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Chatham House Chomsky
#1
Review by John Major, University of Hull, in International Affairs (Cambridge UP/Royal Institute of International Affairs, Vol 70, No 1 [January 1994])

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US political culture. By Noam Chomsky. London. Verso. 1993. 172pp. Index. £29.95; ISBN 0860914119. Pb.: £9.95; ISBN 0860916855

Quote:Over the past 25 years Noam Chomsky has established himself as one of the leading radical critics of the American establishment, and in particular of the Vietnam War it so disastrously embarked upon. His purpose in this small thunder-flash of a book is to explode the myth, as he sees it, that President John F. Kennedy would have ended the American involvement in Vietnam had he lived to be re-elected – and that he would have done so even at the price of a peace without victory.

The opening is unpromising. Chomsky is nothing if not impassioned, and his insistence that Washington’s decision to go to war was immoral, and not simply pointless and mistaken, is dangerously Manichean. He comes very close to asserting that the war ended because the good in the American people triumphed over the evil in the American government, failing to weigh the proposition that the US political leadership might well express the often simplistic prejudices of the electorate. At the same time he seems to equate American power with barbarity and North Vietnamese weakness with virtue, when we know that atrocities were committed on both sides, however different their scale. But the ruthlessness of Ho Chi Minh falls away in a perspective which sees Vietnam only as an episode in half a millennium of the Third World’s exploitation by the West, when the enormities of that imperialism justify, even demand, the most violent possible.

When Chomsky comes down to specifics, however, he is on surer ground. The bulk of the work is devoted to a careful, if sometimes wearisomely repetitive dissection of the argument that Kennedy would have taken America out of the war regardless of its outcome, and that he was assassinated because his enemies knew he planned to do that. In his first chapter he analyses the new primary source material published over the past few years, principally in the volumes on Vietnam for 1961-64 in the State Department series ‘Foreign Relations of the United States’. Here Chomsky provides abundant evidence (often frustratingly missing from the notes to his introduction) to refute the claim that a far-sighted statesman was cut down before he could extricate his country from its fatal campaign. He then goes on to skewer the ‘court historians’ such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Kennedy propagandists such as John Newman, whose recent book (JFK and Vietnam, 1992) formed the basis of Oliver Stone’s film JFK. Here he demonstrates the dramatic shift of view which came about after public opinion turned decisively against the war in 1968, when pro-Kennedy apologists who had been behind the Vietnam intervention during his time in office strove to dissociate him from the debacle and pin the blame elsewhere, above all on Lyndon Johnson.

We shall, of course, never know what might have been in a second Kennedy term. It is, to say the least, difficult to believe that the man who delivered that strident inaugural in January 1961 would have cut his losses in Vietnam four years later. And the record we now have sustains the verdict. Yet Kennedy’s success in his lifetime was built to a considerable degree on popular yearning for a hero, and to most people image will always count for more than reality. Thirty years after his death, the wishful thinkers and their spokesmen will no doubt be proof against this latest challenge to their faith.

From the same people who brought you Hitler and Stalin...a puff piece in support of Noam's fearless work on JFK and the Vietnam blood-bath.
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#2
Good thing Chomsky wrote this bs prior to JFK and The Unspeakable, where the evidence is overwhleming that JFK would end the Vietnma war. Of course if one has an agenda, as Chomsky clearly does on the issue of the assassination, picking and choosing from the record can be done to support any case. SInce JFK was planning one strategy in secret- (end of the war, detente with Russia, Cuba)- while making hawkish statements to appease his national security state, Chomsky, like Posner, can pick and choose his "evidence" with complete impunity. It's not like the MSM is going to advocate for the truth here.
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#3
Dawn Meredith Wrote:Good thing Chomsky wrote this bs prior to JFK and The Unspeakable, where the evidence is overwhleming that JFK would end the Vietnma war. Of course if one has an agenda, as Chomsky clearly does on the issue of the assassination, picking and choosing from the record can be done to support any case. SInce JFK was planning one strategy in secret- (end of the war, detente with Russia, Cuba)- while making hawkish statements to appease his national security state, Chomsky, like Posner, can pick and choose his "evidence" with complete impunity. It's not like the MSM is going to advocate for the truth here.

You're right, Dawn, within the context of the time, Kennedy had to talk tough, and Chomsky inevitably finds some easy pickings in such speeches etc.

But we, as an opposition to the intellectual secret policemen, bear a deal of responsibility for allowing Chomsky and his ilk to get away with it. For, in truth, he is every bit as vulnerable as Kennedy. How so?

We have ignored for too long the clear and unequivocal contemporaneous critique mounted against Kennedy by the Right and its pundits who saw Kennedy talking war and acting for peace, and excoriated him for it. Here is an example of what I mean:

Quote:Henry J. Taylor, “Where’s the Bloody Horse?,” The Washington Daily News, Wednesday, 15 November 1961, p.45:

“Our public is not reacting happily to the laterals, back-tracking, and occasional fake passes which emanate from Washington in the face of our perils.”

The press of the period is littered with such examples - all assiduously and necessarily avoided by Chomsky - but we've done a poor job of assembling them and making them known.

I include myself in that critique, and would broaden it to suggest we have too often not done - let me see if I can find a suitably American idiom for this - the hard yards in terms of basic research.

It's a massive collective failing.

Paul
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#4
Paul Rigby Wrote:We have ignored for too long the clear and unequivocal contemporaneous critique mounted against Kennedy by the Right and its pundits who saw Kennedy talking war and acting for peace, and excoriated him for it. Here is an example of what I mean:

Quote:Henry J. Taylor, “Where’s the Bloody Horse?,” The Washington Daily News, Wednesday, 15 November 1961, p.45:

“Our public is not reacting happily to the laterals, back-tracking, and occasional fake passes which emanate from Washington in the face of our perils.”

The press of the period is littered with such examples - all assiduously and necessarily avoided by Chomsky - but we've done a poor job of assembling them and making them known.

Another example:

Quote:The Washington Daily News, Tuesday, 9 May 1961, p.21

Escape to High Ground?

By Richard Starnes


New York, May 9 – Writing of the late Ernest Bevin, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson said:“...He understood power. He knew that choices had to be made, often choices between unpleasant alternatives, and never was misled, as so many well-meaning people are, into believing that the necessity for choice can be transcended by a flight of eloquence.”

The words, in Mr. Acheson’s soon-to-be published “Sketches From Life,” were written before President Kennedy’s dilemma regarding Laos became so embarrassingly public. But their applicability is clear, just as it is clear that Mr. Kennedy’s seconds have suddenly lost their stomach for risking their tiger’s record in a showdown over Laos.

Doris Fleeson, a fine reporter who has been called the Den Mother of the New Frontier, wrote recently: “Influential senators and editorial opinions are paving the way for him (President Kennedy) to withdraw from his exposed Laos position to the safer and higher ground of the United Nations.”

This we may regard as the present position of men in the enlightened spectrum of the New Frontier. It seems to dispose of any real possibility of war over Laos, which is assumed to be a good thing. But it also disposes of Laos, which those of us who remember the President’s press conference of March 23 must regard as a bad thing.

If an escape to “high ground” is now regarded as essential American policy, where were the policy makers when Mr. Kennedy was saying, “If these attacks (on Laos) do not stop, those who support a truly neutral Laos will have to consider their response...No one should doubt our resolution on this point...The security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered if Laos loses its neutral independence...I know that every American will want his country to honor its obligation to the point that freedom and security of the free world and ourselves may be achieved.”

That was a forthright statement of policy that cheered many Americans who had grown sick of taking the back of some international hoodlum’s hand. But now it is apparent that it was more “flight of eloquence” than rock-ribbed policy, and that anyone who doubted “our resolution on this point” was well advised to do so.

Laos, according to such military specialists as Sen. J.W. Fulbright, of Fayetteville, Ark., is the wrong place to fight a war. And from this one must assume that one honors one’s obligation to the principal of freedom only when the geography is convenient, the climate comfortable, and the enemy not really playing for keeps.

Okinawa was a poor place for a war, and so was Guadalcanal, and no sane person would have launched an offensive against the Siegfried Line. But we fought in all three places, and countless others equally hairy, and in those days nobody suggested that wars had to be fought on a smooth field as if they were a polo match

Ornery kids brawling in school yards very early learn that you don’t draw a line in the dirt with your big toe and challenge a guy to cross it unless you’re prepared to hang one on his chin if he does cross it. If your dare is accepted and you retreat and draw a more convenient line in the dirt, you quickly become the laughing stock of the school yard. And, of course, sooner or later you run out of dirt to draw the line.

Curious how Chomsky, Cockburn et al never manage to find any of this stuff!
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#5
Paul Rigby Wrote:
Quote: "It is, to say the least, difficult to believe that the man who delivered that strident inaugural in January 1961 would have cut his losses in Vietnam four years later. And the record we now have sustains the verdict. Yet Kennedy’s success in his lifetime was built to a considerable degree on popular yearning for a hero, and to most people image will always count for more than reality. Thirty years after his death, the wishful thinkers and their spokesmen will no doubt be proof against this latest challenge to their faith." -- Noam Chomsky

"Difficult to believe" for a simple reason: The fatal flaws in Chomsky's methodology are its inabilities to identify and factor non-quantifiable input such as that which James Douglass isolates, accepts as valid influence on behavior, and examines in fine detail.

Chomsky might wish to consider this: There is sound reason indeed to conclude that the "man who delivered that strident inaugural in January 1961" had, by 12:29 PM CST on 11/22/63, ceased to exist in almost every way meaningful to this analysis.

Further, Chomsky's "yearning" for a zero-sum model for human behavior itself amounts to "wishful think[ing]" elevated to the level of "faith."
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#6
Charles Drago Wrote:
Paul Rigby Wrote:
Quote: "It is, to say the least, difficult to believe that the man who delivered that strident inaugural in January 1961 would have cut his losses in Vietnam four years later. And the record we now have sustains the verdict. Yet Kennedy’s success in his lifetime was built to a considerable degree on popular yearning for a hero, and to most people image will always count for more than reality. Thirty years after his death, the wishful thinkers and their spokesmen will no doubt be proof against this latest challenge to their faith." -- Noam Chomsky

"Difficult to believe" for a simple reason: The fatal flaws in Chomsky's methodology are its inabilities to identify and factor non-quantifiable input such as that which James Douglass isolates, accepts as valid influence on behavior, and examines in fine detail.

Chomsky might wish to consider this: There is sound reason indeed to conclude that the "man who delivered that strident inaugural in January 1961" had, by 12:29 PM CST on 11/22/63, ceased to exist in almost every way meaningful to this analysis.

Further, Chomsky's "yearning" for a zero-sum model for human behavior itself amounts to "wishful think[ing]" elevated to the level of "faith."

If you take care of the guy's soul, CD, I'll concentrate on hacking at the sleazeball's knees.
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#7
Paul,

We'll meet in the middle.

CD

PS -- You stick around here where you're wanted.
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#8
I agree Paul we have let the lies go unchallenged for too long. Here I have started a third thread among the young and Che-shirt-wearing interspersed with old and subsidized. I know its revolting terrain, but its good exorcise!
http://www.revleft.com/vb/lee-harvey-osw...index.html I didn' t bother to credit your comments, wasn't certain you'd mind. Please feel free to join in as savagely as possible should your stomach enable.
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#9
Nathaniel Heidenheimer Wrote:I agree Paul we have let the lies go unchallenged for too long. Here I have started a third thread among the young and Che-shirt-wearing interspersed with old and subsidized. I know its revolting terrain, but its good exorcise!
http://www.revleft.com/vb/lee-harvey-osw...index.html I didn' t bother to credit your comments, wasn't certain you'd mind. Please feel free to join in as savagely as possible should your stomach enable.

Admirable missionary work, Brother Nat, where do you find the reserves of optimism?

And never worry about attribution: the sermons are free, just make sure you deliver them!

Paul
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