Posts Tagged ‘noam chomsky’

Beyond the Redskins

July 3, 2014

Now that the US Patent and Trade office has, probably illegally but what does that matter in Obama’s America, cancelled the Washington Redskins trademark, what is the next step for Progressives who want to perform some symbolic action and push people around without actually helping anyone? If Simon Waxman of the Washington Post has his way, they will force the military to rename any weapons system named after an Indian tribe. Have any Native Americans come forward to demand such changes? For that matter, is renaming the Washington Redskins really a high priority among Native Americans? No, but Mr. Waxman believes such names are an insult and a slur and is offended on behalf of the Indians.

But even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.

In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.

Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned.

The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.

It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

Noam Chomsky supported the Khmer Rouge and refused to believe the reports that they were massacring half of Cambodia’s population. I don’t think he should be respected for his (lack of) moral clarity. Waxman’s version of Indian history which casts the Native Americans as the hapless victims of the wicked White people, with no hope of defeating the White Man’s superior technology and cunning is actually rather insulting, and perhaps racist. If I were a Native American, I know which narrative I would prefer, the one which casts them as noble, heroic warriors. And, in fact, he is wrong.

The truth is that the Native Americans were quite capable of holding their own against the European invaders, at least until the industrial revolution. The Europeans did have guns and horses which gave them an advantage, but it was not really a insurmountable advantage, especially considering that the Native Americans far outnumbered the Europeans in the early stages of the conquest and settlement of the New World. The Europeans did, however, have a secret weapon, a weapon so secret that even they weren’t aware of it, disease. The European explorers who first discovered and explored the Americas carried within their bodies the germs which caused such diseases as smallpox, measles, cholera, and others. They had built up an immunity but the Indians had never been exposed to these diseases. The resulting plagues decimated the Native population. Had this not occurred, the earliest settlers would have had a much more difficult time establishing a foothold in the New World. When the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown and Plymouth Bay, they did not find a primeval wilderness. They found cultivated land where the cultivators had obligingly died off.

Another factor missing in Waxman’s narrative is the extent to which the Native Americans’ inability to come together to fight what turned out to be a common foe. The Indians were not unacquainted with savage war and deceit. When the French or English showed up, most Indian tribes were eager to trade with them for firearms, the better to fight their traditional enemies, and enlist them as allies to help destroy them. The French Jesuit missionaries were horrified by the near genocidal war between the Iroquois and Huron, touched off by trade with the French and Dutch.

The Spanish conquistadors may have had superior technology and were cruel and desperate men, but they could never have conquered and ruled large empires without the help of native allies, and, of course, disease. The Aztecs were hated throughout Mexico for their aggression and Cortes had little difficulty raising an Indian army with the hope of throwing off the Aztec yoke. That the Aztec yoke was quickly replaced with a Spanish one may seem to indicate that they chose poorly, but then the Spanish didn’t demand that they provide human sacrifices to their God. The Incas were still recovering from a devastating civil war and plague when Pizarro showed up. Their king, Atahualpa, was considered a usurper by the nobility. Most of the peoples that the Incas ruled had been conquered within the last century and didn’t see enough difference between the two sets of conquerors to care who won. They did choose poorly since the Spaniards were far more rapacious than the Incas.

The point of relating this history is to show that the American Indians do have a history to be proud of. They were not helpless, simple-minded victims, nor were they primitive, noble savages who lived in harmony with nature and each other. They were human beings who tried the best they could to preserve their lives and liberty. There is no question that the White man has treated the Red man shamefully. The fact that if the situation were reversed and the Native Americans discovered Europe they would have acted in the same way is no excuse. The least we can do to make amends is to honor them for their noble heritage and not to pity them or presume to speak for them.

Chief Sitting Bull

Not a victim or a child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertisements

Noam Chomsky Criticizes Hugo Chavez

July 6, 2011

Either Noam Chomsky has been replaced by an alien pod, or I have fallen through a dimensional rift into the bearded Spock universe, but according an interview in the Guardian, Chomsky had some rather harsh things to say about his old friend.

“Concentration of executive power, unless it’s very temporary and for specific circumstances, such as fighting world war two, is an assault on democracy. You can debate whether [Venezuela’s] circumstances require it: internal circumstances and the external threat of attack, that’s a legitimate debate. But my own judgment in that debate is that it does not.”

In particular, Chomsky demanded the release of Judge Maria Loudes Afiuni who Chavez put into prison after she freed a prominent banker, Eligio Cedeño, who had been jailed on fabricated charges of corruption.

Ron Radosh at Pajamas media thinks he knows the reason for this unexpected turn by Chomsky and gives him two cheers.

So why did he do this? I think I have an answer, and it comes from something he told me many decades ago, when I spoke with him in Wellfleet, Mass., when I was vacationing in the Cape Cod town. Chomsky, who at times has called himself a libertarian socialist or a Marxist anarchist, told me that he would not travel to Vietnam, despite many invitations, since he knew he would not like the Stalinist regime, and would be compelled to criticize it. Publicly he defended the North Vietnamese Communists and the Viet-Cong because they were under attack from American imperialism, he told me, and he was honor bound to solidify support for the anti-war movement in the United States and the Vietnamese Communists and their government. He would not have been able to carry out that task, he said, had he accepted any of their invitations. But by not personally going to the country, he could avoid criticizing it.

In his interview with the Guardian, he notes that he has made a judgement that the Chavez regime is not under external attack from the United States — and hence he is free to criticize its policies. For Chomsky, this is a major step forward. Until this time, if you care to go through his voluminous writing, he generally calls critics of totalitarian left-wing regimes apologists for the United States. He would never beforehand concede that these regimes were not under severe danger from the United States. By saying that they are not, he has undercut the argument Chavez’s defenders always make about why they must be supported.

That’s two more cheers than I would ever give him. Note that Chomsky knew, or at least suspected that  North Vietnam was not exactly a democracy, yet he turned his eyes away from the evils of that regime so that he could continue to attack the United States in good conscience.

I’m glad that Noam Chomsky is on the right side for once, but one good act does not make up for decades of supporting some of the most odious governments in the world.

By the way, I noticed in the article that Chomsky refers to himself as a “libertarian socialist”. How is that possible? Libertarians want as small a government as possible while Socialists want the government to run everything. It would see, that these ideologies would be polar opposites anywhere outside Chomsky’s confused brain.

 

Noam Chomsky Crawls Out of the Woodwork

May 7, 2011

Noam Chomsky has emerged from whatever alternate universe he lives in to regale us all with his wisdom of the subject of the killing of Osama bin Ladin.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

Apparently Chomsky is unable to distinguish between a duly elected president with the duty to protect the citizens of his country with a terrorist responsible for the murder of thousands. In any event we don’t need lectures on morality from a man who stood up for the Khmer Rouge, not to mention so stupid he believes that the United States opposes the governments of such countries as Cuba, Haiti, Vietnam, etc because they are good examples of alternatives to “US Hegemony”.


%d bloggers like this: