milosevic not order it, but he had no knowledge of it. And he was horrified when he heard about it. So it was going to be pretty hard to make that charge stick.”

OK, this kind of thing really has to stop.  Now.

For three reasons: one, because it is a pack of lies, and as a wise man once said, the job of the intellectual is to tell the truth and expose lies.

Two, because the defend-Milosevic crew has been getting more and more outlandish and bizarre every year, and, like unto loony LaRouchies, they have sometimes been discovered messing with legitimate progressive organizations.  If real progressives don’t speak out on this, it won’t be long before we’ll be hearing that poor Slobodan cried bitter tears of sorrow when he heard about the massacre of Srebrenica, even though it never really happened in the first place.  And, insult upon injury, we’ll be hearing about this from so-called “leftists.”

Three, because of Chomsky’s unique stature as the go-to dissident American intellectual in interviews like this, which gives these extraordinary claims the stamp of respectability for one wing of the left.  If Chomsky were to refuse to sign on to this nonsense, the defend-Milosevic crew would consist primarily of third-rate party apparatchiks like Ed Herman and Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti, with their little “Srebrenica Denial Research Group”, churning out regular attacks on what Johnstone calls the “Srebrenica mourning cult,” and we could place them on the shelf next to the handful of people who have spent the last decade and a half muttering to themselves darkly about how the Trilateral Commission teamed up with the Rothschilds and Queen Elizabeth to spread lies about their man Slobodan, who was only trying to carry on the socialist project in a brutal neoliberal world. 

For the record: at first I opposed NATO war in the Balkans—and then, as I learned more about the conflict (and, crucially, as I heard more from the people I’ve named above, particularly Johnstone, who eventually convinced me that she was, on a charitable reading, insane), I decided that people like Ian Williams and Danny Postel were to be trusted, and people like Herman and Johnstone were not.  From Williams’ review of a collection of essays edited by Tariq Ali:

Opposition to a war can unite the strangest people. In the USA, opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosova united on the same platforms isolationist Republican conservatives, pacifists, Serb nationalists, Stalinists and Trotskyists who both thought that Miloševic was the last living socialist, and a lot of people who thought that anything that the US did was wrong. . . .

There were, it has to be said, some honourable exceptions, who realized that Belgrade’s treatment of the Kosovars was insupportable, but felt that the cure was worse than the ailment. Some thought that the KLA should be helped in their war of liberation, but that there should be no foreign intervention. Indeed, even many vociferous supporters of intervention were worried about the international legal implications of taking action without UN approval, and also about the form of the intervention. High-level bombing increased risks of civilian casualties in order to save politically inconvenient military casualties for the US, and the refusal until the final stages to consider ground troops, almost certainly prolonged the war and allowed Belgrade to go ahead with its atrocities. . . .

It is clear that the US was dragged unwillingly and half-heartedly into the Balkans, and that on this occasion it was European leaders who dragged it in. It is also true that if the US had made a credible threat of action at any time almost from the shelling of Vukovar onwards, let alone in Kosova, it would have stopped Miloševic in his tracks. Indeed the US position has consistently been the very reverse of Teddy Roosevelt’s: it has been to shout loudly and to carry a light-weight olive branch rather than a big stick. The strident Madeleine Albright cries ‘wolf’ again and again abroad, while Clinton and the Congress at home worry about the political costs of a single casualty. . . .

Some contributors, correctly, accuse Clinton and other Western leaders of hypocrisy. ‘Where were they in Rwanda, in Turkish Kurdistan, in East Timor?’, they want to know. I want to know what they think should be done when war criminals carry out ethnic cleansing? Should they be allowed to carry on because Russia wants the freedom to commit mayhem in Chechnya, protected by its veto? Should the American use of the veto to protect Israel exonerate Russia and inhibit anybody else from ever attempting to intervene?

. . . The intervention was indeed carried out ineptly. The diplomacy beforehand was totally inadequate. The US is indeed a very bad global citizen. All this is true. But war criminals should not be allowed impunity.

As they say on blogs, read the whole thing.  And then read this for good measure, because Williams really deserves a far wider readership among liberals and progressives.

But you know, you don’t have to have supported war in the Balkans to know what’s wrong with the defend-Milosevic crew. Bill Weinberg didn’t support that war, but he’s still properly outraged at Ed Herman’s post-Balkans project of clearing good Slobodan’s name (and check out Weinberg’s demolitions of Herman’s apologetics in comments).  And Eric Gordy’s devastating response to Johnstone is worth a good long look, too, not least for the incredibly detailed exchange with Marko Attila Hoare in comments.  The best single source on the strange culture of the Milosevic cult is Balkan Witness (edited by Roger Lippman), which offers, among other things, an extensive (though quite depressing) compilation of essays on the history of war-crimes deniers and apologists for Milosevic.

There are otherwise intelligent people who believe that Chomsky’s remarks on the Balkans, echoing and echoed by Herman, Johnstone, Parenti and company, constitute the properly “left” or “progressive” position on the matter.  Quite apart from the profound moral incoherence this entails, requiring such leftists and progressives to engage in the most extraordinary circumlocutions and ideological contortions, it also licenses all kinds of ancillary mischief in its wake, like this vile piece of work from a book I’ve seen advertised on a number of liberal and progressive blogs.  So I have a simple request.  Whether you supported war in Kosovo or opposed it, please, please let’s leave the Milosevic apologetics and the war-crimes denials to the fascists. 

***

UPDATE, June 22Dennis Perrin, who’s smart enough to know better, accuses me of practicing “guilt by association” in linking Chomsky to Herman, Johnstone, and Parenti.  Please see comment 58 for my preternaturally patient rebuttal of this charge.  Dennis also asks, searchingly, “Why Serbia? Why now, when Milosevic is dead, the matter is pretty much at rest, whatever one thinks of it, and there are other, more pressing issues to deal with (I’m thinking here of that Iraq thing)?” and answers, “Who the fuck really knows.” Can anyone help out Dennis on this one, say, by directing him to the June 19, 2006 dateline of the New Statesman article?  Perhaps we can get him to ask Professor Chomsky this question.  At least we are reassured that Ed Herman is “a very soft-spoken, polite guy”!  Not at all the kind of person who would accuse longtime lefty Bill Weinberg of employing a rightwing smear tactic, or who would decidate years of his life to arguing that only a couple of hundred people died in Srebrenica.  As for the rest of Perrin’s remarks about me, they are beneath him—or should be.

UPDATE, June 23Ah, Dennis, Dennis, I didn’t answer the points in your first post because you didn’t actually make any.  But thanks for reading all the comments here, and responding to them on your blog.  It’s a shame you don’t permit comments yourself.  Anyway, I honestly don’t want to argue with you, personally, about people you consider your friends.  I just want to let you know that when you write, “I suspect that [Berube] also believes that, far from being ‘horrified,’ Slobo was gleeful about the carnage, perhaps dancing a jig when the first casualty figures rolled in,” you’re quite wrong.  I don’t care what Slobo felt.  I do, however, object to anyone who tries to minimize his role in Srebrenica and the eight long years of ethnic cleansing prior to the Kosovo war, for precisely the same reason I would object to anyone who tries to claim that Bush and Rumsfeld do not, in the end, have command authority for what happens in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.  Whenever someone says, “not only did Bush not order torture, but he had no knowledge of it. And he was horrified when he heard about it,” I consider him or her a Bush apologist—or, at the very least, someone who provides cover for Bush apologists.  Wouldn’t you?

Posted by on 06/22 at 09:17 AM
  1. Thanks for the link to Weinberg’s writing, Michael. Pogo’s done some damned excellent journalism for longer than some of your readers have been alive — he did some writing on our successful campaign to keep ROTC off the Buffalo State campus in 1979-80, for instance — and deserves a lot more notoriety than he now enjoys.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/22  at  11:03 AM
  2. Yeah, I should have put in a big pitch for him as well as Ian.  So:  I second the motion.  Lots of good stuff of his on that Z, too.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  11:18 AM
  3. This blog entry is typical of the NATO-loving, class-teaching, book-writing pseudo-left. As usual, you leave out important historical details. When Milosovic wept over the massacres, which did not happen, it was because he recognized their historical necessity in preserving the nationalized ukelele industry. The Western imperialists had been longing to absorb that industry for ages, and the only thing standing in their way was “the Castro of the Balkans,” a hero you slander.

    You would undertand this if you were not a class-teaching, book-writing NATO lover. Which you are, and this just proves it.

    Posted by Scott McLemee  on  06/22  at  11:55 AM
  4. NATO-loving software corrupted the correct spelling of our great hero, Milosevic.

    Damn you, imperialists! I hate you so much.

    Posted by Scott McLemee  on  06/22  at  12:01 PM
  5. I never unserstood when Brad Delong would go off on Chomsky on his blog. But after looking at all the evidence you provide here I think that his moral compass has broken. Seems it rusted away when some fungus marxius reductionubea got at it.

    I guess it’s ok.
    We don’t need a progressive “King” to represent us.
    After all he was crowned by our ennemies.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  12:06 PM
  6. Just to go back to the starting point of the post for a minute, I read the interview differently to the way you read it. There is always a problem with printed interviews, where phrasing can be loose, but I read it like this:

    “The worst crime [for which the Serbs were responsible] was Srebrenica but, unfortunately for the International Tribunal, there was an intensive investigation by the Dutch government, which was primarily responsible [for the investigation]--their troops were there--and what they concluded was that not only did Milosevic not order it, but he had no knowledge of it.”

    So it’s not Chomsky saying the Dutch did it, or even Chomsky saying Milosevic didn’t do it, but Chomsky saying that the Dutch concluded that Milosevic didn’t do it.

    Posted by tom s.  on  06/22  at  12:24 PM
  7. The NATO-loving, class-teaching, book-writing pseudo-left!  Brilliant, Scott, brilliant.  Thank you for that.  I just hope there’s a place for us in the tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show.  And I want a Café Press t-shirt, too.

    And speaking of imperialist software, NATO drones have prevented me from linking correctly to Bill Weinberg’s ZNet archive.  I’ve copied the url exactly—five times now—and still it takes you to an “error” page.  So if you go here and then click on “All by Weinberg” on the right sidebar, you will defeat NATO’s misdirection campaign.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  12:27 PM
  8. Tom S., I’ll just repeat here what I said chez Brad DeLong:

    You know, when I first read the interview, I read this just as you do: Chomsky, I thought, was claiming that the Dutch were responsible for the investigation, not for the massacre. Then I recalled that there was, indeed, a report in 2002 that blamed the Dutch government for failing to prevent the massacre.

    It was quite a controversial report, with regard to both the Dutch peacekeepers and the alleged innocence of Milosevic. But it seems quite clear to me that Chomsky is citing this report with full approval, not only to clear Milosevic’s name but also to insist that there were no Serbian atrocities prior to the NATO bombing.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  12:51 PM
  9. A couple of years ago I had what turned out to be the grave misfortune of hearing Michael Parenti speak in Berkeley as part of a speakers’ series on “How I bacame an activist” or “My life as an activist”, something like that.

    So I went to see Parenti remembering having liked some of what I’d read from him in the past. Well, it turned out the main focus of his talk centered on what an absolute Peach Slobodan was, and how all this nasty talk about him is only because he (Milosevic) is a self-described Communist. Over and over again Parenti stated it was only the “Communist” lable that was the cause for all the Milosevic bashing. I could not believe what I was hearing. I thought I was going to die.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  01:46 PM
  10. Chomsky and Chums are victims of a certain type of madness. The very same madness that afflicts Horowitz. Is there a cure and is it covered by the new prescription drug benefit?

    Posted by Roxanne  on  06/22  at  02:20 PM
  11. When I read the article, it didn’t sound to me like Chomsky was defending Milosevic.  In the context of the New Stateman interview, Chomsky is making the point that it would be easier to prosecute Bush II’s administration for war crimes than it would to prosecute Milosevic.  Whatever we might think about this claim, or the desirability of prosecuting Bush II for war crimes, I find it hard to interpret that claim of Chomsky’s as a defense of or love for Milosevic, unless Chomsky has decided to start supporting someone who he himself admits is--apart from the question of whether Milosevic knew specifically about Srebrenica--responsible for “terrible atrocities.”

    Re: Milosevic’s knowledge of Srebrenica, it sounds like the Dutch report says No and the newer IWPR document suggests Yes.  Given that I know, basically, nothing about the details of the Srebrenica massacre, all I can do at this point is read the primary source documents myself, not declare my full faith and confidence in one commentator over another as if I had any clue what I was talking about.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  02:23 PM
  12. I checked the references embedded in Michael’s phrase, “because it is a pack of lies.” What do they have to say about Chomsky’s claims?

    (a) “if you take a look at that indictment, with a single exception, every charge was for crimes after the bombing.” Nothing in Michael’s sources addresses this claim.

    (b) “The bombing was undertaken with the anticipation explicit [that] it was going to lead to large-scale atrocities in response. As it did. Now there were terrible atrocities, but they were after the bombings.”

    Only one of the documents Michael cites addresses human rights violations before the NATO bombings.  That document alleges serious human rights violations, including willful killing of civilians.  I could find no case where the number of civilians killed in one of these violations exceeded twenty.  In contrast, Human Rights Watch has this to say about the pattern of atrocities.

    “The Serbian and Yugoslav government offensive in Kosovo that began on March 20, 1999, four days before NATO bombing commenced, was a methodically planned and well-implemented campaign. Key changes in Yugoslavia’s security apparatus in late 1998, including a new head of Serbian state security and a new chief of the Yugoslav Army General Staff, suggest that preparations for the offensive were being made at that time. In early 1999, a distinct military build-up in Kosovo and the arming of ethnic Serb civilians was observed. Police and army actions in late February and early March around Vucitrn (Vushtrri) and Podujevo (Podujeve), called “winter exercises” by the government, secured rail and road links north into Serbia.

    “Serious violations of international humanitarian law had accompanied all previous government offensives, but the period of the NATO bombing saw unprecedented attacks on civilians and the forced expulsion of more than 850,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. For the first time in the conflict, fighting moved from the rural areas to the cities.

    “While the government campaign seems to have been an attempt to crush the KLA, it clearly developed into something more once the NATO bombing began. With a major offensive underway, then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic took advantage of the NATO bombing to implement a plan to crush the rebels and their base of support among the population, as well as forcibly to expel a large portion of Kosovo’s Albanian population.”
    (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/kosovo/undword.htm)

    (c) “In fact, if you look at the British parliamentary inquiry, they actually reached the astonishing conclusion that, until January 1999, most of the crimes committed in Kosovo were attributed to the KLA guerrillas.” Nothing in Michael’s sources addresses this claim.

    (d) “the Dutch government … concluded … that not only did Milosevic not order [the Srebrenica Massacre], but he had no knowledge of it.” One of the sources Michael links addresses this issue. Here’s what it has to say:

    “Whether Milosevic knew that his police were sent to participate in the attack on the town is unclear. If he did, then the document will play a key role in proving genocide charges. If he didn’t, it will still provide important evidence of crimes against humanity. For the former, intent has to be established; for the latter responsibility is enough.” (http://www.globalpolicy.org/intljustice/tribunals/yugo/2003/0619milosreb.htm)

    This doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Chomsky’s position on the Balkan conflicts.  Broadly, you can put me in the “Milosevic-was-a-murderous-thug-and-I’m-glad-he’s-dead” crowd.  But if you’re going to call someone’s claims “a pack of lies” - damn, you’d better have the evidence.  If Michael has it, he didn’t use it here.

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  02:37 PM
  13. Chomsky’s statements about Milosevic are typically tortured and circuitious and vague to the extent that either side can read into them what they please.  He’s smart enough to know that Milosevic was a bad guy, but single-minded/crazy enough that it pains him to say so without somehow blaming the U.S. and/or global capitalism.

    p.s. Michael, just because you have all those extra accents in your name, doesn’t mean you have to go attaching them to “Café Press” as well.

    NATO-lover.

    Posted by Sean Carroll  on  06/22  at  02:44 PM
  14. It is typical for Chomsky defenders to focus on narrow technical defences of particular clauses.  I’d really encourage people to follow the links provided; for example,

    http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-Bosnia.htm

    Here is a direct quote from the interview:

    Chomsky: Which incidentally is very much like Srebrenica - which is universally condemned as genocide—Srebrenica was an enclave, lightly protected by UN forces, which was being used as a base for attacking nearby Serb villages. It was known that there’s going to be retaliation. When there was a retaliation, it was vicious. They trucked out all the women and children, they kept the men inside, and apparently slaughtered them. The estimates are thousands of people slaughtered.
    -----------------------------
    Noam was comparing this with Fallujah in the interview.  However, notice the moral blindness in that snippet.  The Muslims brought it on themselves, you see - the Serb massacre was simply retaliation against Muslim provocation.

    This is the man you’re defending.  This is what Michael is talking about.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  02:46 PM
  15. The broadest point that Michael is making here—that Milosevic apologetics are an abomination and do nothing but harm to the left—is entirely correct (though I remain a bit unconvinced about exactly what Chomsky is and is not saying in the quoted passage above...I’ll let others argue over that point).

    But I don’t think, Roxanne, that this is exactly the same kind of madness that afflicts Horowitz. I think, instead, it’s a leftwing version of the old the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend fallacy, combined with a dash of (in this case extraordinarily misplaced) romantic third-worldism.  There are few tendencies on the left I find more depressing than this kind of thing, and it crops up over and over again.  Gulf War I, for example, featured loud and proud Saddam apologists, led by Ramsey Clark and the Workers World Party front group that preceded ANSWER.

    Finally, I particularly appreciate Michael’s pointing out repeatedly that not all opposition to U.S. military intervention in the Balkans rested on such genocide denial and tyrant apologetics (though I’d be the first to admit that far too much of it, in practice, did).

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  02:53 PM
  16. Self-correction to previous post: Michael’s source on pre-bombing human rights violations includes Prezak, with 83 dead.

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  02:55 PM
  17. You’re observation has obvious merit, and frankly, it’s a point that often sticks with me about Chomsky. He fell into a similar position with a French holocaust denier some fifteen years ago or so (that time defending the right to free speech). I think in both cases, his point, as usual, considers that standards of universal treatment can’t always be applied in a world of non-standard situations; and yet; when special treatment becomes so pervasive and one-sided that it becomes the standard policy: we have real problems.

    There was an interesting article in the second-to-last issue of Harper’s that drew attention to a popular rhetorical position of our day. The author lovingly calls it the “stabbed in the back” position. The article describes a history of finger pointing and blaming that’s best characterized as an unfounded accusation of treachery. Though this article firmly blames the Right for using this position (“the godless protestors lost us the war”, “universities are churning out non-Americans”, and so on), I think this rhetorical position has taken on a power of its own that actually casts a shadow on the sincere observation, in this case, of double-standards.

    I think Chomsky suffers often from this. He may defend Milosevic on a principal of universality, as well as the odd holocaust denier, but I don’t recall hearing him pronounce any of these individuals “heroes”. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing him characterize anyone as a hero.  I havn’t read the interview, but I’ve heard him talk about Milosevic before, and his point is always that if we’ve going to crucify Milosevic, there’s a long list of leaders that should be sitting beside him instead of sitting in judgement of him.

    I’m always left with the impression that he would be more than happy to see Milosevic and Clinton and Bush, and a host of others sitting in a defendants box - together.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  06/22  at  02:56 PM
  18. I don’t think that an interview where they talked about anything and everything counts as an accurate representation of Chomsky’s position. In fact, it leads you to summarize it as: “there were no atrocities prior to the NATO bombing”, whereas what he says is: there were atrocities, but they escalated enormously with the beginning of the bombing campaign, and the bombing was started with the expectation that this would happen, even though the ostensible purpose was to stop them. So when you say you do something for a purpose, and in fact you know what you do will have the opposite effect, there is a little suspicion of hypocrisy.

    That’s (a bad summary of) his point and you may disagree but I don’t see that it is addressed here. It is not tantamount to say that Milosevic was a good guy after all. And yes, it is true that because it is Chomsky that says it, it carries some credibility. Why do you think he’s so interested in defending Milosevic? That his argument are echoed by a lesser crowd with a possibly different agenda may be true. The job of the intellectual, I would think, is to differentiate between the various positions and distortions thereof.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  02:58 PM
  19. Marc, if we “Chomsky defenders” focus on “narrow technical defenses of particular clauses,” why can’t you “Chomsky haters” provide us with a clause that you can damn on some basis other than your own tendentious gloss?  Chomsky did not say, “the Muslims brought it on themselves.” I looked at the interview in Left Hook.  Chomsky “compared” Srebrenica to Fallujah in order to claim that they were both vicious atrocities, not to claim that Srebrenica was somehow justified by “Muslim provocation,” while Fallujah was an instance of American genocide.  When Chomsky puts Srebrenica in the same moral universe as Fallujah, that means he thinks it’s awfully fucking bad.

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  03:05 PM
  20. Let’s see Michael…

    “Srebrenica was an enclave, lightly protected by UN forces, which was being used as a base for attacking nearby Serb villages.”

    What is the point of the second clause, other than to provide an excuse for the Serbs?

    “ It was known that there’s going to be retaliation. When there was a retaliation, it was vicious.”

    The Serb massacre is cast as retaliation, not as aggression.

    “They trucked out all the women and children, they kept the men inside, and apparently slaughtered them. The estimates are thousands of people slaughtered.”

    Note the vagueness here.  “Apparently” slaughtered.  “The estimates are”.

    He could have said something like:

    “Srebrenica was a Muslim enclave, lightly protected by UN forces.  When it was captured by the Serbs, they trucked out all the women and children, they kept the men inside and slaughtered them. There is strong evidence that thousands of people were slaughtered.”

    One of these statements is defending the indefensible, and one of them is not.  Unfortunately, Noam chose door #1.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  03:11 PM
  21. Marc, neither statement is defending the indefensible.  The point of the second clause is to demonstrate a Serb motive for an indefensible and utterly vicious assault.  The phrases “apparently slaughtered” and “estimates are” do not cast doubt on either the appearances or the estimates unless the author goes on to state something like, “but appearances are deceiving” or “such estimates are notoriously unreliable.” Nothing Chomsky says in the interview indicates that he has any doubt whatsoever that the Serbs slaughtered thousands at Srebrenica.  Apparently, you “just know” that Chomsky is a bastard, so any ambiguity in Chomsky’s phrasing verifies his bastardry.  Estimates are that you Chomsky haters do this sort of thing 99.44% of the time.

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  03:19 PM
  22. Careful statements are often roundly condemned by those who prize zeal over substance, as Marc handily demonstrates.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/22  at  03:23 PM
  23. I don’t think that an interview where they talked about anything and everything counts as an accurate representation of Chomsky’s position. In fact, it leads you to summarize it as: “there were no atrocities prior to the NATO bombing”, whereas what he says is: there were atrocities, but they escalated enormously with the beginning of the bombing campaign, and the bombing was started with the expectation that this would happen, even though the ostensible purpose was to stop them. So when you say you do something for a purpose, and in fact you know what you do will have the opposite effect, there is a little suspicion of hypocrisy.

    Actually, Gus, I don’t see where I summarized Chomsky in that way.

    But, since you brought it up, here’s the latest statement of Chomsky’s position:  “The killings and atrocities did not precede but followed the bombing, as the indictment of Milosevic has also revealed. . . .  Kosovo was an ugly place before the NATO bombing—though, regrettably, not by international standards.  According to Western sources, about 2,000 people were killed on all sides in the year prior to the invasion, many by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas attacking Serbs from Albania in an effort, as they openly stated, to elicit a harsh Serbian response that could rally Western opinion to their cause.” Failed States:  The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (Metropolitan Books, 2006), 96, 99.  I got my copy through Working Assets Long Distance, though I have to say I wish the good people at WALD wouldn’t promote this kind of stuff.  We are free to parse this any way we like, of course.  I know what I think:  it was pretty sneaky of those KLA guerrillas to pull a stunt like that.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/22  at  03:48 PM
  24. Question: Where is Chomsky’s forum?  I never see him on reputable news programs and I rarely if ever see him quoted in reputable newspapers.  Is he one of those guys whose “influence” rests on 30-year-old writings, cared about only on blogs or in salons?

    I’m not being sarcastic or facetious, either; it’s a serious question.

    Posted by Linkmeister  on  06/22  at  03:50 PM
  25. [H]ere’s the latest statement of Chomsky’s position:  “The killings and atrocities did not precede but followed the bombing, as the indictment of Milosevic has also revealed. . . .  Kosovo was an ugly place before the NATO bombing—though, regrettably, not by international standards.  According to Western sources, about 2,000 people were killed on all sides in the year prior to the invasion, many by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas attacking Serbs from Albania in an effort, as they openly stated, to elicit a harsh Serbian response that could rally Western opinion to their cause.” Failed States:  The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (Metropolitan Books, 2006), 96, 99.  I got my copy through Working Assets Long Distance, though I have to say I wish the good people at WALD wouldn’t promote this kind of stuff.  We are free to parse this any way we like, of course.  I know what I think:  it was pretty sneaky of those KLA guerrillas to pull a stunt like that.

    Sarcasm isn’t an argument.  The material questions are:  (i) did the major “killings and atrocities did not precede but followed the bombing”; and (ii) did the “Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas [attacked] Serbs from Albania in an effort, as they openly stated, to elicit a harsh Serbian response that could rally Western opinion to their cause.” These claims are either true, partly true, or false.

    I honestly don’t know whether they are (pending further research), but I will say that every time I’ve investigated Chomsky’s claims in other domains--ones where I know more about the situation--they’ve more or less always checked out.  I don’t always agree with his proposed solutions or appreciate his sometimes caustic tone, but I have a tendency to trust the factual basis of what he says.

    Saying he’s wrong isn’t the same as demonstrating how he’s wrong.  And throwing out a flurry of links seems more like a diverting maneuver than a serious effort to attack the substance of his claims.

    So, are (i) and (ii) true or false?

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  04:04 PM
  26. Typo corrections:

    The material questions are:

    (i) did the major “killings and atrocities did not precede but [follow] the bombing”?

    and

    (ii) did the “Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas [attack] Serbs from Albania in an effort, as they openly stated, to elicit a harsh Serbian response that could rally Western opinion to their cause.”

    These claims are either true, partly true, or false.  Which is it?

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  04:07 PM
  27. Posted by Michael  on  06/22  at  04:33 PM
  28. Hey Michael,

    Will definitely check out the links before I decide.  (I am, by the way, quite sincere when I say that I’m open to learning more on this issue.)

    The book I’d recommend of Chomsky’s--the one that convinced me he was pretty credible and not a crackpot--is his interview collection “Understanding Power.” I highly recommend reading it, and following up on some of the very extensive footnotes (many available online), before summarily dismissing a person’s body of political thought of one factoid/controversy.

    That said, re: that “predicted genocide” controversy:  some aid agencies were predicting that the Afghan invasion would be catastrophic--and potentially make a bad situation in that region worse.  Chomsky reported these claims.  He claimed that, in light of that information, pursuing the Afghan war would be murderous and wrong.  Just because a genocide didn’t happen doesn’t mean that we’re not responsible for ignoring the predicted consequences of our actions.  That’d be like aiming a gun at someone, pulling the trigger, missing, and then claiming that you should be not be condemned because “you happened to miss.”

    Cheers.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  04:48 PM
  29. Cool.  And I apologize for the sarcasm.  But as for the “silent genocide” bit, (a) interrupting aid convoys, and then resuming them (and then some) after the fall of the Taliban, isn’t the same thing as pointing a gun at someone, and (b) even if the gun analogy were tighter, you still wouldn’t continue to prosecute someone for murder anyway, just for pulling the trigger.  On my reading of this claim, there are two things going on here: the first is a weird version of the film Minority Report, in which the US is found guilty of horrific crimes against humanity before they happen; the second is even more dubious, in which the US is found guilty of crimes against humanity that did not happen.  This is especially strange when you consider all the well-documented crimes against humanity the US has in fact committed in Afghanistan, and in the Cheney Archipelago of secret torture sites.  There would seem to be no need to invoke this 5-7 million dead.

    The problem with corroborating these kinds of claims, I’ve found, isn’t so much that Chomsky is flat-out wrong (though I think he is on this specific claim).  Rather, the problem lies in trying to figure out what the actual status of the utterance is.  I mean this seriously.  For example, in defense of the New Statesman interview, he (or anyone else) could certainly say, “well, the Dutch report did exonerate Milosevic, and place the blame for Srebrenica partly on Dutch peacekeepers.” The question then becomes:  is Chomsky uncritically endorsing that controversial report?  If so, why?  If I were to say, “Bjorn Lomborg has pointed out that ‘global warming’ is largely a myth, perpetrated by the anti-Western radical environmentalist lobby,” I could always claim, when challenged, that I spoke the truth:  Lomborg does indeed say such things.  But what have I said in citing Lomborg in this way?  And what has Chomsky said, in the past, by endorsing Johnstone’s work so wholeheartedly?

    Posted by Michael  on  06/22  at  05:03 PM
  30. Bjorn Lomborg on global warming:
    “It seems incontrovertible to me that there is a global warming effect and that it is going to be serious, probably not in the amount of, say, six degrees warming, but it’s likely that we’ll get two to three degrees warming and that will be serious enough.”
    (http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2001dec01_lomborg.html)

    Now, damnit, pointing out that Michael is wrong on Lomborg’s position on global warming doesn’t mean that I’m on Lomborg’s side (eg, opposed to the Kyoto Protocol).  Just as Chomsky’s defense of Johnstone when her publisher tried to withdraw her book, or his very general endorsements of her book as serious and important don’t mean that he agrees with everything she says about the details of the Srebrenica massacre.

    Why do men of the left feel a ritual need to denounce Chomsky?  (And why is it almost always men?) Maybe I’ll work on that puzzle on my own time, on my own blog.

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  05:38 PM
  31. MM - I am female, liberal, and have had no use whatsoever for Chomsky ever since he dismissed and/or minimized the Cambodian genocide.  I just don’t feel the need to denounce him because I have trouble taking him seriously enough to denounce.  The fact that others take him seriously is their problem.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  05:45 PM
  32. Casey,

    Sorry if you took me to imply that leftist men are more likely than leftist women to disagree with Chomsky.  But leftist men who disagree with Chomsky seem often to develop a need to denounce him, rather than simply deciding he’s not worth taking seriously enough to denounce.  Usual caveats apply - these observations may be askew, and I don’t have an explanation for them even if they’re accurate.

    MM

    Posted by Michael McIntyre  on  06/22  at  06:07 PM
  33. I’m not gonna claim to speak for “men of the Left” or anybody else, but it seems to me that one good reason for wanting a little distance from Chomsky in some of his, let’s charitably call them unguarded or overly enthusiastic moments, is the profound lack of nuance or complexity in some of his claims. One thing that makes this nuanced blog so appealing is the openness to complexity, the resistance to a tempting neatness that is really oversimplification (and these qualities are shared by the primary author and many of those who chime in here in the comments). As much as I admire much of what Chomsky has done and said, as often as I have agreed with him, I have also, often, been troubled by the way it seems the positions he’s taken were determined in advance and the research undertaken only afterwards ("reading for glosses,” in Emerson’s phrase). One gets the idea that the use of American military power is always and already a bad thing, and man does that resonate for pretty much any student of the history of American military misadventures abroad. An autobiographical anecdote: even after spending way too much of grad school, when I should have been writing my dissertation, obsessively watching and reading coverage of events in the former Yugoslavia, I found myself as a first-year assistant professor meeting with some grad students to deplore the American intervention in Kosovo. It was a reflex (the use of American military power is always and already a bad thing). Only later, that evening, did the grad-student me remind the assistant professor me that I’d spent the last five years screaming at the TV “Why aren’t we doing anything about this?!”

    My discomfort had a lot of sources (beyond the reflexive negative opinion on American military interventions), and not least among them was a strong sense that this was too late. Where were we during the longest siege in European history, for example? And I know that many on the Left here who were following the Balkans misery were having a tough time supporting a military intervention even when it was one we had long hoped for (and some of the many ended up not able to support the Kosovo operation). All this is a long-winded way of saying that it seems to me a good reason Michael’s right in his imperative (this kind of thing has to stop) is that the what’s got to stop is just too simple, too predetermined, too unwilling to engage complexities (political, moral, historical). Tempted as I am when disgusted by the simplified ranting of the Right to want someone on our side who’ll answer simplified rants with more agreeable simplified rants, when they actually happen (and let me go ahead and apologize now for using the phrase ‘simplified rants’ in a way that seems like I’m accusing Chomsky of making them; I just like the parallelism) I get really uncomfortable. Do we really want to become what we behold when He Who or Hannity or some other wingnut windbag holds forth? Might be my English major roots showing, but I’ll keep valuing complexity and even all seven types of ambiguity.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  08:51 PM
  34. Re: Chomsky’s citing of the Dutch report.  Well, I agree that Chomsky is citing the Dutch report in a way that affirms its conclusions as the most detailed and persuasive take on what happened in Srebrenica.  I don’t know yet whether I agree, but citing official government reports as evidence seems well within bounds.  I mean, the Dutch report might well give the most accurate accounting of what happened in Srebrenica, even if it’s conclusions don’t gel with our preferences.

    Re: holding the U.S. responsible for crimes it anticipated it knew it might commit.  Well, the proper response to contingencies is debatable, but there is one Chomsky slogan I agree to:  we should hold ourselves to a *much higher* standard than we hold others.  By “we” I mean not only the United States--and the “West” as a whole--but also those of us who are lucky enough to be in positions of power and influence.  Those of us who have the leisure, analytical faculties, independence, and prestige to stop crimes before they happen are, to my mind, morally obligated to do what we can.

    That said, you’re absolutely right, the U.S. government has committed, in our name, plenty of other war crimes worth condemning.  Chomsky should be praised for using his podium to bring many of these crimes to the foreground of debate.

    Posted by  on  06/22  at  09:06 PM
  35. I understand why you invoke that higher standard, Lee, and to some extent I sympathize.  For one thing, citizens in democracies are responsible for their governments in ways that citizens in autocracies and tyrannies are not.  But you know, sometimes this noble position can license all kinds of double-standard waffling, whenever we hold other people to lower standards.  I for one wouldn’t want to get into the business of making excuses for people who execute dissidents or throw gay men in jail, just because those people are less privileged, in the world-system as a whole, than I am.

    As for Chomsky’s role in bringing U.S. crimes to light:  yes, of course, sometimes he should be praised.  I first became aware of his work in the early 1980s—too late to catch the Chomsky/Herman fudging on Cambodia, which is looking pretty bad these days, but just in time to catch his righteous condemnations of the Reagan Administration’s deadly programs in Central America, and I don’t see any reason whatsoever to renounce or denounce his work there.  Likewise, he was on the case in East Timor back when Suharto was our (genocidal) client.  But you know, when it comes to exposing our crimes post-9/11, I have two things to say.  One, he’s really not the only game in town, and two, the extremity of a couple of his claims winds up, unfortunately, casting needless doubt on other entirely plausible claims.  (That’s the reason I take my distance from the 5-7 million Afghans and the Milosevic stuff.) To take a fairly recent example, from Hegemony or Survival (2004), in which Chomsky claims that no one in the U.S. doubted that Bush was really trying to bring democracy to Iraq:  “Reactions ranged from rapturous awe to criticism praising the nobility of the vision but warning that it may be beyond our means: the beneficiaries may be too backward, it might prove too costly.  That this was the guiding vision, however, was presupposed as self-evident. . .  With considerable search, I have yet to find an exception” (246-47).  Can he possibly mean this?  Would any reader of the Nation, In These Times, Mother Jones, the Progressive, or even The American Prospect concur?  Would any reader of Atrios or Digby or My Left Wing or OpenDemocracy or Firedoglake or a couple hundred other liberal blogs?  Would readers of Seymour Hersh’s Chain of Command?

    Just for the record, though (I’m glad to see) no one’s asked:  I pay no attention to Horowitz’s or any other lunatic wingnut’s critiques of Chomsky, any more than I pay attention to Tom DeLay’s or Ann Coulter’s critiques of the war in Kosovo.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/22  at  10:18 PM
  36. CaseyL--"[I] have had no use whatsoever for Chomsky ever since he dismissed and/or minimized the Cambodian genocide.”

    Prior to Johnnie Walker’s colonization of his brain, Christopher Hitchens pretty much disposed of this claim, and that was more than twenty years ago.  Check out “The Chorus and Cassandra” (reprinted at http://www.zmag.org/Chomsky/other/85-hitchens.html).  I don’t feel like providing a synopsis of Hitchens’s argument, but he demonstrates that the Cambodia argument (as well as the “Chomsky is a holocaust denier” claim) rests upon some rather, shall we say, creative sourcing by such intellectual lights as Fred Barnes and some guy called David Horowitz.

    That a claim on this blog owes much of its persistence and pedigree to David Horowitz (I dare not truncate his name in any manner, humorous or otherwise), paragon of intellectual honesty and scourge of this very blog, made me laugh.  I certainly hope that well-meaning people don’t one day savage Michael with claims deriving from David Horowitz--"I have had no use whatsoever for Berube ever since he started teaching literature so as to bring about economic transformations and made the university into the final resting place of the new left.”

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:16 AM
  37. Stupid me.  I didn’t read Michael’s 9:18 post in which he mention David Horowitz until after I had posted my previous comment.  I suppose my point remains, though, at least to some extent in my own mind.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:19 AM
  38. The situation in Kosovo was, and is, not as black-and-white as some here want us to believe. I agree that the main responsibility for atrocities until 1999 lies with Serb forces, and Serb policies. However, that does not make the KLA some kind of good guy national liberation force, any more than, say ETA or IRA are. This is, in fact, an instance of exactly the kind of romanticising mentioned above. There has been successful ethnic cleansing in Kosovo since 1999, namely of the Serb population.
    To turn Michael’s rhetoric around, beware of the “Milosevic-is-Hitler” croud who will paint anybody not adhering to their simplistic story of Serb genocide (a term devalued by overuse, in my opinion) as akin to Holocaust deniers, or Stalinists. And yes, I was happy to see Milosevic in The Hague. Now let’s get Clinton, Bush 1&2 etc. there, too.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:28 AM
  39. I just don’t find any of those sources as credible as the Dutch government’s official report and Chomsky.  Almost all were supporters of a criminal war of aggression of course.  People who think murdering thousands of other people is a great idea are not exactly credible sources when it comes to justifying the violence they endorsed.  Anyone who beleives it’s ok to kill large numbers of people for the cause will certainly not baulk at a few white lies will they?  You seem to think that it’s the number of links you can throw out rather than their quality that counts.

    If numbers is how you gauge these things certainly the propaganda view has a lot more pages you can link to.  That tends to be guaranteed merely by victor’s “justice” and the need to convince the public that any war of aggression is justified by faking evidence for whatever the pretext du jour.  This happens regardless of whether the unvarnished truth would have supported those pretexts.  You even link to a site by the official prosecution in the trial as if it some surprise that they would make claims against him.

    You expect me to beleive the Dutch government so wanted to vindicate their big pal Milosevic that they lied to claim their own soldiers were at fault not him?

    Now if an article was an academic discussion seeking truth I would expect a polite and dispassionate analysis of minutiae and references to critical or competing theories.  On the other hand if it was simply propaganda I’d expect simplistic slogans, ad-hominem attacks and the repetition of “big lie” level statements aimed at emotional reactions not reason.

    It’s very clear that Chomsky et al do the former while their detractors almost exclusively the latter (including this piece btw).

    You’re simply not as credible.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  01:04 AM
  40. Michael (B) - after skimming the reports you linked my conclusion is pretty much the same as Michael (M)’s, I think.  Chomsky’s claims all appear to be true or at least undisputed except for his assertion that no atrocities happened prior to the NATO bombing, which is false.  It would have been accurate, however, to say that atrocities happened prior to the NATO bombing on a much smaller scale.  So Chomsky’s guilty of some unjustified hyperbole in an interview.  Not good, not worthy of denunciation.  An evaluation which therefore applies also to your unjustified hyperbole, Michael (B), in calling Chomsky’s claims “a pack of lies.” “Lie” is a word with a lot of power, especially coming from someone who can be portrayed, and even seems to portray himself, as a general political ally.

    On the point of the acceptability of Chomsky’s point, regardless of his literal accuracy.  I think that it’s perfectly valid to point to a selection of facts that are ignored by the mainstream narrative in an effort to complicate it, even if those facts by themselves would be equally misleading.  Chomsky’s readers aren’t, generally, going to think Milosevic was a great guy just because he neglects to tell them. The mainstream narrative is, after all, mainstream.  Chomsky’s sin of omission here seems to me to be closer to the sin of the antiwar polemicist who neglects to end every paragraph with “but the terrorists are worse!” than to anything sinister.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  01:22 AM
  41. What I find interesting here, apart from the extraordinary parade of false equivalences, (although I <style themselves as coming from my side of politics can engage in actual debate, y’know, in the interests of nuance, without affected attacks of the vapors and stentorian declarations that THIS SORT OF THING MUST STOP (particularly when these are justified with crude guilt-by-association tropes like those in point three. And what the hell are you on about in point two? Project Censored and FAIR took positions you disagree with and suddenly you’re rabbiting on about La Rouchies? How very very odd.)

    Always a pleasure.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  01:57 AM
  42. Let’s try that again.

    What I find interesting here, apart from the extraordinary parade of false equivalences, (although I <style themselves as coming from my side of politics can engage in actual debate, y’know, in the interests of nuance, without affected attacks of the vapors and stentorian declarations that THIS SORT OF THING MUST STOP (particularly when these are justified with crude guilt-by-association tropes like those in point three. And what the hell are you on about in point two? Project Censored and FAIR took positions you disagree with and suddenly you’re rabbiting on about La Rouchies? How very very odd.)

    Always a pleasure.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  01:58 AM
  43. Gaaak!

    Well, I preferred it with the italics, but anyhoo…

    What I find interesting here, apart from the extraordinary parade of false equivalences, (although I do like Michael’s “actual status of the utterance” bit; has there ever been a more elegantly phrased justification for constructing strawmen? - I think not!), is the odd notion that one is entitled to respond to statements of fact or opinion you disagree with (e.g. “Milosevic was not a war criminal”, if indeed that’s Chomper’s point) by getting indignant, rather than simply stating an evidence-based refutation. Shoe-thumping denunciations of off-message statements from leftists are what we expect from the hacks on the right and, although I’ve also come to expect these to be closely followed by Decents “distancing” themselves from the leftists concerned, I still hold the faint hope that those who style themselves as coming from my side of politics can engage in actual debate, y’know, in the interests of nuance, without affected attacks of the vapors and stentorian declarations that THIS SORT OF THING MUST STOP (particularly when these are justified with crude guilt-by-association tropes like those in point three. And what the hell are you on about in point two? Project Censored and FAIR took positions you disagree with and suddenly you’re rabbiting on about La Rouchies? How very very odd.)

    Always a pleasure.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:01 AM
  44. the need for distance from chomsky is a very peculiar feature of the not-hard left.  this post, for example, is kind of over-the-top [some might say hysterical], and is certainly not typical of the style of its writer, who is noted for being witty and smart when he is handing someone’s ass to them.

    the accusation that “this kind of thing” is “a pack of lies” is very strange, not to mention question-begging.  what, specifically, is it about what was said that was so very wrong?  the reader is directed to four documents and told to figure it out for himself.  the writer has more important things to do, you see, such as quasi-mccarthyistically attempting to place chomsky in a “milosevic cult”, for which charge no evidence is presented, or at least no evidence beyond there being some writers [who are not chomsky, but] who have said very bad things.

    i’m not, incidentally, saying i think the charges in this post are wrong, just that if i were coming to this dispute without having already formed a view, this post would not have persuaded me.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:01 AM
  45. And someone asked a telling question that has gone unanswered,

    Why do you think he’s so interested in defending Milosevic?

    Why indeed?  Chomsky is the leading intellectual on the left and well known for his expose of US foreign policy.  He’s on the side of the angels.  The most obvious reason for his saying what he says is because after the usual level of detailed research that he brings to all these issues, he beleives he has some answers.

    But none of his critics can abide that explantion of course.  Why?  Because then they’d have to actually answer his case which is usually rock solid.

    Easier by far to malign this man with repetition of “Chomsky!  Milosevic!  Chomsky!  Milosevic!” and try to paint him as a fascist or a “supporter of Milosevic”.  Now speaking rationally of course any attempt to paint Chomsky as a fascist is absurd.  But his detractors never need worry about rationality.  Just keep saying it, “Chomsky!  Milosevic!  Chomsky!  Milosevic!”.  Or how about accuse him of supporting Pol Pot that’s a good “argument” too.  Now he’s both a fascist and a communist.  All the better.

    Michael even threw in a whif of the good old anti-semite charge.

    Why is it that Chomsky’s critics are never able to simply put their case quietly and address the details of the incidents under discussion?  It’s always a crusade.  As has been noted already despite the confusion of links Michael made little or no attempt to address any of the points he quoted from the interview.

    In fact the more I think about it I guess the real interesting question is why does Michael feel the need to have a crusade against Chomsky like this?

    Why is this post so vituperative?  Why the frenetic attempt to get us to not simply be persuaded that Chomsky is in error on this ocassion but that he is the imbodiment of evil (or else brainwashed by his evil companions). 

    We could imagine a completely different diary written along the lines of, “Well Chomsky leans on the Dutch report, and it probably is the most authoritative but I have some issues with it.... and Chomsky says this but I think that he’s over-generous there, .... in this place he forgets that .... his argument here fails because of....” and so on?

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a criticism of Chomsky like that.  A sane one.  A rational one.  In fact in the comments Michael attempts to dig up some ‘more’ dirt on Chomsky.  Incidentally that shows it’s all an ad-hominem argument because the “dirt” has zero to do with Kosovo, but the implication is that if Chomsky can be characterised a certain way that disproves his evidence.

    The dirt—you end up thinking, “this is the best he can come up with?” The first dirt is specific but it’s too specific and it doesn’t pan out.  The second dirt is the good old Pol Pot story that’s always trotted out - crude and unsubstantiated.

    Why?  Why is there this crusade against Chomsky?  It’s hardly just Michael.  It’s not based on the facts of his work.  Is it because his criticism of US foreign policy is just more than so-called liberals can stand?  What other conclusion can be drawn?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:05 AM
  46. So the consensus emerging from the last few posts, from people who have followed up on all the links, seems to be the following:

    (i) the claims in Chomsky’s quotes are, almost entirely, true.  None of the links in the original post contradict the facts that Chomsky cites (except for the question of the scale of the atrocities before the NATO attack, which everyone here seems to agree were relatively much smaller than after the strikes, on par with KLA attacks, which doesn’t justify them by any means).

    (ii) the Dutch report is probably the most accurate information we have on the Milosevic-Srebrenica connection.  We wish that this report had shown a link between Milosevic and Srebrenica, because no one here is a fan of Milosevic, but it unfortunately does not.

    (iii) the KLA, like Milosevic, did some pretty terrible things. It does not deserve our respect or support.  We would be making a moral mistake to excuse the KLA for its crimes, even as we admit that ultimately they were on a much smaller scale than Milosevic’s.

    (iv) allegations that Chomsky denied the Cambodian genocide are Horowitzian ad-hominem slurs (as are claims of Chomsky’s support for Holocaust denial).

    (v) Chomsky’s activism re: Latin America and East Timor is a valuable and worthwhile contribution to the project making the world a better place.

    I don’t mean to be obstinate, but this leaves the following substantive questions related to Michael’s original posting:

    (A) What did Chomsky say that deserves a very angry description of a “pack of lies”?

    (B) If what he said was *not* a pack of lies, what is the “left” doing, as exemplified by Chomsky, that needs to stop?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:17 AM
  47. On the subject of Chomsky and Cambodia, my current understanding is based on this piece http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm by Bruce Sharp which, to my mind, fairly persuasively demonstrates that Chomsky did minimise the Cambodian genocide and then attempted to distort the record of his statements after the fact:
    “During the question-and-answer period following a 1998 speech in New Zealand, for example, an audience member raised the question of Cambodia: “Do you think it was appropriate for Jean Lacouture to apologise in 1978 for having once disbelieved the reports indicating genocide by the Khmer Rouge. The same reports you once disbelieved, and for having once believed, like you, that the Khmer Rouge could in your words, play a constructive role in Cambodia?”

    “Not my words,” Chomsky replied. “...those are not my words. You’re quoting from a review that Edward Herman and I wrote of several books on Cambodia...”
    ...what about the words that Chomsky disowns? As noted earlier, this is a direct quote from “Distortions at Fourth Hand.” “
    I’ve searched for any response to Sharp’s piece, and haven’t found anything - does Hitchens deal with this?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:24 AM
  48. clarifying note:  In item (i) the “on par with KLA attacks, which doesn’t justify them by any means” refers to Milosevic’s smaller-scale atrocities before the NATO attack, not the larger atrocities Milosevic & co. committed afterwards.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:26 AM
  49. I’m glad to see that the commenters here have been able to pierce Berube’s veil of lies.  The truth is that Milosevic was horrified when he heard about Srebrenica, and Chomsky should be applauded for saying so.  Incidentally, despite Berube’s smears of “Slobodan,” the fact is that Milosevic was “the Castro of the Balkans” and had to be taken out by the Empire, just as we’ve seen with Chavez in Venezuela.  It is no wonder that this exercise in imperial arrogance would be defended by liberals.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:28 AM
  50. >>"And you’re defending nuance?”

    Dang. There I go, using irony on the internet again. Silly me. Oh, and hyperbole too, tsk tsk.

    >>"And you should try to use the phrase “guilt by association” correctly.  Linking Chomsky to Herman and Johnstone is perfectly legitimate, since Chomsky has often written with Herman and has often defended Johnstone.”

    Right, so what you’re saying is that Chomsky’s guilty of something because he associates with Herman and Johnstone. Hmmm. Is there a phrase for that?

    Sorry, this is terribly off-topic. I’ll stop.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:41 AM
  51. Rob W, you should read the article linked to by Paul (#50) to understand why Chomsky and Herman are mentioned in the same breathe.

    Bruce Sharp addresses Chomsky and Herman’s several co-written works on the Khmer Rouge. Admirably, in the scrupulous endnotes to his article, Sharp lives up to a quote he includes by Richard Feynman:

    “Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it… In summary, the idea is to give ALL of the information to help others judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.”

    But perhaps you prefer the comment by Kalkin (#40): “I think that it’s perfectly valid to point to a selection of facts that are ignored by the mainstream narrative in an effort to complicate it, even if those facts by themselves would be equally misleading." 

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:07 AM
  52. Insane, says you.  Soulful, poignant, delicate, says I.

    http://www.dianajohnstone.com/

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:27 AM
  53. The Left is savaging itself again.

    The Right is engaged in a perpetual, righteous cirlce jerk.

    A pliant and cowed press corps still reigns supreme.

    Wonder how this bodes for November and beyond?

    I’ll bet there’s a fantastic Arbitray But Fun Friday topic in all this!

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  09:21 AM
  54. Oh, well.

    I guess I look at things this way: I posted a complaint about Chomsky’s claim that the Kosovo war was the cause, rather than the consequence, of Serbian war crimes (as he also argues in Failed States), and about his ancillary claim that Milosevic was not responsible for Srebrenica, but, on the contrary, horrified by it.  I then noted that these claims work to license still more foul claims made by people with whom Chomsky has worked intimately, and whose work he fully endorses.  In support of my complaint about this kind of thing, I adduced findings that, prior to 1999, “Serbian forces engaged in widespread killings of Albanians, destruction of villages, and expulsions of the civilian population” (No Peace Without Justice); that 460,000 people in Kosovo had been expelled from their towns and villages prior to the beginning of war on March 24, 1999 (UN High Commissioner for Refugees); that “this pattern suggests a coherent policy aimed at a future partition of Kosovo following the decimation of its Albanian social and political fabric—where residents have not been killed or physically forced from their homes, they leave for fear of state terror that uses torture, mutilation, and degradation to achieve its ends” (International Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights); and that Chomsky’s reliance on the 2002 Dutch report ignores the 2003 report of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which finds that “Milosevic had a hand in the Srebrenica massacre.”

    But apparently, for some people, these are not good enough grounds on which to contest Chomsky’s claims.  Indeed, it seems that the sources I’ve cited don’t really challenge Chomsky’s claims at all.  So I must be criticizing Chomsky because I can’t take the truth, or because I am a mere “liberal,” or because I have some weird ritual need to do so.  Well, I guess I’m glad to see that I’m not accused of trying to slime my way onto the pages of a glossy magazine or get invited to dinner with George Will and Cokie Roberts!  That’s the response I usually get . . . to this kind of thing.

    You know, there’s no other phenomenon quite like this in the English-speaking world.

    Two quick detailed responses.  Kalkin:

    It would have been accurate, however, to say that atrocities happened prior to the NATO bombing on a much smaller scale.

    No.  That would have been inaccurate.  I wish people wouldn’t try to whitewash or minimize eight years of Serbian ethnic cleansing.  I don’t see the point of it.

    On the point of the acceptability of Chomsky’s point, regardless of his literal accuracy.  I think that it’s perfectly valid to point to a selection of facts that are ignored by the mainstream narrative in an effort to complicate it, even if those facts by themselves would be equally misleading.

    Well, that’s precisely what Herman does in his essays on Srebrenica denial.  To the letter.  You’re welcome to that genre—I’m not touching it. 

    As for RobW, accusing me of playing “guilt by association” when I link Chomsky and Herman is like accusing me of playing “guilt by association” when I link Mats Sundin and Tie Domi.  They play on the same team; one is the star, the other is the goon.  And it’s really kind of standard practice to link co-authors to each other.  Thanks to Peter Ramus and Paul, above, for pointing this out.  Those of you who want to believe that Chomsky’s enthusiastic endorsement of Johnstone’s work is not really an “enthusiastic” “endorsement” of Johnstone’s work, be my guests.

    Last and least, DavidByron, in his short time here, has amply borne out his reputation as the Jeff Goldstein of the left.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  09:21 AM
  55. I’ll bet there’s a fantastic Arbitray But Fun Friday topic in all this!

    Actually, there is!  On a topic closer to home, though.  I’ll try to have it for you by noon.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  09:22 AM
  56. Noam Chomsky and His Critics

    posted to http://www.marxmail.org on Aug. 15, 2002

    In the aftermath of September 11th, certain sectors of the US left buckled under ruling class pressure and turned against Noam Chomsky. His uncompromising anti-imperialism might have been acceptable during the 1980s when the Sandinistas were under Washington’s gun, but in today’s repressive atmosphere no quarter is given to the dissident intellectual. Of course, no quarter is asked from Chomsky, who remains fearless and principled as ever.

    To the chagrin of ruling class pundits and weak-kneed leftists, a collection of interviews with Chomsky, which has been published under the title “9/11,” has become a best seller. According to a May 5th Washington Post article, the book had already sold 160,000 copies and been translated into a dozen languages, from Korean to Japanese to two varieties of Portuguese.

    In an attempt to warn people away from the book, the Post cites Brian Morton, supposedly “a novelist and essayist of the left,” who regards Chomsky as an important intellectual whose arguments have suffered a sclerotic hardening. He says, “Chomsky sees the world in a very stark way and gets at certain truths in that way, but ultimately his view is so simplistic that it’s not useful. He’s become a phase that people on the left should go through when they are young.”

    It should come as no surprise that the Washington Post failed to identify the segment of the left Morton is associated with. As it turns out, he is an editor of Dissent Magazine, a publication that might be described as social democracy in a state of advanced rigor mortis. Irving Howe, the founder of the magazine, was a critical supporter of the Vietnam War who reserved most of his animosity for the antiwar movement rather than imperialism. The current editor, Michael Walzer, stumped for Bush’s war against terrorism in the Fall 2001 issue, stating: “We have to defend our lives; we are also defending our way of life. Everyone says this, but it is true. The terrorists oppose and hate our way of life--and would still oppose and hate it even if we lived our lives far better than we do.”

    Eric Alterman and Christopher Hitchens, contributors to The Nation Magazine, a left liberal weekly that has published continuously since the Civil War, have jumped on the anti-Chomsky bandwagon with a vengeance. Although the magazine has had a reputation for principled anti-imperialism in the past, it has shifted noticeably to the right in recent years. Most would explain this as a function of tail-ending the Clinton administration.

    Alterman, admits on his MSNBC.com ‘blog’ that Chomsky “did a lot of good work on East Timor.” But when he accused the United States of “perpetrating a holocaust in Afghanistan” and compared the attack on the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan with that on the Twin Towers, he went out of bounds and became “the mirror image of the ignorant jingoism of Bennett, Krauthammer, Kelly, Will, etc.”

    Christopher Hitchens has been the author of the most visible and controversial attacks against Chomsky. In flag-waving attack on the peace movement in the September 24, 2001 Nation titled “Of Sin, the Left & Islamic Fascism.” Hitchens describes Chomsky as “soft on crime and soft on fascism.” With such people, he adds, “No political coalition is possible.”

    http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=special&s=hitchens20010924)

    For some on the postmodernist left, Chomsky has also become objectionable. Michael Berube, a commentator on the arts and society, feels that “the Chomskian left has consigned itself to the dustbin of history.” In accounting for the split between the “Chomskian left” and “the Hitchens left,” Berube surmises that “the simple fact that bombs were dropping” might have something to do with it. He writes:

    >>For U.S. leftists schooled in the lessons of Cambodia, Libya, and the School of the Americas, all U.S. bombing actions are suspect: they are announced by cadaverous white guys with bad hair, they are covered by seven cable channels competing with one another for the catchiest “New War” slogan and Emmy awards for creative flag display, and they invariably kill civilians, the poor, the wretched, the disabled. Surely, there is much to hate about any bombing campaign.<<

    http://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no10/berube.html)

    Dispensing with the relativism and playful irony that characterizes the postmodernist left, Berube reminds his readers that war is a serious business:

    >>Yet who would deny that a nation, once attacked, has the right to respond with military force, and who seriously believes that anyone could undertake any “nation-building” enterprise in Afghanistan without driving the Taliban from power first?<<

    Full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/fascism_and_war/chomsky.htm

    Posted by Louis N. Proyect  on  06/23  at  09:45 AM
  57. Posted by Louis N. Proyect  on  06/23  at  09:52 AM
  58. The original blog entry by Michael Berube sure is a pack of lies.
    Anyone who isn’t drinking the Clinton administration kool-aid won’t have any problems to see that everything that Chomsky and Herman said is true, because the actual facts in the case of Kosovo are overwhelming.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky#Kosovo_War
    Ed Herman actually bothered to reply to all of these Clinton apologists one by one, including those mentioned by Michael Berube: http://www.zmag.org/hermanserbdebate.htm

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  10:20 AM
  59. Sceptic,
    You wrote: “I never unserstood when Brad Delong would go off on Chomsky on his blog.”
    You haven’t?! That’s one of the easiest things to understand. Brad DeLong served in the Clinton administration, and Chomsky had some unpleasant things to say about the Clinton administration. You understand now?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  11:43 AM
  60. This is good. Finally Chumsky is getting taken on by his own side. In truth, though, it should have happened a long time ago. Might arc the gap between normal, patriotic Americans and the far left. But, alas, I fear that it is Chomsky’s abiding hatred for America that many on the left find so appealing.

    Now can somebody please take down that whiney, pesky, anchor-baby Kos. He is 10 minutes into his story anyway, and it will make you look like you are ahead of the curve if you expose him for the conman that he is. His “vast right wing conspiracy” counterattack ought to amuse you all over here.

    BTW, the other Daniel post up top is not mine. Some typical lefty coward (who won’t reveal his own email address, of course) posted it, hijacking an old email address of mine.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:02 PM
  61. But, alas, I fear that it is Chomsky’s abiding hatred for America that many on the left find so appealing.

    Well, that’s what does it for me. And the objective Islamofascism.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/23  at  12:07 PM
  62. but unfortunately for the International Tribunal

    [...]

    it was going to be pretty hard to make that charge stick.

    Assuming as I do that Chomsky respects the work of the International Tribunal, I really don’t see where this kind of commentary has to Stop. Now.

    I don’t see where it’s a lie, when Chomsky says that it was going to be pretty hard to make the charge stick.

    I don’t see where it’s a lie that there’s more raw evidence, comparatively speaking, to hold against the Bush administration, which is apparently why Chomsky went on about this in the first place.

    I don’t see where Chomsky was saying more than that in this New Statesman instance (though he may say more elsewhere).

    I read your commentaries regularly Mr. Bérubé and look forward to continuing to read you, but this was an atypically… passionate… post, and as is usual for passionate responses, it overstated the justification for its passion.

    The overall point that should be widely understood is:

    * Milosevic was an evil man
    * When the U.S. planned to involve itself in Kosovo its leaders should have thought a hell of a lot more about how an evil man would respond to our half-assed intervention: by beating the snot out of innocent people en masse, of course.
    * Why did our leaders not see that, plan for it, and prevent it? That’s what we should criticize Clinton et al for.
    * Clinton et all did not cause the genocide but they sure as hell should have predicted it and proactively defended against it as part of their initial intervention.
    * A main justification for intervention was that we all bear some responsibility for intolerable evil that we let continue unchecked when we could make a positive difference NOW. Accordingly, the people who ordered the intervention bear some responsibility for a botched intervention that allowed large-scale atrocities to occur unchecked.
    * This is similar to the “Saddam is evil” justification for intervening in Iraq.
    * While both are tremendously guilty, the factual evidence that Mr. Bush has committed war crimes is more subtantial and voluminous than the factual evidence linking Mr. Milosevic to Serbian war crimes.
    * The case against Bush is therefore easier to prove to an objective court.

    Is any starred point above incorrect, misleading, or at odds with what Chomsky said in this New Statesman article?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:22 PM
  63. ib,
    That’s an interesting fact. But I don’t think Brad’s criticism of Noam was over a lack of left of center loyalty to the Clinton Administration. Do you? I think Brad sees Noam as a piss poor spokesperson for our side and wants Chomsky demoted form the left’s greatest living intellectual (which is the moniker the right gave him) to just a cranky old professor most of the world ignores.

    Daniel,
    Thanks for the compliments, but I think we can handle KOS and keep him honest. But tell me what are you doing to clean up the moral cesspool that is the American Right? Does Ann Coulter speak for you? How’s about oxycotin Rush? How do you feel about this conservative administrations lie and die policy in Iraq? How’s that smaller government coming along? Got Debt? How are you going to clean up the character of the Congressional Republicans? Etc…

    Man I feel bad for you right of center guys.
    You have 10 times the amount of work to do than we do.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  12:38 PM
  64. Okay, a lot was wrong with that post (should’ve used the Preview). Redone:

    * Milosevic was a truly evil person involved in genocide and war crimes against innocent civilians.

    * The half-assed intervention executed by the United States / NATO provided Milosevic provided him and his army with the motive to immediately upscale their evil acts and greatly increase the intensity of those evil acts.

    * Providing truly evil people with strong incentive to intensify their evil acts, without taking simultaneous action to ensure these evil people are rendered incapable of commiting evil acts, is a pretty awful thing to do.

    * The previous point is especially true when the whole point of taking that action was to prevent or minimize the evil acts taken by that person/army.

    * A main justification for intervention was that we all bear some responsibility for intolerable evil that we let continue unchecked when a non-botched intervention would clearly make a substantial positive difference. (I think most everyone agrees with this on a practical level, at least when it comes to genocide.)

    * Most of the genocidal acts, in terms of numbers killed, did occur after the NATO intervention. Accordingly, the people who ordered and planned the intervention bear some responsibility for a botched intervention that allowed large-scale atrocities to occur unchecked.

    * Failing to prevent a genocide is a different sort of wrong than committing genocide. Yes, Milosevic and his crew are exclusively responsible for the latter, but this does not excuse Clinton et al for the former.

    * People who say Milosevic et al are excused from their responsibility because Clinton et al botched the intervention are crazy. People who claim Milosevic was saint-esque are crazy. People who claim Clinton et al did nothing wrong are crazy. Only crazy people claim the Kosovars are at fault for being victims, regardless of whether a handful of crazy Kosovar wingers decided that provoking Serbian-led genocide would benefit their crazy winger perspective. (Blaming those few Kosovar wingers for their provocative acts might be appropriate.)

    * Chomsky doesn’t seem to be one of those crazy people, at least not from the comments quoted in the New Statesman.

    * Said crazy people could (mis)use Chomsky’s statements to further their claims.

    * Christ on a cracker, said crazy people could (mis)use my statements here to further their claims! They could (mis)use anything!

    * It is neither Chomsky’s responsibility nor mine to preface any evenhanded discussion of Serbia / Milosevic with an explicit condemnation of Milosevic. Crazy apologists will always exist, and neither Chomsky nor I should need to condemn them every time we speak.

    * The sensible thing is to blame each guilty party for the precise things for which that party is guilty. Blaming the intervention-botchers for botching their intervention is not the same as being an apologist for genocidal acts.

    Posted by previously pre  on  06/23  at  12:46 PM
  65. I guess it’s ok.
    We don’t need a progressive “King” to represent us.
    After all he was crowned by our ennemies.

    Like Jesus!

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  01:26 PM
  66. "Now, of course, these words can simply be rhetoric intended to pull the wool over the world’s eyes, but they don’t bear out Clinton’s claim that Milosevic openly employed racial supremacist doctrines”

    The problem is that, while Milosevic certainly wasn’t the only malefactor (even in Serbia proper), he was truly the main impretus behind Yugoslavia falling apart AND the violent situation that erupted afterwards.

    1. The first act in the collapse of Yugoslavia was Milosevic’s hijacking of the Serbian nationalist movement for greater oppression of Kosovo in 1988-1989, a movement which was responsible for bringing Milosevic to power ahead of many other potential leaders who were actually commited to a multiethnic Yugoslavia (and some of whom were actually leftists - unlike Milosevic).

    2. It was Milosevic who intentionally pressured and converted the Yugoslavian national army from a truly multi-ethnic and more or less neutral force into one which, from 1990 or 1991 onwards, delivered almost all of its capabilities to Serbia proper AND to Serbian paramilitaries operating in Bosnia and Croatia in the ethnic conflicts largely started by those paramilitaries.  (The arms and support of the former federal armed forces allowed these paramilitaries to conquer much more territory than they otherwise would have been able to, and therefore required that a lot more areas could be ethnically cleansed, etc).

    3.  It was Milosevic who first declared that Serbia simply didn’t have to follow the laws of the confederation.

    4.  Milosevic permitted numerous known war criminals to reside openly within Serbia (they were often well-known public figures and regularly appeared in public venues) and these figures to travel freely and frequently between Serbia proper and the regions within Bosnia and Croatia (by now seperate nations) that were controlled by these figures’ paramilitary forces.

    5. It’s now been proven that the Serbian Minister of the Interior (a key Milosevic ally and crony) directed police units under his command to participate in war crimes.  This one intimate (at minimum) of Milosevic approved of daily war crime activity on a micro level, could have / should have (and probably did) inform Milosevic of this activity and (if Milosevic had been informed) Milosevic is guilty of not having immediately countermanded the orders of the Minister of the Interior.

    Posted by burritoboy  on  06/23  at  04:26 PM
  67. A good leftist critique of Milosevic can be found at

    http://www.socialistresistance.net/milosevicobit.htm

    and also at

    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/sais_review/v020/20.1balis.html

    The claim by LP that he said comforting words in a single speech, and therefore wasn’t a demagogue, is roughly equivalent to saying that freedom was the goal of operation Iraqi Freedom or that the old Soviet Union respected civil rights because they were in the constitution.

    The NATO intervention was after years of Serbian atrocities.  These atrocities were a direct consequence of Milosevic deciding to fan ethnic tensions to remain in power.  You can’t draw an arbitrary line a day before the NATO bombing and pretend that the world hadn’t already seen Croatia and Bosnia.  We had a good idea what Act 3 (Kosovo) was going to look like, and the rest of the world decided to stop the play.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:43 PM
  68. Posted by Louis Proyect  on  06/23  at  05:46 PM
  69. Marc: “The claim by LP that he said comforting words in a single speech, and therefore wasn’t a demagogue, is roughly equivalent to saying that freedom was the goal of operation Iraqi Freedom or that the old Soviet Union respected civil rights because they were in the constitution.”

    This is just another example of Serbophiles refusing to engage with the facts. I said that there was no evidence of racial supremacy in Milosevic’s *writings or speeches*. I was trying to answer the claims of the warmongering Hillary Clinton and other liberals that he was making Hitlerian speeches. This is an important point since the speech I quoted has been widely characterized by the Cruise Missile left as sounding like something written by a Serb version of Ian Paisley. That is obviously refuted by the words themselves.

    Posted by Louis Proyect  on  06/23  at  05:53 PM
  70. "Actually, the first act was economic destabilization from Western banks and lending agencies. I know that it is a temptation to see the Yugoslav civil wars in moralistic terms, but fratricide in almost every instance (including Rwanda and Darfur) is related to a shrinking of the economic pie.”

    Is it not interesting that such context from the ‘left’ Berube don’t show up in his analysis of the bombing of Yugoslavia?  Political economy just bores the heck outta liberals.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:57 PM
  71. The rhetorical flourishes that you selectively quote were part and parcel of his way of doing things.

    Here is a quote from

    http://www.balkan-archive.org.yu/politics/papers/history/vujacic.html

    “Even a cursory glance at the major slogans of the Milosevic-sponsored “rallies of solidarity” which shook Serbia and Vojvodina in summer 1988, reveals the peculiar combination of extreme nationalism, populist adoration for the leader, frustrated aspirations for social justice and reform, and a nostalgia for the glorious days of Yugoslavism. Thus, calls for revenge ("out with immigrants from Albania, “we will hang Vllasi"-the Albanian communist leader) went hand in hand with “Yugoslavist” slogans ("we don’t want civil war”; “down with nationalists"); celebration of the leader ("Slobodan our hero, Serbia will die for you") along with anticommunist sentiments and a craving for social justice ("Central Committee, aren’t you ashamed to hear the people crying”; “down with the red bourgeoisie") .”

    Strange that you don’t quote from the “rallies of solidarity” that preceded the carnage, choosing instead to pull the bits from his speeches that were calculated to provide plausible deniability.
    I think the gist of this blog - namely, that he
    used explicitly fascist techniques - is precisely correct.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  06:06 PM
  72. I think it’s fair to point out that Michael never really writes with passion about subjects—like academic freedom, disability rights, Hurricane Katrina, Horowitz’s lies, or his son Jamie—with passion.  He seems to reserve that passion solely for criticism of Chomsky.  Michael really needs to examine his motives for why that is.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  06:21 PM
  73. Strange that you don’t quote from the “rallies of solidarity” that preceded the carnage, choosing instead to pull the bits from his speeches that were calculated to provide plausible deniability.

    ---

    I wasn’t at these rallies so I can’t comment on them, nor am I likely to accept the words at face value of somebody associated with Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. Instead I would challenge you to find fascist demagogy in any of Milosevic’s speeches or writings, which are widely available on the Internet. If you want to change the subject to something else, that’s fine by me. I was countering the false charge that he was promoting the racial superiority of the Serbs to the Albanians, etc. I suppose if you need to drop uranium-tipped bombs on the Serbs or hurl missiles at their passenger trains, it is necessary to first demonize them. What better way to demonize them than to make amalgams between their President and Adolph Hitler.

    Posted by Louis Proyect  on  06/23  at  06:22 PM
  74. "What better way to demonize them than to make amalgams between their President and Adolph Hitler.”

    Indeed, it seems liberals substitute moralism for political economy. The latter is just so frustrating, it requires rigorous work.  Why talk about the US’s role in disintegration of Yugoslavia, interest in rapid privatization, divide and conquer, increasing gaps between poor and rich in ‘free markets’, the IMF, etc...Far easier to stick with ‘evil’ and ‘good’ to explain the world.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  06:51 PM
  75. Steve: why make excuses for a tyrant?  Why spread lies about his victims?  The tragedy in the Balkans isn’t just a weapon to be used against the government of the US.  “Fascist” isn’t “Nazi”, of course, but fundamentally dishonest hacks like to shift the rhetorical ground to claim the mantle of victim.  This quote, from Balkan Witness, is entirely apt as far as Chomsky and his fellow travellers go:

    “Nevertheless, in the eyes of the left revisionists, to accept that Belgrade and its proxies were committing aggression and genocide was akin to admitting that the liberals really had been right all along about the negative character of Communism....When a US client massacres innocent civilians it is wholly to blame; when a ‘socialist’ regime does so it is the victims who are primarily to blame.”

    Oh, and as far as speeches on the internet go: the ones on the net are posted by Milosevic apologists such as Jared Israel.  The reliability and completeness of such selective sourcing is, to put it mildly, doubtful.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:07 PM
  76. Liz, I have disagreed with Michael in the past about Chomsky — though I am not informed enough to have a responsible opinion in the matter at hand — but I think your statement in 77 is off-base.

    Datum.

    Datum.

    Datum.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/23  at  07:18 PM
  77. Yeah, right Marc, Chomsky has endless praise for Slobo.  Right. Any other lying pretexts for avoiding messy things like political economy? Or does doing such analysis per se require one to be an apologist for x,y, or z leader?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:27 PM
  78. "Yugoslavia had already disintegrated by the time he became President.”

    Milosevic formally became President of Serbia in February of 1988 and was in effect President since September of 1987 (he engineered the downfall of his predecessor).  Slovenia seperated from Yugoslavia in June 1991, almost three years after Milosevic effectively became President of Serbia.

    Posted by burritoboy  on  06/23  at  07:28 PM
  79. Burritoboy, I understand that Slovenia separated in 1991. I am quite familiar with Yugoslav history. When I refer to Yugoslavia disintegrating, I am not talking about formal secession but about the fact that the well-off states had already decided to jump ship years earlier. The news reports are replete with items like this in 1988:

    COURIER-MAIL, June 4, 1988 Saturday
    BELGRADE FACES SECESSION CALLS
    BY D. COSTELLO

    Activists from the Yugoslav republic of Slovenia yesterday said the republic should have the right to secede. In another shock for Belgrade authorities, veteran dissident Milovan Djilas warned that the country faced “"democracy or disintegration”. Mr Djilas was giving his first lecture in Yugoslavia since being purged from political power by former leader Josip Broz Tito in 1954. “Every republic, internally different, should find compromises through a democratic coalition,” said Mr Djilas, 76. “Yugoslavia will either be a democratic confederation or it will disintegrate,” he said in a speech sure to anger national leaders wrestling with an acute political and economic crisis. Meanwhile, some 500 intellectuals meeting in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana turned a cultural discussion into a debate on the republic’s place in Yugoslavia’s communist federation, participants told Reuters. Some speakers suggested Slovenia should have the right to secede, they said. Earlier this month, authorities, faced by 149 percent inflation and burgeoning worker unrest, introduced a strict austerity program. On Tuesday a crisis conference of the Yugoslav Communist party committed party leaders to a major economic reform to be completed by the end of the year. Yesterday, the Government published proposals to turn Yugoslavia into a market economy. Slovenia, the most Westernised and liberal republic, has been under pressure from the federal authorities for advocating more democracy and regional independence. The republic accounts for eight percent of Yugoslavia’s population and territory but generates 25 percent of exports. Slovenian writers, intellectuals, students and youth officials delivered written protests yesterday over the arrest on Tuesday of a prominent youth activist.

    Posted by Louis Proyect  on  06/23  at  08:03 PM
  80. Chomsky has an amply documented history of providing excuses for Serbian atrocities that he does not feel compelled to provide for the inevitable comparisons with the actions of the US government or its client states.  Read the links.  Milosevic fanned the flames of hatred, and the people of the region reaped the whirlwind.  To pretend that NATO was the primary agent of suffering is to say that up is down, and that black is white.  The victims in the Balkans deserve better than to be treated as debating points in a lifelong grudge match against the US government.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  08:03 PM
  81. So far three people, including Michael himself, have demonstrated a fascinating inability to comprehend the meaning of the phrase “guilt by association”. It means that because people are associated in manner 1, they must also be associated in manner 2. No-one is arguing that Herman and Chomsky aren’t associated - they wrote three books together for Christ’s sake. Michael is alleging that Chomsky must himself endorse the SRG’s positions, or somehow gives them credence, by criticising the war crimes tribunal’s charges against Milosevic, just as, I assume, the SRG does. Chomsky says X; the SRG says X and also says Y: therefore Chomsky must also say Y. I think you’ll find you’ve come across this kind of reasoning before.

    Now, it’s possible Chomsky does subscribe to the SRG’s views on Srebenica. I dunno, but Michael has adduced no evidence of this. He has simply relied on guilt by association.

    Which is all by-the-trivial-by. My original point remains unanswered. If you don’t agree that “the case against the Bush administration is stronger ... than that against the late Serb president”, as the interviewer paraphrases whatever NC said prior to the quotes above, that’s fine. (It certainly doesn’t seem like any kind of truism to me.) I simply question the injection of a moral component to that position. I suspect that’s not a particualrly interesting field for debate, which explains why other commenters have preferred the factual debate this should actually be.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  08:11 PM
  82. Here’s something that ought to be beneath you:

    better luck with Chomsky’s recent claims than I have, Lee K.  Because I keep looking for the 5-7 million Afghans who were slaughtered in the course of that war

    Chomsky resists admitting he was wrong about his predictions and assertions of a silent genocide in Afghanistan in 2001 (from starvation, not slaughter, as you have slid over to in a very un-Berube-like straw-manly way).  That’s bad.  But no way has he made recent claims that 5-7 Afghans were killed in the course of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

    Posted by Nell  on  06/23  at  08:19 PM
  83. Louis apparently can’t tell the difference between an intellectuals’ meeting where only some of the participants called for unilateral secession of Slovenia and the President of Serbia organizing, as early as 1988 (essentially, within weeks of his formally taking office) massive anti-Kosovar actions, which included 32 Kosovar protestors being killed in 1989.

    On one side, poets and composers are debating (there was no consensus) as to what Yugoslavia’s future should be, and, at the same moment, Milosevic was manipulating and organizing what in effect was a conquest of Kosovo by Serbian (not Yugoslavian) forces.  There were certainly plenty of forces trying to break up Yugoslavia, but the one who had the most power at the time was Milosevic.

    Posted by burritoboy  on  06/23  at  08:27 PM
  84. I also think that those reading Serbian apologetics into the passage on Srebenica, which is part of a discussion making analogies between Srebenica and Fallujah, are wilfully misreading.  Chomsky makes the point about ‘attacks on Serbian forces coming from Srebenica’ because U.S. apologists for the assault on Fallujah justify the killing there the same way.

    Chomsky’s point is clearly that if Srebenica was a massacre (and he agrees that the answer is yes), so is Fallujah.  And they both were (despite differences that Chomsky doesn’t focus on).  The idea that Chomsky is denying or rationalizing the Srebenica massacre is dishonest, tendentious reading.

    Posted by Nell  on  06/23  at  08:32 PM
  85. I apologize for systematically misspelling Srebrenica.

    Posted by Nell  on  06/23  at  08:34 PM
  86. no way has he made recent claims that 5-7 Afghans were killed in the course of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

    That depends on the meaning of “recent,” Nell.  Lee K. said that Chomsky’s claims almost always check out.  I believed that Lee was talking about Chomsky’s entire career, and I think (as I’ve said) that his earlier work on Central America and East Timor is infinitely superior to his more recent work on the Balkans and Afghanistan.  I replied that he continued to use the 5-7 million figure, and to refer to “silent genocide,” well into 2002-03.  By late 2003 he was insisting that he never predicted a silent genocide, and casting aspersions on people who suggested that he had (they are promoting “an interesting fabrication, which gives a good deal of insight into the prevailing moral and intellectual culture").  Perhaps that’s not “recent” enough for you, but it’s hardly “beneath” me, and it’s hardly a straw man.  And it’s another example (see comment 29) of how, sometimes, Chomsky uses sources selectively, and then claims that he never made the claims at issue.

    In the New Statesman interview, which, I believe, is linked in this very post, Chomsky calls the war in Afghanistan “one of the most grotesque acts of modern history.” Opinions may differ about this, of course, and much depends on what “modern” means.  But I don’t need to tell Chomsky’s across-the-board defenders, for whom every criticism is a “slander” and a “smear” and an “apostasy,” how to parse his remarks so as to cast him in the best possible light.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  08:39 PM
  87. Marc,
    You’re quoting ignorant comments: “admitting” the “negative character of Communism” has nothing to do with Chomsky, if you check his writings you’ll see that he has never liked states and other concentrations of power, Soviet-style Communism included, of course. You might want to drop Chomsky and direct such comments at someone like Michael Parenti, if you want to debate such claims in a meaningful way.
    You and Michael Berube keep trying to present the straw man case that Milosevic was a war criminal responsible for terrible crimes and therefore he should have been removed from power, while ignoring all the key facts regarding the Kosovo war. The 1st thing that you choose to ignore is looking into the motives of the US intervention in Kosovo. The 2nd thing that you ignore is that Milosevic was doing pretty much nothing around that time (fabricated genocide propaganda notwithstanding), unlike Clinton who was doing plenty at that time: Iraq sanctions, East Timor, south-east Turkey, and stopping those far more serious crimes is very simple, because Clinton and his admin were the perpetrators, so all they had to do is stop. The 3rd thing that you ignore is that the Kosovo war achieved the exact opposite of the war-against-evil-doers picture that you’re trying to paint, i.e. the ethnic cleansing and atrocities were the consequence of US intervention, as was anticipated (in addition to aerial bombardment of Serb civilians). It’s a moronic straw man case because if you actually read what Chomsky writes, you’ll see that he would be the first to agree that Yugoslavia would be a better place with Milosevic removed from power (ditto Saddam/Iraq), for example in the same way that the people of Romania removed Ceausescu, despite the fact that the US supported him until his last day in power. The difference is that unlike liberals, Chomsky isn’t under obligation to ignore the real world (same goes for the invasion of Iraq, see e.g. this collection: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/American_benevolence).

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  09:18 PM
  88. Michael,
    Here are some links regarding what the aid agencies that operate in Afghanistan said at the time:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/001/16.22.html
    http://www.commondreams.org/news2001/1029-07.htm
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,554306,00.html
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,1284,611633,00.html
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1012/p25s2-wosc.html
    http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0149,ridgeway2,30630,6.html
    http://www.fair.org/extra/0205/afghan-famine.html
    http://wsws.org/articles/2001/dec2001/afgh-d07.shtml
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4310863.stm
    Your tortured attempts to find something wrong with what Chomsky said about Afghanistan are just weird. Chomsky was just using his publicity to give a voice to the aid agencies, and arguing that you’re responsible for the preditable consequences of your actions. A complete quote for what he referred to a minute later as ‘silent genocide’ is: “What will happen we don’t know, but plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks.”, which is exactly what the aid agencies said, and the silent genocide part refers to the point that no one in the Western media seemed to think that this is an important issue, and that they reported it as a side note. So what is your argument here? That Chomsky was too much concerned with the fate of Afghanis?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  09:48 PM
  89. So what is your argument here? That Chomsky was too much concerned with the fate of Afghanis?

    I thought I made my argument clear in comment 27, and I thought it was obvious that there is all the difference in the world between trumpeting the warnings of aid agencies before the war, and then refusing to revise one’s assessment of the war after the collapse of the Taliban made it possible for aid agencies to bring record amounts of food and relief into the country.  Your unwillingness to understand this point is just weird.  On December 31, 2001, UN World Food Program executive director Catherine Bertini said, “There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter. There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale.” Laura Rozen had reported on this six weeks earlier in Salon, but she, of course, is a liberal, and liberals can’t handle the truth.

    Ah, would that we had managed to keep the Taliban at bay since then, instead of running off to PNAC fantasyland and invading Iraq.  But hey, nimc, if it pleases you to think that you and Chomsky care more about Afghans (not Afghanis—that’s the currency) than I do, please go right ahead.  I won’t mind.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  10:37 PM
  90. Oh, and Chris, thanks so much for comment 82.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  10:40 PM
  91. This is Chomsky’s blog response to a query at the Zmag forums regarding the Afghanistan Food Crisis.  It will take two entries to read it because it’s over 7000 characters.
    ------------------------------------------------

    I plead guilty of failing to write anything at all about this at the time when it mattered, or even to mention it except in some scattered interviews and a few remarks in talks. That failure was deplorable, since the threat of bombing, and then the bombing, were among the most disgraceful acts of modern history, as was known instantly. In these few scattered remarks, I quoted the international relief agencies, which bitterly denounced the threat of bombing, then the implementation of the threat. As they warned, the threat of bombing, which forced them to leave the country, and then the bombing itself, put huge numbers of people at risk of starvation.

    …That starvation could cause death of millions was the clear, explicit, unmistakable message of just about every international aid agency and those who cared about the people of Afghanistan. That was the message they were desperately seeking to convey. I did report their message in a few talks and interviews, but far too little…

    As to the facts, the basic story is this. On Sept. 16, five days after 9-11, the NY Times reported that Washington delivered to Pakistan a series of demands. Among then, Washington “demanded...the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population.” It is worth reading and re-reading that statement. It would have been extraordinary if, say, 1000 people in Afghanistan’s civilian population were relying on the convoys that the US ordered be eliminated. But it wasn’t 1000.

    The numbers were estimated by the agencies at about 5 million. Simply think for a moment about what those orders meant. The fact that there wasn’t an enormous outcry of protest is utterly scandalous.

    The aid agencies did protest vigorously. You don’t have to go to exotic sources to discover that. By late September, after the threat of bombing but before it began, the UN Food and Agricultural Agency estimated that 7 million Afghans might face starvation if bombing were initiated. At the same time, you could read in the NY Times that “The country was on a lifeline, and we just cut the line,” quoting aid workers who were evacuated under the threat of bombing, as virtually all were. Just to cite a few of a flood of other examples, a director of the UN World Food Program said that after the bombing began, the threat of humanitarian catastrophe, which was already very severe, had “increased on a scale of magnitude I don’t even want to think about.”

    A spokesperson for the UNHCR said that “We are facing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions in Afghanistan with 7.5 million short of food and at risk of starvation.” After two weeks of bombing, the NYT reported that the number of Afghans in need of food had risen from 5 million to 7.5 million—and the lifeline was cut. After a month of bombing, Harvard’s leading specialist on Afghanistan wrote in the prestigious journal International Security that “millions of Afghans [are] at grave risk of starvation” (winter issue). And so it continues.

    … (to be continued)

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  12:04 AM
  92. Chomsky continued…

    Returning to the events of September-October 2001, to put such a mass of people at risk of “silent genocide”—to borrow the term used by UN agencies for far lesser threats—is a crime of the highest order, and failure to condemn it vociferously and to organize to stop it is a bitter condemnation of the US and its allies. To repeat, I unhappily accept my share of the blame for barely mentioning it when the evidence was so overwhelming and the actions of such extreme criminality.

    Considerably later, I did write about it, though still far too little, also citing the shocking reports from the most respectable mainstream sources months later of mass starvation and other horrors, and quoting the pleas of some of the most prominent anti-Taliban Afghan individuals and organizations to stop the bombing, which was destroying the country. But that was far too late, for which, again, I plead guilty.

    All of this would have been horrendous enough even if there had been a credible reason for driving the aid agencies out of the country, demanding termination of the flow of food, and then the bombing with its shocking expected effects. But there was no credible reason.

    After several weeks of bombing, the US and UK concocted the claim that they were bombing to rid the country of the Taliban. One may decide for oneself how to react to placing 7.5 million people at “grave risk of starvation” to implement that goal, but it is irrelevant, because that was not the goal. The bombing was undertaken to compel the Taliban to turn over to the US people the US suspected of involvement in 9-11, but without presenting the evidence that the Taliban requested—because Washington had no evidence. The head of the FBI conceded in Senate testimony 8 months later that after the most intensive international investigation in history, the FBI could only report that it “believed” the plot might have been hatched in Afghanistan but that it was implemented in Europe and the UAE, all US allies.

    These are, again, crimes of extraordinary magnitude, as is the failure to protest them vigorously and to act to terminate them.

    …In the few comments I made about this horrifying atrocity at the time, I mentioned that we would never know the consequences, because they would not be investigated. The reasons for believing that were quite strong: the powerful don’t investigate their own crimes. Take Vietnam. We do not know, literally within millions, how many Indochinese died in the US wars, and polls show that what the population believes is vastly below even the official figures. Same with innumerable other cases. And the same held true in this case.

    Though as noted, I did cite in print later the reports I could find from mainstream sources, they were few and scattered. Such topics are simply not investigated, unlike the crimes of official enemies, where huge investigations are undertaken to unearth any scrap of evidence that might give some idea of the scale of their crimes.

    But more important, the answer to that question has no bearing whatsoever, precisely none, on assessment of the pre-bombing orders to Pakistan, the threats that drove the aid agencies out of the country, or the bombing itself. It’s the merest moral truism that actions are evaluated in terms of the range of anticipated consequences. We understand the truism very well with regard to official enemies.

    Take, say, Khrushchev’s sending missiles to Cuba in 1962, acts that carried a significant risk of nuclear war. Sane people regard that as an act of criminal lunacy, whatever the motives. I do not know whether there were Communist party hacks who were so utterly depraved that they “indict” those who warned of the threats on the grounds that there was no nuclear war. I don’t know of any, but perhaps there were some…

    These observations are really elementary. It is a remarkable comment on the moral and intellectual culture in which we live that so many fail to comprehend them—with regard to ourselves, that is; with regard to enemies everyone rightly takes them for granted.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  12:05 AM
  93. For those who think that Chomsky was not saying what Dr. Bérubé (too many Michaels to just call him Michael, so I get to be all formal) claims Chomsky was saying, this post on Chomsky’s blog might be informative. He’s much more explicit in saying exactly what Dr. Bérubé believes him to be saying in the interview. A sample:

    I rarely bother to respond to vulgar apologetics for state violence. We can put aside Hasting’s surmises, which have no interest or credibility. What we do know is that there had been a steady low level of violence, with some surges and declines, and that nothing special happening up to the bombing, apart from the KLA escalation right before the bombing, reported by the OSCE. We also know that according to the British parliamentary inquiry, most of the violence (as noted) was provoked by the KLA guerrillas seeking (as they openly said) to provoke a harsh response that they could use to elicit Western intervention, and that the bombing was undertaken with the clear anticipation that it would lead to an escalation of atrocities, as it did. This much was already clear from the Milosevic indictment, relying on US-British intelligence: with one exception, the charges were after the bombing—which also elicited the first refugee flow out of the country sufficient for the UNHCR to begin issuing reports. Hasting also knows—but would never say—that there were two diplomatic options on the table at the time when NATO bombed, a NATO proposal and a Serb proposal, and that after 78 days of bombing, a compromise was formally reached between them, ending the war (I add “formally” because NATO instantly violated it, as he also knows). That at least suggests that peaceful means were still available, had NATO (meaning the US and UK) not been intent on military action—for reasons that are now conceded publicly. Of course, if we adopt the North Korean stand and worship our Dear Leaders without question, then there were no diplomatic options.

    Posted by Chris  on  06/24  at  01:49 AM
  94. All of this hasn’t really presented any smoking guns against Chomsky.  The strongest claims that can be made are again:

    A. We apparently all agree the aid agencies were predicting the 5-7 million dead Afghan contingency.  This was a possible, and not implausible, outcome of the invasion.  Chomsky was therefore right to point this out before the attack.  Michael now faults Chomsky not for mentioning this before the Afghan attack but apparently for continuing to remind us that we were ready to attack knowing about this contingency AFTER we already know that it turned out not to have happened.  Is that the strongest critique that can be made against Chomsy--that he keeps reminding us how ready and willing we were to ignore these reports?

    B. On Western intervention re: Kosovo, Chomsky’s point, unaddressed, remains as follows:  there was fighting, and atrocities, on both sides.  NATO intervention made the situation go from bad to worse.  Serb atrocities escalated in a big way afterwards.  The principle of “do no harm” suggests that making a bad situation worse is a bad thing.  It says nothing about whether we like or dislike Milosevic.

    Both A and B fall under the elementary moral truism:  we are responsible for what we do and for what we think the consequences of our actions are.  If we attack Afghanistan and Kosovo and we predict that our attacks will make the situations horribly worse, then attacking is a morally repugnant choice.  In case A the predicted horrible consequences did not happen; in case B the predicted horrible consequences did happen.  What is so difficult to understand about these claims?  We are responsible in both cases, and mentioning the horrible consequences that did or might have happened is an entirely appropriate thing to do.

    I feel like my trust in Chomsky’s writing remains well placed.  Frankly, most denunciations of him end up in denouncing his “tone” or “unpleasantness” or “insufficient attention to X” or come in the form “sure you’re entirely right in the factual basis of what you say, but your saying this makes us uncomfortable.”

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  03:14 AM
  95. "Michael now faults Chomsky not for mentioning this before the Afghan attack but apparently for continuing to remind us that we were ready to attack knowing about this contingency AFTER we already know that it turned out not to have happened.  Is that the strongest critique that can be made against Chomsy--that he keeps reminding us how ready and willing we were to ignore these reports?”

    As far as I can tell, that’s about the best Berube has to offer. He then thinks that lamenting the US decision to turn to Iraq is what caused the Afghanistan adventure to fail in its ‘mission’ of capturing Bin Laden [or for that matter getting rid of the Taliban]. 
    Again, why the US should be relied on as a military power to bring democracy to Afghanistan, let alone real economic development is a mystery that only liberals seem to understand. There is little precedent, unless we are to pretend that the US is in the same position as 1945 and has even a little motive to contribute massive funds to development of poor 4th world countries.  The naivete of the idea is astounding really.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  10:34 AM
  96. A correction to this:  “He then thinks that lamenting the US decision to turn to Iraq is what caused the Afghanistan adventure to fail in its ‘mission’ of capturing Bin Laden [or for that matter getting rid of the Taliban]. “

    I meant, “"He then laments the US decision to turn to Iraq, as though that is what caused the Afghanistan adventure to fail in its ‘mission’ of capturing Bin Laden [or for that matter getting rid of the Taliban].

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  11:41 AM
  97. Thanks, Michael.  I misinterpreted the time scale within which ‘recent’ was being applied (now compared with 2001-2, rather than the last 15 years compared with the 1970s).

    Posted by Nell  on  06/24  at  12:17 PM
  98. I don’t think we have to get to the bottom of the details here to completely negate Michael’s original post.  His contention is that Chomsky’s position is utterly without merit.  He’s wrong.  Michael’s argument style and many of the articles linked to and other commenters here is explcitly ad hominem.  Michael, do you know what that phrase means?

    Do you admit that all this stuff about Pol Pot or Afghanistan or which other people he has published books with, regardless of how close the relationship—every bit of it is an attack on the man, and not on the message?  Do you understand that in deciding the validity of an argument it doesn’t matter if the words of the argument are spoken by Gandhi or Adolf Hitler?  It doesn’t matter if Chomskly eats babies, ok?

    Do you understand that by persisting in ad hominem attacks instead of substantive responses to the facts Chomsky was quoted as putting out there—even after several people remarked on it—that you look like you are motivated by some emotional agenda here?

    That’s all true even if it turns out Chomsky was wrong about his statements.

    Michael says,
    Last and least, DavidByron, in his short time here, has amply borne out his reputation as the Jeff Goldstein of the left.

    Well you are obviously very touchy on this topic.  Of course I am hardly the only one to see the problems with what you wrote.  And others who have been here longer than me, seem to think this sort of behaviour is out of character (except when you are attacking Chomsky that is). 

    I don’t know who “Jeff Goldstein” is but if you are now stooping to vilifying me instead of responding to my substantive argument then I guess you’ve put me in the same league as Chomsky himself.

    Now did you mean to ban me from this site?  For the last couple of days I don’t seem to have been able to access the site.  I had assumed that you were just down for maintenance and perhaps it is just one of those things, until I checked to see if anonymiser could reach you.  If you do want to ban me I think you ought to at least try to be honest about it, don’t you?

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  07:43 PM
  99. DavidByron, wait a minute. Which of Michael’s criticisms of Chomsky were ad hominem arguments? Do you know what that means, David?

    Michael essentially said:

    Chomsky made the following claims, which he did (his blog post is much more explicit than the interview. Chomsky is wrong, because of these facts (to which he linked). If you can find an ad hominem in there, then you’re better at reading between the lines than I. Granted, you might disagree with Michael’s interpretation of the facts, but that has nothing to do with ad hominem arguments.

    Posted by Chris  on  06/24  at  07:47 PM
  100. Yep, DavidByron, both for your tone and for your charge that my original post had a “whif” of the anti-Semite charge (which I have never leveled at Chomsky and never will), you’re banned.  Honestly.

    I love your work on feminism, though.  “Feminists are looking more and more like the religious / racist right,” as you said in this thread.  Great point!  Take it to some other blog.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  09:52 PM
  101. "like unto loony LaRouchies”

    .. who are Anti-Semitic.

    “a half muttering to themselves darkly about how the Trilateral Commission teamed up with the Rothschilds”

    ... who are favoured villains of Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

    Geez, whatever could Dave have been thinking?

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  02:22 AM
  102. I come back to this thread very late, maybe it’s dead already. But it just hit me that, in the original post, there is a part in Williams’ quote that Micheal cites approvingly, namely this:
    There were, it has to be said, some honourable exceptions, who realized that Belgrade’s treatment of the Kosovars was insupportable, but felt that the cure was worse than the ailment. Some thought that the KLA should be helped in their war of liberation, but that there should be no foreign intervention. Indeed, even many vociferous supporters of intervention were worried about the international legal implications of taking action without UN approval, and also about the form of the intervention. High-level bombing increased risks of civilian casualties in order to save politically inconvenient military casualties for the US, and the refusal until the final stages to consider ground troops, almost certainly prolonged the war and allowed Belgrade to go ahead with its atrocities.

    If you read what Chomsky writes about the thing, time and again, these are exactly the issues he’s raising. Then shouldn’t he be counted among the honorable exceptions?
    Of course, he still disagrees on a fundamental point: the war was not started on humanitarian grounds, not out of concern for the Kosovarians, but in the greater geopolitical interests of the US. As in fact it is *always* the case with US campaigns, as he has proven beyond dispute in many other cases, and one doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe this, just read US government documents when they are available and one can clearly see that humanitarian concerns play no role except for PR. Of course you can choose to believe the public statements and rhetoric instead. In the case of Saddam, you have no trouble recognizing that whether he was a bad guy or not had nothing to do with the invasion. You complain that Chomsky didn’t change his assessment of the war in Afghanistan after there was no humanitarian disaster? Why should he? Is it because that war was all about getting rid of the Talebans, because they were oppressing women and stuff? Is that what we are supposed to believe?
    It is worth noting that, in my experience, a large fraction of the American public still thinks of Vietnam as a fundamentally just but badly mishandled war, despite this point of view having been thoroughly disproved by Chomsky among others. Am I wrong on this? It seems to me this became clearly visible during the Bush vs. Kerry campaign.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  06:52 AM
  103. I feel compelled to add that, to be fair, I think I understand the problems that many respectable and well-meaning people on the left have with Chomsky. After he’s done demolishing the castle of lies and deceptions that the powers put up to justify their actions, many people are left thinking: but then what could have been done? Should we just have stayed still and watched indifferently at the evils of the world? He seems to offer little in the way of constructive criticism. The way I think about it is that, while in his analyses he takes for granted that you don’t pay attention to the words and the rhetoric but to the underlying motives, the way forward is on the other hand to take advantage of the fact that politicians have to use the rhetoric to win consensus, and hold them accountable for keeping to their words. This implies unrelentlessly pointing out every instance when words and actions don’t match.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  07:25 AM
  104. Geez, whatever could Dave have been thinking?

    RobW, he was probably thinking the very same, and very stupid, thoughts you were thinking when he read the sentence

    If Chomsky were to refuse to sign on to this nonsense, the defend-Milosevic crew would consist primarily of third-rate party apparatchiks like Ed Herman and Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti, with their little “Srebrenica Denial Research Group”, churning out regular attacks on what Johnstone calls the “Srebrenica mourning cult,” and we could place them on the shelf next to the handful of people who have spent the last decade and a half muttering to themselves darkly about how the Trilateral Commission teamed up with the Rothschilds and Queen Elizabeth to spread lies about their man Slobodan, who was only trying to carry on the socialist project in a brutal neoliberal world.

    and, because he cannot read, came away with the impression that I am suggesting that Chomsky is anti-Semitic.  And with that, you too, my friend, are gone.  With your new free time, you can study the history of the Balkans and the meaning of “guilt by association.”

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  09:52 AM
  105. I apologize for my long absence from the thread.

    First, briefly - Michael, I don’t see what justifies banning RobW.  He misread the sentence.  Perhaps you’ve never misread an important sentence, but after all you’re a humanities professor.  Forgive the rest of us.

    Now to the points I made previously.  Michael, you say:
    No.  That would have been inaccurate.  I wish people wouldn’t try to whitewash or minimize eight years of Serbian ethnic cleansing.  I don’t see the point of it.
    It doesn’t seem in dispute that the number of refugees and the amount of violence in Kosovo both increased quite substantially after the bombing.  So I’m not sure why saying that they were relatively less prior to it is inaccurate.  And the point of arguing about how bad things were prior to the bombing is, of course, to show that the bombing made things worse.  I don’t think it’s fair to call this whitewashing - while there are those (severely deluded people) who don’t think Milosevic was a bad guy, neither I nor Chomsky is one of them.

    Well, that’s precisely what Herman does in his essays on Srebrenica denial.  To the letter.  You’re welcome to that genre—I’m not touching it. 

    Herman does nothing more than point out select pieces of information that the corporate media and mainstream politicians ignore?  He doesn’t get his facts wrong, use unreliable sources, make deplorable moral analyses, or otherwise commit sins other than those of omission?  I don’t know anything about his particular work on the Balkans - but if that’s really its only problem, perhaps I should pay more attention.

    Certainly the selective description of facts can be dishonest.  But it isn’t necessarily.  An easy example of a case where it is legitimate is in response to someone else’s selective description - if I say that the Iranian mad mullahs held hostage hundreds of Americans, and you say that this was immediately after their overthrow of a U.S.-supported dictatorship, and so perhaps something other than simple madness explains their actions, are you being dishonest?  Sure, it’s possible to tell a dishonest story about Khomeini as an anti-imperialist liberator by simple omission, but you aren’t in this hypothetical, are you?

    Chomsky seems to be on the right side of that line.  He discusses Milosevic by way of a comparison to Bush, suggesting that a defense lawyer for Milosevic would have a better case than a hypothetical one for Bush.  Given Chomsky’s opinion of Bush, this is not very complementary, and seems in fact to rely on the reader assuming that Milosevic committed serious crimes - an assumption Chomsky has defended explicitly elsewhere.  If Milosevic wasn’t an acknowledged villain, and defending him wasn’t difficult, the analogy would not suggest anything about the strength of the case against Bush.

    This is much longer than I had intended it to be.  My point is really just that Chomsky’s comments are likely sloppy and at worst irresponsible, and that accusing him of promoting “a pack of lies” is unfair and plays into the hands of the many right-wing Chomsky-bashers.  And is beneath you, because you’re smarter than that.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  07:37 PM
  106. Unlike many who like to argue regarding the facts of a war, or the guilt of the parties - I like to see who the knight in armor is and what are the results of the war. The results, in other words, are paramount - and usually unmask the reasons for the activity.

    I need someone to point out one good thing that came out of this “merciful action.” What are the results of this war? What is taking place today in this region? If you can point out one good outcome, free of exploitation, I will gladly say it was a good action. I am afraid you will find the same fingerprints that we find in Iraq.

    There is nothing good that has come from any activity regarding “wars of liberation - aka. democracy” etc. So, some bad guys were toppled - what has become of the people since the “liberation?” I reprobate these activities, regardless of how cruel the given rulers are, because the motives for the war(s) do nothing but enrich the few - period. I hope this was clear - show me the end (results) of the action, not the reasons for the act, every time.

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  06/26  at  02:27 AM
  107. My point is really just that Chomsky’s comments are likely sloppy and at worst irresponsible, and that accusing him of promoting “a pack of lies” is unfair and plays into the hands of the many right-wing Chomsky-bashers.

    Actually, I think the person who played into the right-wing Chomsky-bashers here was Chomsky.  But as I said above, I don’t care what the right says.  I care about people on the left who go to bat for fascist thugs like Milosevic.  Chomsky doesn’t do it himself; Herman, Johnstone et al. do, and remarks like those Chomsky has made here and elsewhere provide those people with a legitimacy they do not deserve.  But I also think I should give up trying to persuade certain people of this.  If you can’t see what’s wrong with Herman’s work, I don’t have much to say to you.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/26  at  04:00 AM
  108. Well, he did just say a “whiff”, Michael, and, while I know you aren’t implying Chompers and the SRG mob are anti-Semitic, I was merely demonstrating why someone might come to that conclusion. And for this exegesis I’m banned? A thousand apologies, Michael; I hadn’t realised you felt so strongly about the primacy of authorial intent.

    Seriously, though, there’s no reason my workmates should be penalised by being denied access to your blog. If you don’t want me commenting here, you only have to ask.

    Posted by  on  06/26  at  05:37 AM
  109. OK, RobW.  Come on back.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/26  at  12:11 PM
  110. The Demonization And Death Of Slobodan Milosevic
    by Louis Proyect
    http://www.swans.com/library/art12/lproy35.html

    Snort.

    Posted by  on  06/26  at  05:20 PM
  111. Man, I wish I hadn’t gone through this post and comments.  We all have bad days, but Michael’s whole manner on this subject seems strangely doctrinaire and strident.  I also didn’t know he banned people who criticized his posts.  That is teh lame.  I feel like I’m present during a family fight in which someone may have molested someone else’s dog.

    Posted by  on  06/27  at  01:40 AM
  112. Ally, you’re kidding, right?  Obviously I don’t ban people who criticize my posts, as this thread goes to show.  On the contrary, I’ve been extremely patient with even the most abusive commenters here.  As for the infamous Byron, I am merely the thirty-eighth blog to ban him.  Really—ask around.  You’ll be amazed.  As far as I’m concerned, his infantile comment 105—hectoring me for making and not understanding “ad hominem” attacks, and demonstrating thereby that he has no idea what the phrase means—suggests to me that I let him stay around way too long.

    Or I could say, instead, “your comment is an interesting fabrication, which gives a good deal of insight into the prevailing moral and intellectual culture.” That kind of response seems to go over big in some quarters; apparently, some people just love it when Chomsky responds to serious questions that way.

    I overreacted to RobW, to be sure.  I’m sorry for that, even though I find his comment 44 at once sneering and dishonest.  But yes, I do find it vexing when leftists engage in Milosevic apologetics.  I’ve said precisely the same thing, on this very blog, about the “all power to the Iraqi Maquis!” left, too.  So no, it’s not just Chomsky.  It’s a whole range of people who go to bat for mass murderers—or who, as Chomsky did in the New Statesman interview, refrain from stepping up to the plate themselves, but holler encouragement from the on-deck circle. 

    Posted by Michael  on  06/27  at  02:43 AM
  113. One again for emphasis, I find the answers for “taking care” of these mass murderers (as you put it) not only inadequate but laughable (not in the sense of funny, but plainly rediculous). To opt for pointing out the obvious error of verbally protecting these murderous individuals, while remaining silent on the poisonous remedy employed in the area of question, is just as grave an error as the one we target - no, it is worse.

    When will you devote the time and energy in bringing this to light? Unless of course, you believe there is some legitimate use of force - is that what you believe? The absense of this point is patently wrong in the framework of what we discuss.

    We must not only examine and comment on proactive verbal nonsense from the left (protecting murderers), but bring to light the insidious nature of the force used to “liberate - democratize” the region. To remain silent regarding this point provides a “fill in the blanks” environment. The National Security State, the use of NATO (in this instance) was no answer. Unless, of course, you wish to gloss over the glaring, murderous self-interest of these “democratic” incursions - the murder of millions of innocent people all over the world, and the rape of their land and sacking of their futures! I dare say it is a minor point to merely expose the error of those protecting/defending these local murderers. Where is the outrage regarding the outcome of these warring remedies?

    Unless you believe we are the savior nation, bringing truth, justice, and the “American way.” Quite frankly, the National Security State has almost never met a democracy it did not wish to topple - especially if it means enriching the general population in the target area of National Interest. There are no modern crusaders, especially from the West - there is no pure, moral upright motives for intervention. Intervention is never the lesser of two evils when considering global problems - period. History is clearly on my side - shall we broaden the issue? Or will we continue to pounce on the inadequate verbal defense of what I consider the true progressive (and only viable) left, when we really know what their point regards (the wish to dismantle this current national direction) - even though they stutter while they attempt to verbalize their disgust?

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  06/27  at  03:59 AM
  114. Wait, there are no legitimate uses of force? Or are you asking if there was a legitimate use of force in the Balkins?

    If it’s the former, then wow, Michael, you’ve attracted some elements of the left that I thought only existed in the minds of people on the right (and in disorganized, and philosophically naive, but passionate student groups).

    Posted by Chris  on  06/27  at  05:30 AM
  115. Chris, the use of force within this framework - subject matter, is not legitimate. We are not the saviors of the world, in real life this activity is filled with nothing but ulterior motives - and there was no good outcome in regard to the action for the people of the region. My recommendation to you is to consult “your” local naive student group, leave the rest to people who grasp the reality of what is really taking place in this instance and countless others. Perhaps some day you will be lucky enough to be on the receiving end of “liberating democratic intervention.” In the future stay away from the scholastic exercise of reading the tripe written in Western History books taught in the U.S., and try not to play with toy soldiers.

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  06/27  at  01:18 PM
  116. Sorry, Michael, I knew that I was being overly broad in my description of who you might ban.  I am not good at the word writing thingy.  I should have said: I didn’t know Michael banned posts by people just because they were jerks making bad arguments.  Obviously, you may do as you wish, it just is one of my pet peeves, I guess.

    I don’t find your argument that Chomsky is somehow tacitly supporting the apologists for mass-murders very convincing.  Questioning the motives of a person’s enemies should not imply support for that person.  Even evil people can be maligned.  Chomsky has always focused on a critical examination of the actions and policies of the USA, which I think is useful.  There is, after all, no shortage of scholars who examine the actions and policies of our adversaries.

    Anyway, thank you for responding to my post.  You have washed away some of the bad taste that had been left after my first reading.  I guess what I’m saying is that you are like mouthwash.  Or maybe a shot of fernet.  No, fernet is bitter.  You are like a spring breeze on a Sunday morning.  Oh, jeez, nevermind.

    Posted by  on  06/27  at  03:10 PM
  117. Not fernet. Michael’s a Pellegrino bitter, capable of causing and then curing digestive upset.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/27  at  03:21 PM
  118. Virgil, your category of non-legitimate violence is so broad that I can’t help but think that you either have no knowledge of history that extens beyond the 1960s, or you’re just being silly.

    Of course there are legitimate uses of force for liberation purposes. Ask the Poles.

    Was violent intervention in Kosovo justified? I have mixed feelings about that, though I tend to side with the “no” camp. But if you want to claim that liberation is never a valid justification of force, then I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by calling you naive. At the very least, you’ve lost any connection to reality.

    Posted by Chris  on  06/27  at  05:22 PM
  119. Why the answer is simple Chris, are we talking about the liberation of the Poles from the Nazi’s during WWII, or are we talking about that which took place in 1999? Think hard. There are also other “subtle” clues when you parse what I have written - #120 “National Security State” (when did this arise?); “NATO” (established 1949). Also, #122 - “subject matter”; “people of the region”; I hope this brings some clarity to your self-imposed mystery.

    Naivete seems to have a hard time recognizing itself. “No knowledge of history that extends beyond 1960,” on the contrary - overthrowing democracies (that is the National Security State) and replacing them with military dictatorships, tin pot despots, raising enfranchised aristocracies, robbing resources, forcing corporate agreements, involvement in covert action, proxy mercenary wars and training, equipping and advising, aerial assaults, have been common stock after (and some before) “1960,” etc. - in (respectively) Guiana, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uraguay, Syria, Indonesia, Greece, Agentina, Haiti, Bolivia, Cuba, Angola, Moszambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, South Yemen, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, Egypt, Lebenon, Peru, Iran, Ziare, Figi Islands, Afganistan, North Korea, Yogoslavia, Grenada, Panama, Libiya, Somolia, Iraq - and this is the SHORT list. A good portion fall after 1960, in regard to this subject. No country has this long record of atrocities in modern history except the United States.

    Now, if you think this was all good than we disagree - if you think this activity was not good than why the petty discussion? I placed this (current subject) “liberation” in the same long line, I do not think further clarification is needed. I assumed your question to be honest, if it continues after this than you need to seek fruitless arguments with someone else (perhaps yourself). This ends the subject for me.

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  06/27  at  11:31 PM
  120. Jesus, Virgil (Homer, Socrates), did you actually read what I wrote? I’m not arguing that any particular U.S. violence under the guise of attempted liberation in the last 50 years has been justified. I’m simply saying that the position that no violence is ever justified, or that no violence for the purpose of liberation is justified, is patently absurd.

    Since you hadn’t qualified your first statement, I wanted to make sure that you weren’t saying something so loony. I can’t say I’m much less confused, but I can say that I’ve never attempted to say that any of the actions you mention were justified.

    Posted by Chris  on  06/28  at  12:49 AM
  121. If “Salus Popili Suprema Lex Esto” is not the supreme law of action, than take no action at all. This cannot be owned by the National Security State in any way, shape or form.

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  06/28  at  06:47 PM
  122. Ya know, Chomsky said something.

    You quoted it Michael.

    You then derided it.

    But you didn’t actually provide evidence that he was wrong.

    Lots of lefties really don’t like Chomsky, and feel a need to publicly disassociate themselves from him.  Especially in the US.  In Canada he goes on national TV and his books (especially Manufacturing Consent) are taught at universities.

    We don’t think he got everything right, but we think he’s a major intellectual outside of linguistics (where, of course, he is the most important person in the history of the discipline.)

    Same thing in Europe.

    Americans don’t like Chomsky, I’d guess, because he keeps holding a mirror up to their faces, and they don’t like what they see.

    He’s gotten some things wrong (don’t know if this is one of them) but he was calling the US out on its BS when most liberals were bending over for Reagan and apologizing for Bush Sr and Clinton killing tens of thousands of Iraqis (and yeah, I stand by that number) with their deliberate destruction of infrastructure and then their sanctions regime.

    A lot of faux lefties hate Chomsky, because Chomsky says the things they want to say, but are too gutless to.

    Posted by Ian Welsh  on  07/07  at  07:09 PM

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