The US says it is fighting for democracy - but is deaf to the cries of the Iraqis

They are not building a palatial embassy with the intention of going -

By Noam Chomsky -

02/11/07 "The Independent" -- -- There was unprecedented élite
condemnation of the plans to invade Iraq. Sensible analysts were able
to perceive that the enterprise carried significant risks for US
interests, however conceived. Phrases thrown in by the official
Presidential Directive from the standard boilerplate about freedom
that accompany every action, and are close to a historical universal,
were dismissed as meaningless by reasonable people. Global opposition
was utterly overwhelming, and the likely costs to the US were
apparent, though the catastrophe created by the invasion went far
beyond anyone's worst expectations. It's amusing to watch the lying as
the strongest supporters of the war try to deny what they very clearly

On the US motives for staying in Iraq, I can only repeat what I've
been saying for years. A sovereign Iraq, partially democratic, could
well be a disaster for US planners. With a Shia majority, it is likely
to continue improving relations with Iran. There is a Shia population
right across the border in Saudi Arabia, bitterly oppressed by the US-
backed tyranny. Any step towards sovereignty in Iraq encourages
activism there for human rights and a degree of autonomy - and that
happens to be where most of Saudi oil is.

Sovereignty in Iraq might well lead to a loose Shia alliance
controlling most of the world's petroleum resources and independent of
the US, undermining a primary goal of US foreign policy since it
became the world-dominant power after the Second World War. Worse yet,
though the US can intimidate Europe, it cannot intimidate China, which
blithely goes its own way, even in Saudi Arabia, the jewel in the
crown - the primary reason why China is considered a leading threat.
An independent energy bloc in the Gulf area is likely to link up with
the China-based Asian Energy Security Grid and Shanghai Cooperation
Council, with Russia (which has its own huge resources) as an integral
part, and with the Central Asian states (already members), possibly
India. Iran is already associated with them, and a Shia-dominated bloc
in the Arab states might well go along. All of that would be a
nightmare for US planners and their Western allies.

There are, then, very powerful reasons why the US and UK are likely to
try in every possible way to maintain effective control over Iraq. The
US is not constructing a palatial embassy, by far the largest in the
world and virtually a separate city within Baghdad, and pouring money
into military bases, with the intention of leaving Iraq to Iraqis. All
of this is quite separate from the expectations that matters can be
arranged so that US corporations profit from the vast riches of Iraq.

These topics, though high on the agenda of planners, are not within
the realm of discussion, as can easily be determined. That is only to
be expected. These considerations violate the fundamental doctrine
that state power has noble objectives, and while it may make terrible
blunders, it can have no crass motives and is not influenced by
domestic concentrations of private power. Any questioning of these
Higher Truths is either ignored or bitterly denounced, also for good
reasons: allowing them to be discussed could undermine power and

There is another issue: even the most dedicated scholar/advocates of
"democracy promotion" recognise that there is a "strong line of
continuity" in US efforts to promote democracy going back as far as
you like and reaching the present: democracy is supported if and only
if it conforms to strategic and economic objectives. For example,
supporting the brutal punishment of people who committed the crime of
voting "the wrong way" in a free election, as in Palestine right now,
with pretexts that would inspire ridicule in a free society. As for
democracy in the US, élite opinion has generally considered it a
dangerous threat which must be resisted. But some Iraqis agreed with
Bush's mission to bring democracy to the world: 1 per cent in a poll
in Baghdad just as the noble vision was declared in Washington.

On withdrawal proposals from élite circles, however, I think one
should be cautious. Some may be so deeply indoctrinated that they
cannot allow themselves to think about the reasons for the invasion or
the insistence on maintaining the occupation, in one or another form.
Others may have in mind more effective techniques of control by
redeploying US military forces in bases in Iraq and in the region,
making sure to control logistics and support for client forces in
Iraq, air power in the style of the destruction of much of Indochina
after the business community turned against the war, and so on.

As to the consequences of a US withdrawal, we are entitled to have our
personal judgements, all of them as uninformed and dubious as those of
US intelligence. But they do not matter. What matters is what Iraqis
think. Or rather, that is what should matter, and we learn a lot about
the character and moral level of the reigning intellectual culture
from the fact that the question of what the victims want barely even

The Baker-Hamilton report dismisses partition proposals, even the more
limited proposals for a high level of independence within a loosely
federal structure. Though it's not really our business, or our right
to decide, their scepticism is probably warranted. Neighbouring
countries would be very hostile to an independent Kurdistan, which is
landlocked, and Turkey might even invade, which would also threaten
the long-standing and critical US-Turkey-Israel alliance. Kurds
strongly favour independence, but appear to regard it as not feasible
- for now, at least. The Sunni states might invade to protect the
Sunni areas, which lack resources. The Shia region might improve ties
with Iran. It could set off a regional war. My own view is that
federal arrangements make good sense, not only in Iraq. But these do
not seem realistic prospects for the near-term future.

US policy should be that of all aggressors: (1) pay reparations; (2)
attend to the will of the victims; (3) hold the guilty parties
accountable, in accord with the Nuremberg principles, the UN Charter,
and other international instruments. A more practical proposal is to
work to change the domestic society and culture substantially enough
so that what should be done can at least become a topic for
discussion. That is a large task, not only on this issue, though I
think élite opposition is far more ferocious than that of the general

Adapted from an interview for Z Net with Michael Albert, published
tomorrow in 'The Drawbridge'. Noam Chomsky's latest book is 'Failed
States' (Hamish Hamilton, June 2006; Penguin Books, March 2007)

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