Refuting Chomsky

His defenders say I didn't come up with proof that Noam Chomsky distorts the truth. Here it is.

Published October 8, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

One of the typical illusions of the Noam Chomsky cult is the belief that its imam and sensei is an analytic giant whose dicta flow from a painstaking and scientific inquiry into the facts. "The only reason Noam Chomsky is an international political force unto himself," writes a typically fervid acolyte, "is that he actually spends considerable time researching, analyzing, corroborating, deconstructing, and impassionately [sic] explaining world affairs." This conviction is almost as delusional as Chomsky's view of the world itself. It would be more accurate to say of the Chomsky oeuvre -- lifting a famous line from the late Mary McCarthy -- that everything he has written is a lie, including the "ands" and "thes."

Chomskyites who read "The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky (Part I)" have complained to me that my refutation of Chomsky was not achieved "by reasoned argument or detailing the errors of fact or logic in his writings and statements, but by character assassination and the trivializing of Chomsky's strongly held beliefs through accusations that they were unpatriotic."

I confess to being a little puzzled by this objection. Having described Chomsky's equation of post-World War II America with Nazi Germany, it did not actually occur to me that additional refutation was required. Not, at any rate, among the sound of mind. It is true, on the other hand, that the adulators of Chomsky share a group psychosis with millions of others who formerly worshipped pre-Chomskyites, like Lenin, Stalin, and other Marxist worthies, as geniuses of the progressive faith.

Now to the facts.

Chomsky's little masterpiece, "What Uncle Sam Wants," draws on America's actions in the Cold War as a database for its portrayal as the Evil One in global affairs. As Chomsky groupies are quick to point out, a lot of facts do appear in the text or -- more precisely -- appear to appear in the text. On closer examination, every one of them has been ripped out of any meaningful historical context and then distorted so cynically that the result has about as much in common with the truth as Harry Potter's Muggles Guide to Magic.

In Chomsky's telling, the bipolar world of the Cold War is viewed as though there were only one pole. In the real world, the Cold War was about America's effort to organize a democratic coalition against an expansionist empire that conquered and enslaved more than a billion people. It ended when the empire gave up and the walls that kept its subjects locked in came tumbling down. In Chomsky's world, the Soviet empire hardly exists, not a single American action is seen as a response to a Soviet initiative, and the Cold War is "analyzed" as though it had only one side.

This is like writing a history of the Second World War without mentioning Hitler or noticing that the actions of the Axis powers influenced its events. But in Chomsky's malevolent hands, matters get even worse. If one were to follow the Chomsky method, for example, one would list every problematic act committed by any part or element in the vast coalition attempting to stop Hitler, and would attribute them all to a calculating policy of the United States. One would then provide a report card of these "crimes" as the historical record itself. The list of crimes -- the worst acts of which the Allies could be accused and the most dishonorable motives they may be said to have acted upon -- would then become the database from which America's portrait would be drawn. The result inevitably would be the Great Satan of Chomsky's deranged fantasy life.

In "What Uncle Sam Really Wants," Chomsky begins with the fact of America's emergence from World War II. He describes this fact characteristically as the United States having "benefited enormously" from the conflict in contrast to its "industrial rivals" -- omitting in the process any mention of the 250,000 lives America lost, its generous Marshall Plan aid to those same rivals or, for that matter, its victory over Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. In Chomsky's portrait, America in 1945 is, instead, a wealthy power that profited from others' misery and is now seeking world domination.

"The people who determine American policy were carefully planning how to shape the postwar world," he asserts without evidence. "American planners -- from those in the State Department to those on the Council on Foreign Relations (one major channel by which business leaders influence foreign policy) -- agreed that the dominance of the United States had to be maintained."

Chomsky never names the actual people who agreed that American policy should be world dominance, nor how they achieved unanimity in deciding to transform a famously isolationist country into a global power. America, in short, has no internal politics that matter. Chomsky does not bother to acknowledge or attempt to explain the powerful strain of isolationism not only in American policy, but in the Republican Party -- the party of Wall Street and the Council on Foreign Relations businessmen whom he claims exert such influence on policy. Above all, he does not explain why, if world domination was really America's goal in 1945, Washington disbanded its wartime armies overnight and brought them home.

Between 1945 and 1946, in fact, America demobilized 1.6 million troops. By contrast, the Soviet Union (which Chomsky doesn't mention) maintained its 2 million-man army in place in the countries of Eastern Europe whose governments it had already begun to undermine and destroy. It was, in fact, the Soviet absorption of the formerly independent states of Eastern Europe in the years between 1945 and 1948 that triggered America's subsequent rearmament, the creation of NATO, and the overseas spread of American power, which was designed to contain an expansionist Soviet empire and prevent a repetition of the appeasement process that had led to World War II.

These little facts never appear in Chomsky's text, yet they determine everything that followed, especially America's global presence. There is no excuse for this omission other than that Chomsky wants this history to be something other than it was. History has shown that the Cold War -- the formation of the postwar Western alliances and the mobilizing of Western forces -- was principally brought about by the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe. That is why the Cold War ended as soon as the Berlin Wall fell, and the states of Eastern Europe were freed to pursue their independent paths. It was to accomplish this great liberation of several hundred million people -- and not any American quest for world domination -- that explains American Cold War policy. But these facts never appear on Chomsky's pages.

Having begun the story with an utterly false picture of the historical forces at work, Chomsky is ready to carry out his scorched earth campaign of malicious slander against the democracy in which he has led a privileged existence for more than 70 years. "In 1949," Chomsky writes, reaching for his favorite smear, "U.S. espionage in Eastern Europe had been turned over to a network run by Reinhard Gehlen, who had headed Nazi military intelligence on the Eastern Front. This network was one part of the U.S.-Nazi alliance ..."

Let's pause for a moment so that we can take a good look at this exemplary display of the Chomsky method. We have jumped -- or rather Chomsky has jumped us -- from 1945 to 1949, skipping over the little matter of the Red Army's refusal to withdraw from Eastern Europe, and the Kremlin's swallowing of its independent regimes. Instead of these matters, the reader is confronted with what appears to be a shocking fact about Reinhard Gehlen, which is quickly inflated into a big lie -- an alleged "U.S.-Nazi alliance." The factoid about Gehlen, it must be said, has been already distorted in the process of presenting it. The United States used Gehlen -- not the other way around as Chomsky's devious phrase ("U.S. espionage ... had been turned over") implies. More blatant is the big lie itself. There was no "U.S.-Nazi alliance." The United States defeated Nazi Germany four years earlier, and by 1949 -- unlike the Soviet Union -- had imposed a democracy on West Germany's political structure as a condition of a German peace.

In 1949, West Germany, which was controlled by the United States and its allies, was a democratic state and continued to be so until the end of the Cold War, 40 years later. East Germany, which was controlled by the Soviet Union (whose policies Chomsky fails to examine) was a police state, and continued to be a police state until the end of the Cold War, 40 years later. In 1949, with Stalin's Red Army occupying all the countries of Eastern Europe, the Communists had established police states in each one of them and were arresting and executing thousands of innocent people. These benighted satellite regimes of the Soviet empire remained police states, under Soviet rule, until the end of the Cold War 40 years later. The 2 million-man Red Army continued to occupy Eastern Europe until the end of the Cold War 40 years later, and for every one of those years it was positioned in an aggressive posture threatening the democratic states of Western Europe with invasion and occupation.

In these circumstances -- which Chomsky does not mention -- the use of a German military intelligence network with experience and assets in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was an entirely reasonable measure to defend the democratic states of the West and the innocent lives of the subjects of Soviet rule. Spy work is dirty work as everyone recognizes. This episode was no "Nazi" taint on America, but a necessary part of America's Cold War effort in the cause of human freedom. With the help of the Gehlen network, the United States kept the Soviet expansion in check, and eventually liberated hundreds of millions of oppressed people in Eastern Europe from the horrors of the Communist gulag.

Chomsky describes these events as though the United States had not defeated Hitler, but had made a pact with devil himself to attack the innocent: "These operations included a 'secret army' under U.S.-Nazi auspices that sought to provide agents and military supplies to armies that had been established by Hitler and which were still operating inside the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe through the early 1950s." This typical Chomsky distortion of what actually took place is as bold a lie as the Communist propaganda the Kremlin distributed in those years, from which it is cynically cribbed.

Having equated America with Nazi Germany, in strict imitation of Stalinist propaganda themes, Chomsky extends the analogy through the whole of his fictional account of the episodes that made up the Cold War. According to Chomsky, establishing a Nazi world order with business interests at the top and the "working classes and the poor" at the bottom was America's real postwar agenda. Therefore, "the major thing that stood in the way of this was the anti-fascist resistance, so we suppressed it all over the world, often installing fascists and Nazi collaborators in its place."

Claims like these give conspiracy theories a bad name.

It would be tedious (and would add nothing to our understanding) to run through all of Chomsky's perversely distorted cases, which follow the unscrupulous model of his account of the Gehlen network. One more should suffice. In 1947 a civil war in Greece became the first Cold War test of America's resolve to prevent the Soviet empire from spreading beyond Eastern Europe. Naturally, Chomsky presents the conflict as a struggle between the "anti-Nazi resistance," and U.S.-backed (and "Nazi") interests. In Chomsky's words, these interests were "U.S. investors and local businessmen," and -- of course -- "the beneficiaries included Nazi collaborators, while the primary victims were the workers and the peasants ..."

The leaders of the anti-Communist forces in Greece were not Nazis. On the other hand, what Chomsky calls the "anti-Nazi resistance" was in fact the Communist Party and its fellow-traveling pawns. What Chomsky leaves out of his account, as a matter of course and necessity, are the proximity of the Soviet Red Army to Greece, the intention of the Greek Communists to establish a Soviet police state if they won the civil war, and the fact that their defeat paved the way for an unprecedented economic development benefiting all classes and the eventual establishment of a political democracy which soon brought democratic socialists to power.

Needless to say, no country in which Chomsky's "anti-fascists" won, ever established a democracy or produced any significant betterment in the economic conditions of the great mass of its inhabitants. This puts a somewhat different color on every detail of what happened in Greece and what the United States did there. The only point of view from which Chomsky's version of this history makes sense is the point of view of the Kremlin, whose propaganda has merely been updated by the MIT professor.

A key chapter of Chomsky's booklet of lies is called "The Threat of A Good Example." In it, Chomsky offers his explanation for America's diabolical behavior in Third World countries. In Chomsky's fictional accounting, "what the U.S.-run contra forces did in Nicaragua, or what our terrorist proxies do in El Salvador or Guatemala, isn't only ordinary killing. A major element is brutal, sadistic torture -- beating infants against rocks, hanging women by their feet with their breasts cut off and the skin of their face peeled back so that they'll bleed to death, chopping people's heads off and putting them on stakes." There are no citations in Chomsky's text to support the claim either that these atrocities took place, or that the United States directed them, or that the United States is in any meaningful way responsible. But, according to Chomsky, "U.S.-run" forces and "our terrorist proxies" do this sort of thing routinely and everywhere: "No country is exempt from this treatment, no matter how unimportant."

According to Chomsky, U.S. business is the evil hand behind all these policies. On the other hand, "as far as American business is concerned, Nicaragua could disappear and nobody would notice. The same is true of El Salvador. But both have been subjected to murderous assaults by the U.S., at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and many billions of dollars." If these countries are so insignificant why would the United States bother to treat them so monstrously, particularly since lesser atrocities committed by Americans -- like the My Lai massacre -- managed to attract the attention of the whole world, and not just Noam Chomsky? "There is a reason for that," Chomsky explains. "The weaker and poorer a country is, the more dangerous it is as an example [italics in original]. If a tiny, poor country like Grenada can succeed in bringing about a better life for its people, some other place that has more resources will ask, 'why not us?'"

It's an interesting idea. The logic goes like this: What Uncle Sam really wants is to control the world; U.S. control means absolute misery for all the peoples that come under its sway; this means the U.S. must prevent all the little, poor people in the world from realizing that there are better ways to develop than with U.S. investments or influence. Take Grenada. "Grenada has a hundred thousand people who produce a little nutmeg, and you could hardly find it on a map. But when Grenada began to undergo a mild social revolution, Washington quickly moved to destroy the threat." This is Chomsky's entire commentary on the U.S. intervention in Grenada.

Actually, something quite different took place. In 1979, there was a coup in Grenada that established a Marxist dictatorship complete with a Soviet-style "politburo" to rule it. This was a tense period in the Cold War. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and Communist insurgencies armed by Cuba were spreading in Central America. Before long, Cuban military personnel began to appear in Grenada and were building a new airport capable of accommodating Soviet bombers. Tensions over the uncompleted airport developed between Washington and the Grenadian dictatorship. In the midst of all this, there was another coup in 1983. This coup was led by the Marxist minister of defense who assassinated the Marxist dictator and half his politburo, including his pregnant minister of education. The new dictator put the entire island -- including U.S. citizens resident there -- under house arrest. It was at this point that the Reagan administration sent the marines in to protect U.S. citizens, stop the construction of the military airport and restore democracy to the little island. The U.S. did this at the request of four governments of Caribbean countries that feared a Communist military presence in their neighborhood. A public opinion poll taken after the U.S. operation showed that 85 percent of the citizens of Grenada welcomed the U.S. intervention and America's help in restoring their freedom.

There was no "threat of a good example" in Grenada and there are none anywhere in the world of progressive social experiments. There is not a single Marxist country that has ever provided a good example in the sense of making its economy better or its people freer. Chomsky seems to have missed this most basic fact of 20th century history: Socialism doesn't work. Korea would seem an obvious model case. Fifty years ago, in one of the early battles of the Cold War, the United States military prevented Communist North Korea from conquering the anti-Communist South of the country. Today Communist North Korea is independent of the United States and one of the poorest countries in the world. A million of its citizens have starved in the last couple of years, while its Marxist dictator has feverishly invested his country's scarce capital in an intercontinental ballistic missile program. So much for the good example.

In South Korea, by contrast, there are 50,000 U.S. troops stationed along the border to defend it from a Communist attack. For 50 years, nefarious U.S. businesses and investors have operated freely in South Korea. The results are interesting. In 1950, South Korea, with a per capita income of $250, was as poor as Cuba and Vietnam. Today it is an industrial power and its per capita income is more than 20 times greater than it was before it became an ally and investment region of the United States. South Korea is not a full-fledged democracy but it does have elections and more than one party and a press that provides it with information from the outside world. This is quite different from North Korea whose citizens have no access to information their dictator does not approve. Who do you think is afraid of the threat of a good example?

Communism was an expansive system that ruined nations and enslaved their citizens. But Chomsky dismisses America's fear of Communism as a mere "cover" for America's own diabolical designs. He explains the Vietnam War this way: "The real fear was that if the people of Indochina achieved independence and justice, the people of Thailand would emulate it, and if that worked, they'd try it in Malaya, and pretty soon Indonesia would pursue an independent path, and by then a significant area [of America's empire] would have been lost." This is a Marxist version of the domino theory. But of course, America did leave Indochina -- Cambodia and Thailand included -- in 1975. Vietnam has pursued an independent path for 25 years and it is as poor as it ever was -- one of the poorest nations in the world. Its people still live in a primitive Marxist police state.

After its defeat in Vietnam, the United States withdrew its military forces from the entire Indo-Chinese peninsula. The result was that Cambodia was overrun by the Khmer Rouge (the "reds"). In other words, by the Communist forces that Noam Chomsky, the Vietnamese Communists and the entire American left had supported until then. The Khmer Rouge proceeded to kill 2 million Cambodians who, in their view, stood in the way of the progressive "good example" they intended to create. Chomsky earned himself a bad reputation by first denying and then minimizing the Cambodian genocide until the facts overwhelmed his case. Now, of course, he blames the genocide on the United States.

Chomsky also blames the United States and the Vietnam War for the fact that "Vietnam is a basket case" and not a good example. "Our basic goal -- the crucial one, the one that really counted -- was to destroy the virus [of independent development], and we did achieve that. Vietnam is a basket case, and the U.S. is doing what it can to keep it that way." This is just a typical Chomsky libel and all-purpose ruse. (The devil made them do it.) As Chomsky knew then and knows now, the victorious Vietnamese Communists are Marxists. Marxism is a crackpot theory that doesn't work. Every Marxist state has been an economic basket case.

Take a current example like Cuba, which has not been bombed and has not suffered a war, but is poorer today than it was more than 40 years ago when Castro took power. In 1959, Cuba was the second richest country in Latin America. Now it is the second poorest, just before Haiti. Naturally, Chomskyites will claim that the U.S. economic boycott is responsible. (The devil made them do it.) But whole rest of the world trades with Cuba. Cuba not only trades with all of Latin America and Europe, but receives aid from the latter. Moreover, in 1970s and 1980s the Soviet Union gave Cuba the equivalent of three Marshall Plans in economic subsidies and assistance -- tens of billions of dollars. Cuba is a fertile island with a tropical climate. It is poor because it has followed Chomsky's examples, and not America's. It is poor because it is socialist, Marxist and Communist. It is poor because it is run by a lunatic and sadist. It is poor because in Cuba, America lost the Cold War. The poverty of Cuba is what Chomsky's vision and political commitments would create for the entire world.

It is the Communist-Chomsky illusion that there is a way to prosperity other than the way of the capitalist market that causes the poverty of states like Cuba and North Korea and Vietnam, and would have caused the poverty of Grenada and Greece and South Korea if America had not intervened.

The illusion that socialism promises a better future is also the cause of the Chomsky cult. It is the illusion at the heart of the messianic hope that creates the progressive left. This hope is a chimera, but insofar as it is believed, history presents itself in terms that are Manichaean -- as a battle between good and evil. Those who oppose socialism, Marxism, Communism embody worldly evil. They are the party of Satan, and their leader America is the Great Satan himself.

Chomsky is, in fact, the imam of this religious worldview on today's college campuses. His great service to the progressive faith is to deny the history of the last 100 years, which is the history of progressive atrocity and failure. In the 20th century, progressives in power killed 100 million people in the attempt to realize their impossible dream. As far as Noam Chomsky is concerned these catastrophes of the left never happened. "I don't much like the terms left and right," Chomsky writes in yet another ludicrous screed called "The Common Good." "What's called the left includes Leninism [i.e., Communism], which I consider ultra-right in many respects ... Leninism has nothing to do with the values of the left -- in fact, it's radically opposed to them."

You have to pinch yourself when reading sentences like that.

The purpose of such Humpty-Dumpty mutilations of the language is perfectly intelligible, however. It is to preserve the faith for those who cannot live without some form of the Communist creed. Lenin is dead. Long live Leninism. The Communist catastrophes can have "nothing to do with the values of the left" because if they did the left would have to answer for its deeds and confront the fact that it is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Progressives would have to face the fact that they killed 100 million people for nothing -- for an idea that didn't work.

The real threat of a good example is the threat of America, which has lifted more people out of poverty -- within its borders and all over the world -- than all the socialists and progressives put together since the beginning of time. To neutralize the threat, it is necessary to kill the American idea. This is, in fact, Noam Chomsky's mission in life, and his everlasting disgrace.

By David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

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