In late September Noam Chomsky spoke on issues that are central to Levant Report’s own coverage: the modern histories of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS, and U.S. and NATO policy in the region.
The talk, given at Chomsky’s home campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provides a broad primer for those wanting to understand the truth behind current chaos enveloping the region.
Some of the highlights of Chomsky’s talk include the following:
1) ISIS is a creation of western foreign policy: ISIS is a natural outcome of both the U.S. destruction of Iraq (starting in 2003) and the U.S./NATO attempt to bring about regime change in Syria (starting in 2011).
2) Saddam was a close U.S. ally throughout the 1980’s as the U.S. collaborated with Iraq on its chemical weapons program in an attempt to defeat the Iranian regime (1980-1988). Chomsky points out that Saddam was beloved of Bush Sr., and that as late as April 1990 a congressional delegation headed by Bob Dole visited Saddam. Chomsky says the delegation’s spirit was one of fawning over the dictator (Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote that the scene was one of “obsequious boot-licking”).
3) Iraq was non-sectarian prior to the U.S. “sledge hammer” that broke it apart. Iraqis under Ba’ath nationalism often didn’t even know whether their neighbors were Sunni or Shia as they lived in mixed neighborhoods and inter-marriage was frequent.
4) While the Kurds of Iraq have recently been championed by the West, they were formerly victims unworthy of media coverage or western government concern. While the U.S. was supportive of Saddam, it looked the other way while he gassed the Kurds of northern Iraq (the U.S. at the time blamed the Iranians). The U.S. supplied the Turkish government with 80% of its military hardware while it committed genocide against Kurds in Turkey throughout the 1990’s. Once Saddam became “evil villain” in American eyes, the Kurds of Iraq became victims worthy of western concern.
5) Chomsky says the only sovereign military effectively fighting ISIS is the Syrian Arab Army under Assad. Chomsky further notes that Iran is also an effective part of this Syrian anti-ISIS campaign.
6) “Manufacturing Consent” is active and influences the western public’s perceptions on conflict in the region. Most Americans are not exposed to basic facts or even the recent history of the region because the U.S. government/corporate media alliance seeks to manufacture the consent of the people in the direction of whatever current Washington policy goals dictate.