Sunday, May 28, 2006

Indecent disrespect

A page from the Declaration

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated that the rebellious colonies owed the world an explanation for its actions. He said that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them.” This phrase is prominently featured in a broadside fired against Noam Chomsky for his criticisms of our government and its policies. While Chomsky is good at stirring up controversy, it's clear that the American public is increasingly coming to agree with this senior radical that U.S. government policy is shaped to benefit a ruling clique, without particular concern for the greater good.

From the May 28, 2006, Letters to the Editor:

The shining beacon: America

Noam Chomsky asserts that the United States is no better than any other nation because it also looks after the interests of only the dominant sections of its populace. But the fact that people from all over the globe are literally dying to reach the United States proves that it is the best place for ordinary folks to pursue their interests.

But do we hear anything about this from Chomsky? All we hear are complaints about shortfalls. Doesn't self-examination include patting oneself on the back for a job well done?

That Chomsky does not say one good thing about the United States is the main complaint against him, though that he offers only rehashed plans—plans that have failed everywhere and every time they were tried—as his solution to the so-called flaws he identifies, is also a legitimate grievance against him.

And finally, do Chomsky and others who kowtow to his line honestly believe that the U.S. government did not exhibit “decent respect for the opinion of mankind” when it liberated the Iraqis?

Vidyalankar Cotra, Folsom

The short answer is, “Hell, yes!” The U.S. government, as operated under the Bush administration, utterly disregarded the opinion of most of its allies when it blundered into the Iraqi misadventure. Although the United Kingdom fell into lock-step with the American program, other nations called for more time for the U.N. weapons inspectors to do their job. For a moment it seemed possible that Bush's saber-rattling had been brilliantly effective in forcing Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with the U.N. inspectors, but the reality was quite different. It was a bluff, but not the kind one might have expected. Bush was not threatening to go to war as a ploy to uncover Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Rather, he was bluffing about destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction so that he could go to war. We know now from various sources that Bush and his advisors had been planning a war against Iraq from his first days in office.

Those plans, by the way, initially effective in toppling Saddam's regime in just a few days, proved to be deeply flawed in every other respect. The administration immediately disbanded the Iraqi army and dismissed the bureaucrats who ran the agencies of the Iraqi government. The first action swelled the ranks of the insurgents and the second ensured the collapse of government functions in the absence of any plans to promptly replace the dismissed personnel. While our letter writer may ask about “patting oneself on the back for a job well done,” the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq makes self-congratulation an exercise in self-delusion. Remember “Mission Accomplished,” emblazoned on a banner on an aircraft carrier as part of a Bush p.r. stunt? The vast majority of the fatalities in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq occurred after that highly premature pat on the back.

Too bad the U.S. did not exhibit a decent respect for the opinion of mankind before the invasion of Iraq. It might have spared us a grotesque error.

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