Which is why I contacted him. I've been seeing lots of heat from the media regarding North Korea, but (as usual) little light. Since Chomsky has a knack for clarifying these things, both from an analytic as well as moral perspective - and I hadn't seen anything from him on it - I sent him an email:
to Noam Chomsky:
Have you publicly commented about the North Korea/United States situation? Media is shedding heat but not light."
Happened to give a talk a couple of nights ago (in Ireland) that touches on the matter. Attached."
|OMG, my Gmail has this in it now!|
Anyway, what followed was me asking if it was okay to publish the excerpt he attached (since it's not on the interwebs, as far as I know.) He said he "guessed it was OK", but that I needed to be sure to note that it was "an excerpt from an unedited talk – though in fact most of it is in print in various books of mine."
Well, of course most of it is in your books, sir.
But public comments on current events can be hard to find when it comes to Chomsky, because the media doesn't like him (might have something to do with his constant work to undermine their power.)
Anyway, here's the excerpt he sent me regarding the North Korea/US situation:
* Excerpt from unedited talk. *
Excerpt; Cork, NK
Skipping to the present, war clouds are now spreading in Northeast Asia and the
Middle East. On the Korean peninsula, North Korea is issuing wild and dangerous
threats, attributed in the West to the lunacy of its leaders. They are arguably the
worst in the world, but there are some questions that are ignored.
We might ask how we would react if a superpower that had virtually leveled our
country were right now carrying out simulated nuclear attacks on our borders by
the most advanced and sophisticated bombers in the world, stealth B-2s and B-52s.
North Korean leaders can also presumably read official US military publications,
for example the enthusiastic descriptions of the exciting military operations a
month before the 1953 armistice, when everything above ground in the country
had long ago been destroyed. This “object lesson in air power to all the
Communist world” was an attack in the major irrigation dam – a crime that led to
the death sentence at Nuremberg. It was highly successful, causing a flash flood
that “scooped clear 27 miles of valley below. Along with other attacks on dams,
this devastated 75% of the controlled water supply for North Korea’s rice
production. It sent the commissars “scurrying to the press and radio centers to
blare to the world the most severe hate-filled harangues to come from the
Communist propaganda mill in the three years of warfare.” To the Communists,
“the smashing of the dams meant primarily the destruction of their chief
sustenance – rice. Westerners can little conceive the awesome meaning which the
loss of this staple food commodity has for the Asians – starvation and slow death.
Hence the show of rage, the flare of violent tempers, and the threats of reprisals
when bombs fell on five irrigation dams.”
The stupid gooks just cannot perceive the elegance of western technological
Perhaps they even reacted with the same primitive incomprehension a few years
later, in 1961, when President Kennedy launched the direct attack on South
Vietnam, including chemical warfare to destroy food crops. And they might have
also had some thoughts about their superpower adversary at the most dangerous
moment in history.
There’s also a recent history that’s worth recalling.
In 1993 North Korea was about to strike a deal with Israel to end missile exports to
the Middle East in return for diplomatic recognition. The US pressured Israel to
reject it, and North Korea retaliated by carrying out its first test of a medium-range
missile. A US-North Korean “framework agreement” was then signed. Neither
side observed it completely, but they mostly kept to it. When President Bush took
office, “the North Koreans had stopped testing longer-range missiles. It had one or
two bombs’ worth of plutonium and was verifiably not making more,” according
to Leon Sigal, one of the leading US specialists on the topic. Bush’s aggressive
militarism quickly led to a revival of NK’s missile and nuclear programs. By
2006, North Korea had developed 8-10 nuclear weapons, and had resumed long-
range missile tests, one of many neocon successes.
A year earlier, an agreement had been reached under which North Korea would
abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing weapons programs” and allow
international inspections, in return for international aid and a non-aggression
pledge from the U.S., along with commitments by the two sides to “respect
each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize
relations.” The Bush administration immediately undermined the accord,
disbanding the international consortium set up to provide the promised light-water
reactor, renewing the threat of force, and pressuring banks to freeze North Korea’s
hard currency accounts, including proceeds from legitimate foreign trade. North
Korea reacted predictably, in their own strange ways.
There have been other interactions since. Sigal concludes that North Korea “has
been playing tit for tat—reciprocating whenever Washington cooperates and
retaliating whenever Washington reneges.” It’s doubtless a horrible place, but the
record suggests directions that could be taken to reduce the threat of war. Not
military maneuvers and simulated nuclear bombing.
* End of excerpt from unedited talk. *
That's Chomsky's definition of "touching" on something.
Heat as usual, but light as well. We have very little influence over North Korea, but we have a lot of influence when it comes to what our government does. That's our responsibility.
Will we allow the government to increase the chances of war and suffering in Korea? That's up to us.
So, that's it. Back to making music.
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