In a recent C-SPAN interview on the US-Iran nuclear “deal” Republican representative Duncan Hunter cautioned against those who are quick to let down their guard at the negotiating table because “Middle East culture” fosters dishonesty and Iranians subscribe to a culture of lying. To those of us spared the psychological violence of a good education it would seem that a simple reference to George W. Bush’s infamous lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Ronald Reagan’s lies in the Iran-Contra scandal, or the constant stream of deceit flowing from NSA headquarters–most recently in James Clapper’s confessed act of perjury–would suffice in revealing the glaring hypocrisy of this orientalist cliche. Regrettably, these notorious examples of deceit in high places only scratch the surface of an actual culture of lying with deep institutional implications. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s 1979 study The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism offers an exhaustive analysis of this culture of lying that prevails in the pages of the “free press.” Reviewing a sordid record of US sponsored terror in Latin America and Southeast Asia, Chomsky and Herman illustrate how prominent media organizations framed, downplayed, and utterly distorted massive human rights violations in the service of state power and its ideological objectives. Perhaps the most grotesque example of this subservient relationship to power can be found in the US press’ treatment of the genocide in East Timor.
Fueled by US, Australian, British and French power, these mass murders were routinely interpreted from the perspective of Indonesian generals or Timorese collaborators. When Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 the press received it as an Indonesian intervention to quell a civil war and not an act of military aggression rivaling the brutality of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Eastern Europe. Reporters were barred from investigating the atrocities as they unfolded and the few legitimate human rights reports that filtered through the media blackout, often church sources, were dismissed as non-credible by the “humanitarians” in the Carter administration and the compliant press. Death tolls from the Indonesian assault (1975-1976) on Timor reached conservative estimates of 80,000 people (approximately 10% of the total population). State Department Legal Adviser George Aldrich revealed that the Indonesian army was “armed roughly 90% with [US] equipment,” in a congressional inquiry of the invasion. In addition to arming Indonesian generals to carry out the slaughter, Washington defied the international community in 1977 by voting against (along with Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) a resolution introduced in the UN General Assembly to send a special committee on decolonization to investigate the atrocities in East Timor. The previous year the US voted against a General Assembly resolution which rejected “the claim that East Timor has been integrated into Indonesia.” The General Assembly cited the Timorese “right to self-determination and independence,” as a basis for the resolution, a legal fairy-tale among “civilized” people exemplified in today’s rejection of the “right to self-determination and independence,” in occupied Palestine.
Meanwhile, this callous indifference over US-sponsored atrocities in Timor (“constructive” or “benign” bloodbaths) was not to be found in the indignant denunciations of “communist” atrocities in Cambodia, what Chomsky and Herman call “nefarious bloodbaths”. Double standards of this kind were not in short supply and persist to this day. For instance, when Malala Yousafzai was nearly killed by a Taliban member from a gunshot wound to the head there was an outpouring of support from the “free press.” Dianne Sawyer interviewed her and President Obama invited her into the Oval Office. Compare this to the general response when the Rehman family from Waziristan visited Washington to testify before Congress detailing the horrors of President Obama’s drone program, a campaign of international terrorism without parallel. A mere five Congress members attended the testimony. Much like Chomsky and Herman’s commentary on the American press’ obsession with the plight of Soviet dissidents over Latin American corpses, it’s only their terror that captures the attention of journalists who understand the strict boundaries of acceptable thought.
Along with this extensive analysis of media support for state-terror is an equally thorough analysis of what Chomsky and Herman call “the systematic positive relationship between US aid and human rights violations.” Using human rights statistics from a series of US client states, Chomsky and Herman detail the horrors forced upon defenseless populations as a result of increases in military aid and the restructuring of economies to attract corporate exploitation. One of the more gruesome cases of this “systematic relationship,” can be observed in the Carter administration’s support for the Videla dictatorship in Argentina. During Videla’s rule an estimated 15,000 people were “disappeared”, 4,500 killed and 8-10,000 people were detained in state prisons (Argentine journalists generally estimated 15,000 killed). In a pathetic attempt to justify this gangsterism Videla maintained that “a terrorist is not just someone with a gun or a bomb but also someone who spreads ideas that are contrary to Western and Christian civilizations.” Ideals in conformity with “Western and Christian civilizations,” guided President Carter’s policy decisions as his administration continued to sponsor Videla’s tyranny while real wages in Argentina dropped 60% and food consumption dropped 40%. David Rockefeller gleefully embraced this imposition of US-backed structural violence as confirmation that the country was now governed by “a regime which understands the private enterprise system”, a development that presented ruling elites with “a combination of advantageous circumstances.” None of these easily verifiable facts interfere with Carter’s reputation as a peacemaker, an enduring tribute to the really existing, and far more consequential, culture of dishonesty in the US.
A persistent theme of this well-researched review of state criminality is not only the venality of government officials and their clients but the moral monstrosity of an intellectual class ready and willing to construct the ideological foundations for these bloodbaths to go unnoticed, to disappear in Orwell’s memory hole. In the introduction of this work Chomsky and Herman state “If facts were faced, and international law and elemental morality were operative, thousands of US politicians and military planners would be regarded as candidates for Nuremberg-type trials.” Not surprisingly, not a single US politician or military planner has yet to appear in such a trial, a graphic illustration that “elemental morality” remains inoperative. It is for this reason that books like The Washington Connection are so vital to the survival of an intellectual culture immune to the toxic allure of illegitimate authority and the institutions of deception on which it depends.CORRECTION: In the initial book review Argentina’s Economic Minister Martinez de Hoz was cited as saying Argentina had finally understood “the private enterprise system.” This statement was actually made by David Rockefeller who, according to Chomsky and Herman, was a close friend of de Hoz. Source:http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20131204/NEWS05/312040013/Rep-Hunter-U-S-should-use-tactical-nukes-Iran-strikes-become-necessary