Bill Bennett vs. Naom Chomsky
First: Confusing American’s domestic wealth with America’s foreign policy.
Second: The world community owes Americans eternally for conflicts of the past.
Third: A plea to focus on the positive.
Fourth: Focus on the rival’s negative behavior, diverting the argument from the real question at issue
Confusing American’s domestic wealth with America’s foreign policy.
Please read the CNN transcript with Bill Bennett and Naom Chomsky before reading the below critique.
Bill Bennett in response to Naom Chomsky’s criticism of America's foreign policy:
“Why is it... whenever there are refugees in the world, they flee to the United States rather than from the United States? Why is it on balance… that this nation, when it opens its gates, has people rushing in? Why is it that it is this nation the world looks to for support and encouragement and help?”
Naom Chomsky, unfortunately, ignored the question:
“Why is it…whenever there are refugees in the world, they flee to the United States rather than from the United States?”
I have never heard or read an adequate response to this very common question. (See note 1)
I hope to provide one today.
BILL BENNETT’S TWO PREPROGRAMMED RESPONSES
Bill Bennett’s reaction to Chomsky is a very typical American response. When a detractor brings up America’s brutal foreign policy, the average American will usually respond with the same one of two preprogrammed answers which Bill Bennett also answered with:
1) “Why is it …that...when [America] opens its gates… people rush in?”
2) “We rebuilt Europe twice in this century, after two world wars. We liberated Europe from Nazi tyranny. We have liberated Eastern Europe in the last few years from communist tyranny.
Bill Bennett’s two answers are a reflexive reaction which is similar to the average Americans response when faced with harsh criticism of America.
Why do Americans always answer the same way?
By using these two positive answers, mentally, it immediately directs the average American away from any uncomfortable criticism.
THE FLAWED LOGIC OF THE TWO REFLEXIVE RESPONSES
But there is a false and simplistic logic behind these two responses, which boils down to this rationalization:
“How can a country so obviously good do such horrible bad?”
In other words, discount uncomfortable criticism “A” (America is directly and indirectly responsible for the needless deaths of many people worldwide)…
…and instead focus on conditioned truism “B” (America is the best country in the world, and a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world).
BILL BENNETT’S FIRST RESPONSE
“Why is it …that...when [America] opens its gates… people rush in?”
This reflexive “question”, which is actually more of a statement, skirts the central point entirely.
Naom Chomsky was arguing that America was a “terrorist nation” by its own definition of terrorism, and that its foreign policies cause misery and death to millions of people world wide.
Bill Bennett countered by indirectly asserting how wonderful it is to live in America, because so many people want to live here.
Naom Chomsky did not say “America is a horrible place to live, with crime ridden streets and massive poverty.”
Naom Chomsky was talking about foreign policy, NOT domestic policy.
In fact, Chomsky agrees with Bennett. Using another reflexive defense preprogrammed in most Americans, Chomsky actually stated that America was the “greatest country in the world”.
THE SHARED HISTORY OF EMPIRES
America is the richest country in the world. People want to immigrate to America because Americans live in luxury compared to the rest of the world.
I am sure during the Roman and British Empires, while British and Romans were slaughtering and conquering people in far away lands, out of sight and out of mind of the British and Roman citizenry, if offered, many of the conquered nations would have “rushed in” if these empires “opened the gates”.
This in no way excuses the death and destruction that these empires inflicted on foreign countries, and America’s high standard of living in no way excuses the death and destruction America subjects on other countries to today.
In fact, just the opposite, America’s high standard of living actually condemns America, more than justifies America’s actions.
Like the empires of the past, where does America get many of its raw materials to become such a rich country, which everyone wants to live in?
America often import these raw materials from the very same countries that America ruthlessly subject to its will.
Ignoring America’s grievous foreign policy, with unrelated, preprogrammed statements of Americans greatness, is intellectually dishonest, and is yet another way that American’s ignore America’s shameful foreign policy history.
The world community owes Americans eternally for conflicts of the past.
Bill Bennett in response to Naom Chomsky’s criticism of America's foreign policy:
“We rebuilt Europe twice in this century, after two world wars. We liberated Europe from Nazi tyranny. We have liberated Eastern Europe in the last few years from communist tyranny, and now we are engaged in a battle against something else.”
I have a family member who uses this same defense when I bring up America’s bloody foreign policy.
It is rooted in the idea of America's supremacy, the idea that the world community owes Americans eternally for conflicts of the past. (See Note 2)
Here is my response to this common defense of America’s bloody foreign policy:
ALLIES DEFEATING GERMANY
Suppose a country fought in a war as allies to defeat Germany. This country helped liberate the world and defeat Germany.
A few years later, this country preemptively attacked a sovereign nation, and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
The world community was outraged, and demanded that this country stop their preemptive wars.
This country’s response, similar to Bill Bennett’s:
“We helped defeat the Germans. We helped liberated Germany from this tyranny.”
Am I describing America and the Iraqi war, and American’s justification for the Iraq war because we liberated Germany from the Nazi's?
I am describing Italy and Japan.
Italy and Japan both were allies with America, Britain, France, and Russia in World War I against Germany. A few years later, Japan invaded many Asian countries and Italy invaded France.
* Just because Japan and France helped the allies in World War I, does this justify their future invasions?
* Does this make the invasion of China somehow morally acceptable?
* Does the world community owe Italy and Japan an eternal debt because in a previous war they helped defeat a common enemy?
* Should all decent be stifled because years before Italy and Japan fought on the “right” (i.e. victorious) side?
AMERICA’S ETERNAL JUSTIFICATION OF WAR
My question to Americans:
* How many years is America going to roll out the memory of World War II and the fall of communism to justify its less popular wars?
* How long before the debt of World War II and the cold war is paid by these countries that America helped liberate?
* One hundred years from now, when America is still invading countries, are Americans going to still be rolling out World War II and the Cold War to justify it?
World War II cost Russia more lives than any other country. Without Russia World War II may never had been won by the allies.
Does this justify Russia invading Afghanistan; and suppressing Hungry and Czechoslovakia?
France also fought in World War II, does this justify France's bloody wars in their former colonies of Vietnam and Algeria?
Can only America claim moral superiority by invoking recent history when it invades countries and kills hundreds of thousands of people?
A plea to focus on the positive
In the movie Hidden in Plain Sight one apologist politician asks a familiar question, another preprogrammed response from the faithful of Americanism:
Why don’t these critics of America focus on the positive?
I have thought a lot about this preprogrammed response, and my response is:
Why don’t the supporters of America ever focus on the negative?
Imagine if you were a Jewish victim of the concentration camp and I where a former SS Nazi. You brought up the holocaust. And my response would be:
Why don’t you critics of Germany focus on the positive?
This is exactly what the vast majority of Americans do, but unlike most Germans, they have not come to terms with their shameful past, and so therefore the massacre of millions of people of the past, are being continued into the present, and will inevitably continue into the future.
Present this vile question other ways:
Why don’t you critics of (name genocide here) focus on the positive?
Why don’t you nigger critics of American segregation focus on the positive?
Why don’t you critics of Indian genocide focus on the positive?
Apologists of American foreign policy not only want to “focus on the positive”, American apologists want to hear exclusively the positive, and nothing else. They do not want to hear about the negative, because this threatens the very foundations of their American religion .
I have a relative who has spent their life reading history books. They read two to three history books a week. But in their entire life, this relative has not once picked up a book about the American invasion of the Philippines which killed an estimated 100-500,000 people. They have never read a book about the American sponsored overthrow of Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala, or Iran. They have indicated that many books, they will absolutely refuse to read, because it conflicts with their current ideology. Instead they unconsciously and sometimes consciously focus on “safe books” which reinforce their views of America being a beacon of freedom in the world.
Another retort to this third preprogrammed response is from Chomsky:
Washington, D.C.: I'm asking you this question sincerely: Why don't you direct your hatred of George Bush toward someone more worthy of such venom, such as Osama bin Laden?
Noam Chomsky: I don't recall having expressed any hatred for George Bush, though I have quoted people who expressed real fury at what he has done, and even compared him to the Japanese fascists who bombed Pearl Harbor: historian Arthur Schlesinger in this case. If what you mean is that I have criticized Bush's policies more than Osama's, that's because I take for granted, like everyone else, that Osama bin Laden is a murderous thug, who the current incumbents in Washington should never have supported through the 1980s, and who should be apprehended and tried for his crimes right now -- as I've written -- and don't see any point reiterating what 100% of us believe about him. But I am a citizen of the US, and therefore share responsibility for US government policies, and assume that one of the duties of citizenship is to live up to that responsibility -- by criticizing policies one thinks are wrong, for example--Noam Chomsky debates with Washington Post readers Washington Post, November 26, 2003
Focus on the rival’s negative behavior, diverting the argument from the real question at issue
Another common way Americans justify American foreign policy history is to focus on the rival’s negative behavior. An example of this is a conservative reviewer’s comments on the film Fahrenheit 9/11:
[Moore is] eager to show the collateral damage caused by American bombings [but Moore]… never documents the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime: [the] torture chambers, rape rooms and mass graves.
This is a classical red herring fallacy of logic
A red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument from the real question at issue.
Many American apologists intentionally change the subject, focusing on the rival’s negative behavior, effectively ignoring or mentally justifying America’s negative behavior in the process.
To show how illogical this defense is, here is an example.
Imagine if a person went on a murder spree. At trial, in his defense, the murderer says, “Sure I killed those people, but I didn’t kill as many people as Jack the Ripper.”
How would the jury see this defense? Would any court in America allow such a defense?
After World War 2, Nazi war criminals attempted to use a similar defense as the Fahrenheit 9/11 reviewer and my hypothetical mass murderer did. The Nazis cited chemical and nuclear weapons test that the American military had used on its own soldiers to justify their own weapons tests on Jews. Of course the Nuremburg court ignored this absurd defense.
To illustrate further how one sided this justification is, if I was to mention the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime, the torture chambers, rape rooms and mass graves, would an American apologist ever bring up collateral damage caused by American bombings? Would an American apologist feel like a news report focusing solely on Saddam Hussein's torture chambers was incomplete because the news report didn’t bring up collateral damage caused by American bombings?
By flipping this justification around:
First America’s bombings THEN Saddam’s torture chambers
First Saddam’s torture chambers THEN America’s bombings.
Notice how irrational the entire argument becomes. It is obvious that I am talking about two distinct events, completely unrelated to each other. Why is it patently obvious in the second example, but so terribly difficult for most Americans to see in the first example?
How often would an American, when hearing about Saddam Hussein's torture chambers feel it was biased not to mention America’s bombings in the same discussion?
Can you see the hypocrisy here?
Mention an enemy’s bad behavior, and no justification is required.
Mention Americas bad behavior, and justification is demanded.
UPDATE: Chomsky gives a great response to this very common question. In the 1988 Massey Lectures, as shown on the movie "Manufacturing Consent", Naom Chomsky said:
"Greece was a free society by the standards of Athens, it was also a vicious society from the point of view of its imperial behavior. There is virtually no correlation maybe none--between the internal freedom of society and it's external behavior"
* Note 2:
When the "We liberated you in World War 2 / We saved you in the Cold War" defense is used, of course, no mention of the benefits these wars provided to America:
* After World War II America became the world's only true super power, and moved in to colonize countries that Britain and France could no longer control.
* After the Cold War America once again moved in to areas that the Soviets could no longer control, expanding its empire. This expansion continues today: the expansion of NATO, American bases in former Soviet countries, and America ignoring Russia's opposition to the Balkan wars.