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“Prospects for World Order,” Dr. Noam Chomsky

October 24, 1995

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1:08:27 - Abstract | Biography

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Kay Schaeffer: We have brought speakers of international reputation to campus to deliver an annual message of world peace. The lectureship was originally established by the College of Liberal Arts and OSU with the permission of Linus Pauling, the only recipient of two unshared Nobel Peace Prizes, to honor the memory of his wife Ava Helen who was herself an advocate of world peace. It was renamed last year to include Linus Pauling after his death. Both Paulings attended OSU, and so their legacy is special for Oregon State Students. Speakers in this distinguished lectureship have included such prominent leaders for world peace as Linus Pauling himself, who was the very first speaker in the series. Others have included Helen Caldicott, John Kenneth Galbraith, Mark Hatfield, William Sloane Coffin and Arun Gandhi to name a few. Not only was Linus Pauling the first speaker he also donated very generously to help fund this lecture series. Now, continuation of these lectures will depend on contributions from people like you in this audience and those of you at home who are watching on OSU cable TV. Please send contributions, payable to the Pauling Lectureship, OSU Foundation, to the College of Liberal Arts, OSU, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, or please call the College of Liberal Arts if you would like further information. Your contributions are tax-deductible and they will be used to continue this outstanding lecture series.

It’s interesting and appropriate that today is also United Nations Day. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the U.N., and as you may know, Linus Pauling’s work for peace was closely associated with the work of the United Nations. This year’s speaker for the Pauling Memorial Lecture is Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Chomsky is an outspoken activist, an advocate for justice and world peace. His clinical analysis of modern culture and policy always provokes debate about how to promote peace and human progress. I have no doubt, therefore, that Noam Chomsky’s lecture this evening promises to stimulate discussions among OSU students and others about central issues of world peace.

Professor Chomsky received his Ph. D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, after four years as a junior fellow at Harvard University. His dissertation was entitled Transformational Analysis, and contained the major theoretical view point which appeared in 1957 in the monograph Syntactic Structure and formed part of the more extensive work, The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory published in 1975. This important work resulted in major changes in the study of language and universal grammar. Professor Chomsky has written and lectured extensively on topics as diverse as knowledge of language, the culture of terrorism, "Rethinking Camelot - JFK and the Vietnam War," and US political culture. He has delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge and the Nehru lecture in New Delhi, to name just a few. He has received honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science and he is a recipient of the distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association. The title of his lecture tonight is the "Prospects for World Order." Please welcome the 1995 Pauling Memorial Lecturer, Noam Chomsky. [4:42]

Noam Chomsky: It is, needless to say, an honor and a privilege to be invited to speak in the Pauling Lecture Series, and a particular privilege to be able to do so today, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. As the contours of a new world order were being constructed from the ashes of the most terrible single catastrophe of human history, there were conflicting visions at the time, of what the new world order of the day should be - and they’re still highly relevant. One view was that of the United Nations, which is now possibly facing its demise. The second was a view sometimes called Realism in international relations theory, which was critical of the utopianism that accompanied the founding of the United Nations. The Realist vision was articulated with great clarity fifty years ago by one of the most respected and important statesmen of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill, who was speaking for the victors, one of the big three. He explained, I’m quoting him now, "the government of the world must be entrusted to the satisfied nations who wish nothing more for themselves than what they have. Our power placed us above the rest. We are like rich men dwelling in peace within their habitations and we must keep the hungry nations under control or else there will be danger." [6:59]

Earlier in the century at the peak of British power, before World War One, Churchill had outlined this Realistic vision more fully, this time in secret in British cabinet meetings. (Records of which have recently been released after quite a few years -- apparently considered rather sensitive.) He said, "We are not a young people with an innocent record and a scanty inheritance, we have engrossed to ourselves an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory, but our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seems less reasonable to others than to us." So, we have to teach them regular lessons in reasonableness, this was part of a call for expanding the military budget. I should say that a sanitized version of that did appear in his writings but with a very different tone. It would be only fair to add that the more humane among the conquerors didn’t find those measures so reasonable. For example, Adam Smith, who bitterly condemned what he called the savage injustice of the Europeans, who he saw very clearly two hundred years ago were brutally creating the First World/Third World divide that is now so dramatic, and was far less so at the time. Well, Adam Smith was a figure of the enlightenment, pre-capitalist, anti-capitalist in fundamental ways. He was also smart enough to detect the fundamental illusions of the Realist picture that Churchill so eloquently articulated. The first is that, contrary to the Churchillian version, the rich man enjoying their ample habitations are never satisfied, rather they will follow what Adam Smith called the vile maxim of the masters of mankind, "all for ourselves and nothing for anyone else." The second and more crucial point is that the "we," who are enjoying their vast and splendid possessions, were not the people of England, nor France, nor the United States, nor other imperial powers except occasionally by accident. Rather, continuing in his words, "the principle architects of state policy design it to ensure that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of their own country." [10:03]

That’s a very valid comment. In his day the principle architects were the merchants and manufacturers of England, as he explained. Today, it’s that huge transnational corporations and financial institutions that dominate the domestic economy, and in fact the international economy and hence its politics as well. To correct the Realist vision with Adam Smith’s insights, it comes out like this, "the rich man of the rich societies will pursue their vile maxim, seeking to expand their vast and splendid possessions that they have gained by violence and hold by force, resorting to savage injustice when necessary. Those who do not will simply fall by the way side. The lot of the vast majority of people, including those of their own countries, is simply to serve and suffer." Well, that’s the Realist vision. The other vision of world order, the competing one fifty years ago, was the vision of the United Nations, or at least the rhetoric that accompanied its founding, which I won’t review because you’re engulfed in a flood of such pronouncements and it is unnecessary to repeat them. As to which of the conflicting visions prevailed, history has provided a rather clear and unflattering answer. Now there were, and are, of course, plenty of people deeply committed to the rhetoric of the vision that accompanied the United Nations then and now and who sought to make it more than mere rhetoric. That includes, I suppose, the vast majority of the population of the world, which is why reality has to be masked in so much secrecy and deceit. It’s why the occasional honest comment, such as Churchill’s before the first world war, has to be concealed from the population for almost a century, in this case; and I think it will be a long time before they study it in British schools. Those who wanted to make the reality closer to the rhetoric included also prominent individuals - Linus and Ava Helen Pauling ranking high among them. But real power has always resided elsewhere. [12:35]

Well, in the United States attitudes toward the United Nations have oscillated over the years from great praise to utter contempt, I’ll return to that at the end, suggesting a rather simple Realist principle that I think accounts for the variations. But first, let’s look at the failures and flaws of the United Nations that have caused these changes in attitudes towards it. There is a standard version of this, it runs sort of like this: at the beginning there were great hopes, they were dashed by the Cold War. When the Cold War ended around 1989-1990, there was a period of hopefulness and then the hopes were dashed again by the ethnic conflicts that swept the world since. Here are some representative quotes from the most interesting period, 1990, right after the end of the Cold War and before the new catastrophes began. These are from the Washington Post, New York Times and leading columnists and editorialists, but they’re perfectly standard, I’ve actually reviewed a lot of them in print and this is a completely exceptionalist pattern. So, here’s a few: "during the long Cold War years the Soviet veto and the hostility of many Third World nations, made the United Nations an object of scorn to many Americans who were rightly appalled by the sight of grim-faced Soviet ambassadors casting vetoes and shrill anti-western rhetoric from Third World nations." Although with the end of the Cold War 1988-89, Soviet policy changed bringing about a wondrous sea change in the United Nations, which can finally work the way it was designed to. Well, that’s the picture as of 1990 and then comes the disillusionment, the era of ethnic conflict replaced the Cold War and the U.N. again failed to deal with them, so maybe the time has come to bid it farewell. That’s the capsule form, the story. [14:58]

What I’d like to do now is to look at these two eras, the Cold War and the ethnic conflicts and compare the vision with the reality and also ask what role the U.N. played in this. So, let’s take the Cold War. Well again there is a standard version, I don’t have to waste much time on it, heard it over and over. It was, for example, articulated by President Kennedy who proclaimed that the communist world from Havana to Moscow to Peiping as it was in those days, to Saigon and so on, is a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy planning to take over everything else. His right-hand man, Robert McNamara, announced in his confirmation hearings that Soviet aggression has no historical parallel: its goal is total obliteration, without any hint of moral restraint anywhere to be found in the entire literature of Marxism and so on; that’s the standard version. There is a more sober version of that for example it’s given in scholarship. The most respected American diplomatic historian and is also a major historian of the Cold War, John Lewis Gaddis, he pretty much accepts what’s called the orthodox position, post-revisionist position it’s often called, realistically he traces the Cold War to 1917, agreeing with George Kennan and others. As you know after the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, there was a Western invasion and Gaddis explains the immediate Western invasion as defensive. On the side I should say that this invasion was taken rather seriously. For example, Britain used poison gas, which is the ultimate atrocity in those days, like nuclear weapons after World War II. Usually poison gas in those days was reserved for those who were called recalcitrant Arabs or uncivilized tribes men, among whom it would spread a lively terror. Again quoting Winston Churchill in documents released about fifteen years ago and yet to enter popular consciousness, also worth reading. Well, why was the Western invasion defensive according to Gaddis? Because it was a preemptive strike he explains. It was taken to ward off any potential Soviet actions, in his words, "It was a response to a potentially far reaching intervention by the new Soviet government in the internal affairs, not just of the West, but of virtually every country in the world, namely, the revolution’s challenge to the very survival of the capitalist system." So, it’s a preemptive strike and therefore justified. [18:10]

What was the challenge? Well, the challenge was obviously not military conquests, certainly not at that time and in fact not at anytime he argues, agreeing with most serious scholarship and in fact with the internal documents. Rather, the potential challenge that was going to come, that justified the defensive invasion, was the demonstration effect of an alternative social development model. That might have appeal in the traditional service areas of the South but even among working people and the poor and the industrial societies themselves. That was a prospect that very much concerned Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, his Secretary of State Robert Lansing and many others. Indeed, that remains the primary concern as far as the documentary record reaches which right now is into the 1960s, right through, that’s the primary concern over the Soviet challenge. For example, when John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister McMillan of England were discussing the Soviet Challenge in the early '60s that was precisely their concern. It wasn’t just the Soviet Union, the same concerns were voiced with regard to China, Vietnam and many others. In short it was the perceived success of the so called communist model, with nothing to do with communism, but that’s what it’s called. It’s the perceived success of the communist model that was considered the threat and that’s pretty understandable when you look at the situation and the comparable Western domains. I should add that Stalin’s awesome crimes were, of course, well-known but almost totally irrelevant to these calculations. Truman for example, liked and admired Stalin, thought he was honest, said what happened inside the Soviet Union he didn’t care about, he thought it would be a disaster if anything happened to the great man, and his great friend, and said that he could get along fine with Stalin as long as the United States got its way eighty-five percent of the time. Churchill took the same view. (In internal records of course.) As late as early 1945, after Yalta that is, Churchill in internal cabinet records was defending Stalin as honest and trustworthy, he admired him. He spoke in fact very glowingly of him in private meetings. The fact that he was a mass murderer was known, but not relevant. In this respect Stalin falls into a pretty traditional pattern, he falls into a long line of monsters and gangsters including Suharto, who will be visiting in a week or so, Trujillo, Saddam Hussein and a host of other killers and torturers, including that man President Roosevelt called ‘that admirable Italian gentleman’ who had brought fascism to Italy, and even including Hitler well into the late 1930s. [21:22]

The crimes are an irrelevance. What’s problematic is not following orders, that we don’t get our way eighty-five percent of the time or more. History is very clear on that. A few years before the Kennedy-McMillan exchanges that I just mentioned, President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, had highlighted the central issues in private internal discussions that have recently been declassified. They were lamenting the ability of the communists, so-called, to appeal directly to the masses and gain control of mass movement, something we have no capacity to duplicate because the poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich, the big problem of world history. And as Eisenhower and Dulles and many others recognized their own position on who should plunder whom, was a pretty hard sell, so the opposition had a kind of an unfair advantage and they were trying to figure out how to deal with this. Well, I am only sampling a rich record which suggests a rather different perspective on the Cold War. That perspective happens to be reinforced quite powerfully I think when you look further, for example, at the quite rich and interesting record of declassified planning documents which stress forcefully and consistently that the major threat to U.S. interests "is radical nationalism that calls for improvement in the low-living standards of the masses and the development for domestic needs based on the principle that the first beneficiaries of the country’s resources should be the people of that country, not foreign investors, a conception that must be destroyed in all its forms," as the State Department insisted in the Charter for the Americas that it imposed on the Western Hemisphere right in 1945 as the New World Order was being established. Those are the consistent themes that run through the whole record as they do for Britain before us, and though I haven’t looked, I imagine France and Belgium and anybody else you look at. [23:46]

There’s also a public record which is consistent with this. I’ve read some pretty dramatic examples of it. Take one example from a few years ago; you recall about ten years ago, the United States was engaged in what the World Court condemned as the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua. The World Court condemned the United States for its aggression against Nicaragua and it ordered it to desist from its crime as well as the unlawful economic warfare, and of course the U.S. dismissed the judgment without concern. And in fact, Congress voted right after it another $100 million to increase the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua. Well, at that time the selling point, what the Reagan administration used to sell Congress on a need to do this, was the announcement by the government of Nicaragua that they were conducting a revolution without borders, and that became the centerpiece of the U.S. propaganda campaign. It was all over the media, the journals, as I say, it induced Congress, "to step up the war." The Sandinistas actually announced that they were going to conquer the world, in case you didn’t know it. They were going to carry out a revolution without borders. Well, that’s an interesting case; in fact, it was based on some reality as propaganda usually is. It was based on a speech by a Sandinista leader, Tomas Borje, in which he said "every country has to carry out its own revolution. We can’t interfere with anyone else, but we would like to construct the model that would work so well that others want to follow it." So in that sense, he says that "our revolution transcends borders." So in a certain sense, the U.S. propaganda was correct. Again, he was issuing a challenge to others that want to develop a model or follow, and that requires a defense response, namely international terrorism and aggression and terror and torture and so on because after all, we have to defend ourselves from that challenge. So there was something true about the fabrication. Incidentally, the fabrication was perfectly well-known. It was exposed instantly right in the mainstream in the Washington Post within days actually but nobody cared. It was just too useful. So therefore it continued to be reiterated as a Sandinista revolution without borders. It’s kind of an interesting fact about our own intellectual culture that this kind of thing can happen so easily and so often. [26:35]

Another point of view from which you can gain some perspective on the reality of the Cold War, I think, is to carry out the following test, which is indeed useful after any war. It is very interesting to ask after any war is over to ask who’s rejoicing and who’s unhappy. When you carry out that test, it often makes looks rather different than the way it was interpreted. It tells you a lot of what it was really about. So let’s look at the Cold War. Who’s rejoicing and who’s unhappy? Well, in the East, the people who are rejoicing are easy to find, that’s the old communist party leadership. They are rich beyond their wildest dreams, just delighted with everything that’s happened. Obviously, they are victors in the Cold War. They are now managers of the U.S. enterprises being set up there, sort of taking on the role of typical Third World elite - very rich, very powerful, working for the bosses somewhere else, and very well-off, so they are delighted. They are called the capitalist nomenklatura very often. That’s the old Communist party hacks who are now very powerful, very rich, very much beloved by the West so they are the victors. They won the Cold War. So who’s unhappy about the end of the Cold War in the East? Well, there are regular polls now taken by the West about the attitudes in Russia and so on. Western-run polls are pretty accurate. And one of the questions they ask regularly is "what do you think is the best period of Russian history?" The latest one that was taken, two-thirds said the pre-perestroika period, before Gorbachev, that was the best period, that’s up fifty percent in 1992. The optimism about the future has declined. That’s Russia, but the point is it’s rather general through the region. The people are delighted that the tyranny has collapsed but they are less than happy about returning to the third-word status that they had before so they are less than happy about the fact that since 1989, in Russia there has been about a half a million excess deaths resulting from the reforms according to a recent UNESCO study, which indeed approves the reforms but gives the figures. [29:10]

So there are people who won the war in the East and people who lost the war in the East. What about in the West? Well among the people who are rejoicing the end of the Cold War are Western business leaders, for example, the directors of General Motors and Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen and so on. And they’re delighted with reasons that are explained with great clarity in the international business press, for example, the British Financial Times which has been pointing out that the big gains out of the Cold War, a typical example is an article called "Green Shoots and Communism’s Ruins." It’s all horrible over there but there’s something good, some green shoots. The green shoots are the effect of the capitalist reforms has been to cause tremendous impoverishment and unemployment so it is now possible for Western investors to get "highly trained, skilled, and educated workers for a fraction of the cost of the pampered Western workers," I’m quoting, "who will have to abandon their luxurious lifestyles," as Business Week added. So they’re delighted. On the other hand, who’s unhappy in the west? Well among the people who are unhappy are the pampered Western workers who are less than overjoyed about having to give up their luxurious lifestyles. Now that General Motors or Daimler-Benz cannot only threaten and in fact bring down their wages and benefits and increase their working hours and so on by moving or threatening to move to Mexico, but now also to Poland and Slovakia and so on, so they are less than excited. They lost the Cold War. Well, if you look at it this way, there are winners and there are losers. The winners are the Communist party leadership and the Western business leaders. The losers are the people in Eastern Europe and the people in the West. Actually, that’s not uncommon after wars. It relates to Adam Smith’s point about who the "we" are when you talk about "we." Well that gives you another point of view on it. [31:23]

This alternative and I think more realistic perspective on the Cold war makes even more sense when you look at it from a broader historical perspective. The differentiation of East and Western Europe goes back to the fifteenth century. The last time they looked alike was in the fifteen century. At that point, Western Europe was beginning to develop and Eastern Europe was beginning to turn into its service area. Its Third World, as we would call it now, providing resources, raw materials, cheap labor and investment opportunities and markets and so on. That was beginning around the fifteenth century actually, pre-Columbus on a fault line incidentally that kind of runs through Germany. And that difference continued to deepen right into this century. So, say Russia was becoming relatively impoverished relative to the West, more and more up until the First World War, and for large parts of Eastern Europe, continued up to the Second World War. So the East-West relationship was a First World/Third World relationship, what’s called a North-South relationship these days, one of the euphemisms that’s used for the European conquest of the world. Now, the North-South conflict has a certain logic to it, the logic is that the South, the service areas or the Third World, they are to pursue only what’s called complementary development, complementary to the interests of Western power. They are not supposed to follow these bad ideas about development on the basis of the principle that the beneficiaries of the people’s resources should be the people of that country, got to knock that out of their heads. They are to follow a complementary development which supports the interests of the rich men and the rich societies – a Churchillian Realistic relic – and if they try to pursue a path of independent development, that has got to be stopped. It’s sometimes stopped by violence sometimes in other ways, but it’s got to be stopped. That’s the North-South conflict. [33:45]

There’s another part to it. If that independent development goes on and it begins to look successful, that is, if there is a demonstration effect, then they become what is called in the planning documents, "a rotten apple that might spoil the barrel," or a virus that might infect others, and obviously you can’t allow a virus to spread so they've got to be eliminated. For example, Allende’s Chile was described by Henry Kissinger as a virus that might infect people all the way to Italy, not because Chile was going to conquer Rome but because it might send the wrong message to Italian voters, namely that social-democratic parliamentary procedures can succeed. That’s gotta be stopped so the government was overthrown and the Nazi regime was instituted and supported, and that’s very typical. And that’s very typical. So Problem one is independence, Problem two is the virus effect. That’s the basic logic of the North-South conflict. And if you think about the East-West conflict, a good part of it fits into that framework. There was a big piece of the Third World following a path to independence, and furthermore, it was becoming a virus. It was imposing that challenge that was so threatening from 1917 at least until the 1960’s for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Well, Russia’s not a typical piece of the Third World, it’s not like Grenada. It’s a sixth of the world, even when it was a deeply impoverished Third World country under the czar, it still had a big military force which frightened people and that was even more so in the twentieth century. So this particular aspect of the North-South conflict took on a life of its own and that’s called the Cold War. But basically, a lot of it falls into the traditional North-South framework, I think when you think it through from this point of view, which I think is the accurate one. I should also add that the aftermath of the Cold War is completely intelligible and indeed predictable in these terms. Most of the region is going back to where it was. So the parts that were part of the industrial West like the Czech Republic and Western Poland are again becoming like the Industrial West, and the parts that were deeply impoverished Third World countries are going back to that status; they look more and more like the Third World with the small wealthy elites, the old Communist party to a large extent, and the suffering and impoverishment mass of the population, typical wherever you go in Mexico, the South, Egypt, anywhere. [36:30]

Well, this position is reinforced, I think, when you look at the continuity of policy right through the whole period. So let’s take the period when the Cold War ended in 1989 - it certainly ended by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. And just look what happened since. We have a huge Pentagon system. So what happened to the Pentagon budget since the end of the Cold War? We needed this huge military system because we had to defend ourselves from the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy. Okay, the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy isn’t there, so what happened to the Pentagon system? The answer is the same. It’s actually higher in real terms rather under the Nixon right now by eighty-five percent after the Cold War average and going up. The current Congress is driving it up. So that obviously couldn’t be the reason. The reason we were told for fifty years can’t be the reason. Actually, there is a new official reason. The reason is now we have to defend ourselves from the technological sophistication of Third World powers. That’s literally the case. It’s not from the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy anymore and that has about as much plausibility as the other one so obviously it’s a different reason and it’s not very hard to figure out. [37:42]

What about other policies? Well, take say Cuba, on the front pages right now. For thirty years, we had to defend ourselves from Cuba. We had to carry out the world’s biggest international terrorist campaign and economic warfare and so on and so forth because we were defending ourselves from the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy. Okay, so the Berlin Wall falls, and we have no monolithic and ruthless conspiracy, so what do we do? We intensify the pressure against Cuba. We make the embargo tighter and now even more so. So something’s got to be wrong with that story. The first event that took place after the fall of the Berlin Wall was the U.S. invasion of Panama a few weeks later. Now that is so typical of an event that it barely merits a footnote in history. It’s the kind of thing that happens over and over. But there was a difference this time. For a long time, every such action was justified by defense against the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy. We had to defend ourselves from the Communists and their revolutions without borders and so on. They were gone, so this time we were defending ourselves from Hispanic narco-traffickers led by the arch-demon Noriega, who was in fact kidnapped, brought here, and tried for crimes that he committed while he was on the CIA payroll. A small point. But that was a difference but not a very significant difference. [39:18]

But at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United Nations was in session. That was their winter session. And there were indeed some Security Council vetoes, three. One Security Council veto was on Israel’s actions in the occupied territories, voted 14 to 1. The United States vetoed it. The other two were condemnations of the U.S. attacks on Panama, both vetoed by the United States. The General Assembly also had some very lop-sided votes, which are similar to vetoes but not technically vetoes. There were two, in fact. One was a resolution condemning the continuation of the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua, voted unanimously, the U.S. and Israel alone against. Another was a resolution condemning Washington’s illegal economic warfare against Nicaragua, again two votes against, United States and Israel, That’s actually one vote when you think about it. It’s like Russia and Ukraine were counted two votes. This incidentally continues. Just recently, there was a vote in the General Assembly resolution condemning the illegal U.S. economic warfare against Cuba, two votes against, United States and Israel. The preceding year, the United States has gotten Romania, but it dropped off. Actually, that’s a very traditional pattern. Recall the standard line about the grim-faced Soviet ambassadors and the Soviet vetoes that were paralyzing the nations. The only thing with that are the facts that are not debatable, perfectly clear and explicit facts. Since the 1960’s, the United States is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions. In second place is the United Kingdom. France is a distant third, and the Soviet Union is fourth. That’s not controversial, that’s a fact. The same is true for the General Assembly. There are plenty of votes in the General Assembly with numbers like 153 to 1 or 150 to 2 or something like that on a wide range of issues such as aggression, human rights, international law observations, international law of terrorism, and so on. If you look through them, you’ll find consistently the one is the United States with maybe Israel or El Salvador or somebody dragging along. That’s a very consistent pattern since the 1960’s. It’s almost totally suppressed in our free press; not only is it suppressed, but there’s just endless lying about it. The opposite is claimed dramatically different from the easily documentable and uncontroversial facts, which is another interesting fact about our intellectual culture. You can think about it and draw the obvious conclusion. [42:22]

Well let’s put that aside and turn to ethnic conflict. There has definitely been ethnic conflict at the end of the Cold War, namely within the imperial system that collapsed in the Soviet Union. So inside the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, where imperial systems have collapsed, along with ethnic conflict. However, that’s hardly a new phase in history and doesn’t call for any deep thought in leading intellectuals. In fact, it is standard and expected with decline of some system of authority and tyranny. So post-colonial Africa quickly broke into ethnic conflict. Or to take the most recent case prior to the collapse of the Soviet empire, take the Portuguese empire. That’s the last empire that collapsed in 1975. Immediately, that led to violent ethnic conflict in Africa and Southeast Asia where the Portuguese colonies were. The three most important were Mozambique, Angola, and Timor. These are the most dramatic cases of ethnic conflict in the modern era, and they don’t have anything to do with the Cold War - they go back to 1975. With regard to Mozambique and Angola, there isn’t a lot of time, so perhaps I can just quote the eminent British historian Basil Davidson, who says in his words, "Those responsible for the contrasubversions against Mozambique and Angola will be cursed by history for enormous and terrible crimes which will long weigh heavily on the whole of Southern Africa." He is referring to you and me, incidentally, if it is not obvious, and he is quite right, in fact, too kind. The United Nations Commission on Africa estimates over 1.5 million dead and over sixty billion in damages in the Reagan years alone, 1980 to 1988 by way of South Africa with strong U.S. support. That’s within the framework of what’s called hereby constructive engagement. And in Angola, it continues at a horrible level worse than the Balkans, in fact. Well, that’s two of the ethnic conflicts. The third, Timor, is not a slight matter. It’s the worst slaughter relative to population since the Holocaust, a clear, unambiguous ethnic conflict indeed the worst case in post-war history, outright aggression still continuing. We’re getting to the twentieth anniversary in a few weeks. And it is true that the United Nations failed to stop it, a big failure. So let’s dismantle the United Nations until we look a little more closely. And we find that it is true that the United Nations failed to stop it because the U. S. blocked the United Nations. In the words of our ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. government wanted things to turn out as they did, "and it was my task," he writes, "to render the United Nations utterly ineffective in anything it might do to prevent the aggression and I was very successful in this task." He takes great pride in it, then points out that within a few weeks, about a tenth of the population has been slaughtered; approximately the level of total casualties in Eastern Europe under the Nazi attack, he says, I'm not adding that. Then he goes on to the next sentence. [45:58]

So it’s true that the United Nations was indeed rendered utterly ineffective but is not the problem with the United Nations. As for the attack itself, the U.S.’s role was decisive, not only diplomatically but also militarily. The invading Indonesian army was ninety-percent equipped with American arms under a treaty that required that they can only be used for self-defense. Henry Kissinger, who was then Secretary of State, secretly sent more arms immediately, right after the invasion. A couple years later, the Indonesian army had actually began to run out of arms because of the ferocity of the assault, so President Jimmy Carter took off a little time from sermons about human rights and escalated the flow of arms at the point when the slaughter was really approaching genocide in 1978. There are consequences to this. Ambassador Moynihan, now Senator, is hailed all over the place for his dedication to international law and moralities, lone voice of honor at the United Nations, standing up against all kinds of Third World tyrants, now proclaiming about the United Nations that unless it is able to stop the genocide in Bosnia, it has no right to exist, and so on and so forth. Jimmy Carter, need not mention Kissinger, also giving speeches about the importance of peace-keeping at the United Nations and so on. What about the coverage of all of this here? Well, interestingly the coverage is quite high, pre-1975, in context of concern of the collapsing of the Portuguese empire. When the invasion took place with decisive diplomatic and military support, coverage began to decline. What there was was mostly all, in fact, reiteration of State Department lies or quoting Indonesian generals. By 1978, when the atrocities peaked and new U.S. arms were flowing, coverage reached zero in the United States. Not a word anywhere, also interesting. The story continues. There were changes. By the 1980’s, coverage began, sometimes accurate coverage. But it is interesting in character. The tone of the coverage is given, for example, by a New York Times editorial headed "Shaming of Indonesia." Well, okay, shaming of Indonesia but what about shaming of the United States or shaming of the New York Times? That’s a perception you’re not allowed to have. Or you read we didn’t do enough, we made a mistake, or we didn’t do enough to stop the carnage and the terror and so on. Well the fact is we did more than enough as Ambassador Moynihan himself written and as the record of military aid shows. It wasn’t that we didn’t do enough - that’s like saying the Russians had said "we didn’t do enough to stop the atrocities in Hungary." Yeah, that’s not quite the way to put it. [49:20]

In the 1980’s, it has changed. Now there is in fact coverage and some good things have happened. There has been enough popular pressure in the last couple years to induce Congress to put some constraints on U.S. participation in this still-continuing atrocity. That caused the Clinton administration to have to search for devious ways to avoid the Congressional restrictions which indeed it has done. More or less, that’s important; it’s symbolically significant and might even, with enough pressure, lead to Indonesian withdrawal. That’s conceivable. There have also been big changes inside Indonesia that we don’t hear about. Human rights groups, student groups, labor leaders, independent intellectuals and so on have began to speak quite openly, condemning Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and in fact speaking up for human rights and rights to working people and so on. Now in Indonesia, to stand up and talk about these things are not so simple. It’s not like here. Here, you do it and nothing happens to you. In there, you do it and you are a terrorist, a tyrannical and vicious state. But they’re doing it, and that might be another thing called "Shaming of the United States" - not that we don’t report it and support them, but that we don’t do it ourselves. It is certainly a lot easier. [50:46]

Well, the end of Portuguese empire twenty years ago led to ethnic conflict that is far worse than the consequences of ethnic conflict at the end of the Soviet empire. The end of the French empire, a long, slow process, that led to still-worse consequences, the Algerian wars, the wars in Indochina. Our own wars in Indochina led to four million people dead and three countries in total ruin. In this case, the aggressors benefited from impunity within the doctrinal system and these aren’t even called ethnic conflicts because we are one of the participants. But if we used the term in any meaningful sense, these are ethnic conflicts on a huge scale, a dwarfing of anything happened after the fall of the Soviet empire. There was a Cold War element in all of these things but it was very far from the margins when you take a serious look and indeed, that is recognized in internal documents. [51:43]

Well, let’s take a look elsewhere, say the Middle East. There is a symbol of ethnic conflict, namely Lebanon. For quite some time, twenty years, nothing to do with the end of the Cold War, Lebanon occasionally makes it to the front pages here. So for example, after the Oklahoma City bombing, there were big headlines about how Oklahoma City looks like Beirut, a big tragedy, the horrors of Beirut coming right into mainstream America, furthermore, if it turns out that the people who did that horrible atrocity were from the Middle East, we are going to bomb everybody in sight and so on and so forth. Well, that was the reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing and it was not entirely false. Oklahoma City was indeed looking like Beirut. Of course, Beirut has been looking like Beirut for quite some time. For example Beirut has looked like Beirut exactly ten years earlier, almost to the day. That was when the largest car bomb in history went off in Beirut. This was the worst terrorist act in the Middle East at the peak of international concern of terrorism. It was huge car bomb, very much like Oklahoma City. It was set off outside a mosque timed to go off to kill the maximum number of people when they were leaving; it killed mostly women and children, much like Oklahoma City, a huge catastrophe. Now in that case, it is not too difficult to chase the perpetrators to the ends of the Earth, bomb any country that’s harboring them, and so on. At least the U.S. Air Force has the capacity to bomb Washington or California or Texas and so on, with maybe a few extra bombs in London. And the reason is because, as it is perfectly and openly acknowledged, the bombing was carried out by the CIA with the assistance of British Intelligence. So it is true that Oklahoma City was looking like Beirut for good reasons because Beirut looked like Beirut, and there’s no problem finding the perpetrators and punishing them. Just this Sunday, the Clinton administration called upon all the nations of the world to join with us in ending the horror of international terrorism and making sure that any nation that tolerates international terrorists becomes a pariah and is punished and so on. Again, that is easily within our power. But somehow, none of this ever gets discussed. It’s not that the press or intellectuals are unaware of the fact that the Oklahoma City bombing was a virtual replicate of the Beirut bombing ten years earlier - of course they’re aware of it. I know, personally - I brought it to the attention of lots of journalists in the United States and England, if they haven’t been aware of it themselves, which they probably were. But this is un-discussable and un-reportable. Just as you cannot speak of U.S. aggression or ethnic conflict when there’s a conflict between us and people in Indochina that ends up with four million killed and so on. So Lebanon is the very symbol of ethnic conflict and there are some reasons for the problems there. [55:09]

There is also grand success in the Middle East right next door in overcoming ethnic conflict. The success just won a couple of Nobel Peace prizes recently. Oslo II just took place. "It was a day of awe," as the headlines said, in which we celebrated the U.S. triumph in bringing to an end, or at least close to an end this terrible ethnic conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Actually, what happened there was a little bit different. There isn’t much time to talk about. In fact, what happened was a most impressive power play by the United States which tells us a lot about the New World Order and the failures of the United Nations. The fact of the matter is that for about twenty-five years, the United States has been rendering the United Nations utterly ineffective in anything it might do to bring about a diplomatic resolution to that conflict. That certainly has been true since February 1971 when Egypt accepted official U.S. policy and called for a full peace treaty with Israel on international borders with all the security guarantees and all the wordings of the resolution. In fact, it is identical to U.S. policy with the support of virtually the entire world. Israel recognized it as a genuine peace offer but rejected it. There was a split in the U.S. government as to whether to continue with the traditional policy or to shift to opposing our traditional policy and to oppose negotiations and diplomatic settlement, and Kissinger won that battle, achieving what he called "stalemate," meaning no diplomacy. Ever since then, the United States has been opposed to diplomatic settlement. Well that settlement was organized by the United Nations, a U.N. mediator. That’s one time the U.N. was rendered utterly ineffective by a U.S. veto. That became a literal veto a few years later, in January 1976, when the Security Council debated a resolution calling for a political settlement, supported by the entire world, in fact - the Arab States, PLO supported it, Western Europe supported it, non-aligned countries, Eastern Europe. It was vetoed by the United States out of history, like the February ’71 event - that was under Kissinger again. The same thing happened under Carter. The resolution eliminated the Security Council. The issue, therefore, came up regularly in the General Assembly, in fact for every year. The votes were always 150 to 2 and so on. The last of those votes was in December. The last serious vote was in December 1990. That was the last of them in the annual votes - it was a 144 to 2, the usual number. Then what happened after December 1990? Well, right after that came the Gulf War. The Gulf War effectively got the rest of the world to understand - actually George Bush put it rather clearly - that the New World Order was in effect, in his words, "What we say, goes." Certainly in the Middle East. And the rest of the world just backed off. Europe pulled out of the game, non-aligned countries were out of it, total disarray, the Arab world completely collapsed. At the point, the U.S. rammed through its own completely rejectionist proposal, which involves limited instead of complete withdrawal and no rights at all for the Palestinians. That’s the position the U.S. has upheld to the world for twenty-five years and now was able to ram it through. A genuine peace process could be instituted, as it was immediately at Madrid. It’s genuine because it was under unilateral U.S. control and it followed the U.S. rejectionist position. That’s exactly what has been implemented. In fact, what’s been implemented under Oslo II is harsher than any other proposal that the Israeli government itself had ever made from 1968 right up to the present. So naturally, it is a day of awe. It is another case in which the U.N. failed for reasons worth thinking about. [59:37]

My final comment is going back to the U.N. after fifty years. There is a good deal of self-righteous commentary about its failings. I’ve given some indication of why and where it failed. I think you can check to see if you think this is right. The lion’s share of that responsibility falls not very surprisingly on the world’s most powerful states, and in particular, its most powerful state exactly as any rational person would have expected - the most powerful state has indeed been rendering the United Nations "utterly ineffective" in Ambassador Moynihan’s words, since the 1960’s. When the United Nations fell under what is called here the tyranny of the majority, sometimes known as democracy, and it just stopped following orders - that was one of the consequences of decolonization. The commentary on all of this is quite amazing. I sampled some of it, but the whole story is amazing. Well in the last couple years and increasingly now, the United States is proceeding to dismantle the United Nations. On May 1st, Congress announced radical cuts in U.S. assistance to UNICEF and similar organizations - that was very well-timed. On May 1st, UNICEF had its annual press conference. UNICEF, is of course run by an American, the U.S. insisted on that – Carole Bellamy, and she gave the press conference which wasn’t reported but interesting. UNICEF estimated that the number of children who were dying from easily treatable diseases - meaning you can cure it for a few pennies a day - had risen from eleven million a year to thirteen million a year. That’s what UNICEF was trying to deal with, so on that day, aside from not reporting the UNICEF report, Congress cut aid to UNICEF. In fact, UNICEF will disappear as it has the wrong priorities. The FAO, Food and Agricultural Organization, is also slated for disappearance, as it again also has the wrong priorities, the poor and hungry people around the world. The International Labor Organization, that’s going to go the same way and there’s a reason for that. The ILO deals with worker rights and the U.S. has the worst record in the Western Hemisphere and Europe with the exception of El Salvador and Lithuania, so we’re third actually in ratifying conventions on workers’ rights including child labor and things like that. And furthermore, the ILO committed an additional crime two years ago. It criticized the United States - it very rarely criticizes a rich industrial country, but it broke the pattern and criticized the United States for violating international labor standards by the employment of permanent replacement workers, which is in gross violation of universally accepted international labor standards. So they have to go, they’re obviously not to be allowed, and they’re going to disappear. [1:02:59]

The U.N. Development Agency, same story. The U.S. has sharply cut funding for it and is going to get rid of it, it has the wrong priorities, the vast majority of the world’s population. There used to be a monitoring office just to provide data on trans-national corporations. In fact, it was the only source of information on trans-national corporations. That was killed a couple years ago. It was the wrong information. It was pretty hard to get the information anyway, but you could get it, and now you just can’t. UNESCO has a Third World orientation that is almost dead and will die under a good deal of blatant fraud about a new information order, which the fraud about it was well-documented in scholarly work published by university presses but unreviewable. UNCTAD, the United States Conference on Trade and Development is slated to disappear and its functions will be taken over by the World Trade Organization so it’s irrelevant. For those of you who know these issues, this is total nonsense. The problem with UNCTAD is that it keeps refuting the neo-liberal fundamentalism of the World Trade Organization based on the idea that it’s false and fabricated and so on. They were given the wrong analysis. They’re continually undermining the claims about the wonders of the free world market that are preached by the World Trade Organization, but preached in a very special way. They preach to the poor, abroad and at home. They have to accept market discipline. They are not preached to people like, say Newt Gingrich and his constituency, Cobb County, Georgia, which gets more federal subsidies than any other comparable county in the country because it is represented by the biggest welfare freak in the country. And in fact, quite typically, the wealthy and powerful have never accepted market discipline. They have massive state protection in all sorts of ways, and in our case, the biggest form of subsidy transfer from payments to the rich is the Pentagon, which is why the budget doesn’t go down but in fact, only goes up. So no market discipline for them, but plenty of market discipline for the poor, and UNCTAD makes the mistake of documenting, explaining, and analyzing the consequences of all this so they have to go and be taken over by the World Trade Organization which doesn’t have these defects. [1:05:41]

In fact, the more democratic elements of the United Nations are slated for dismissal, and maybe the whole thing will go. That’s not been passed unnoticed, I should say. The South Commission, which represents the overwhelming majority of the population of the world published an important book a couples ago called The Challenge to the South published by Oxford University Press, which called for a new world order based on justice and freedom, and they explain what’s going on in the world rather well. And they pointed out that the more democratic elements of the U.N. are being dismantled, the parts that have a commitment to the general population than just those who matter. None of this ever gets discussed or reported apart from the margins, just as the actual records of vetoes and General Assembly votes and not much else. Again, these are things that might interest us, it might even concern us, at least for those who has some concern for the nature of our own society and our own culture. [1:06:55]

Well, as to the principle that explains the attitudes towards the United Nations that are articulated by the intellectual culture. I’m afraid the principle is all too simple. Insofar as the United Nations is following the orders of Churchill’s "rich men and the rich societies" – exactly to that extent – it is honored. To the extent it deviates from that, it is condemned. It’s rare in a complicated world for a simple criterion to be such a good predictor, but if you look carefully, you’ll find that this is an extremely good predictor of the whole oscillation, up and back, including the hopefulness in 1990. Well, if Churchillian Realism continues to prevail on the global system, and incidentally increasingly so at home as well because there’s an obvious domestic analogue to all this, if that’s the case, then the future is going to be bleak. But we should remember that these are, by no means, laws of nature nor are they laws of society even if such laws exist, but these are human decisions that can be made differently. Within human institutions that have no particular claim to permanence or legitimacy, as throughout history, all of this can be changed as it has been in the past and in the same ways as in the past, and the age-old struggle for greater justice and freedom can be advanced if we so choose. Thanks. [1:08:27]

 

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