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Naïve Noam
Imagine ceding moral high ground to the neo-cons

August 2, 2007

Don’t you miss the good old days when Noam Chomsky was a humble groundbreaking linguist? These days the MIT professor is increasingly an apologist for Islamists (last year he met with Hizbollah). Now, in an excerpt from Interventions, his latest book, he writes that Washington is bent on “demonising” the Iranian leadership in order to pave the way for US-led assault. How, he must be asked, can you demonise people whose power, after almost three decades, remains pegged to death, torture and imprisonment?

That’s like saying “Osama bin Laden gets a hard time in the press, all he did was kill 3000 people, I mean, you’d think people would show some respect”; or “All Tony Blair did was lie to his own country and draw the UK into a war that cost 600,000 lives, give the guy a break.” 

According to Chomsky, the poor old Islamic Republic of Iran suffers misrepresentation at the hands of the press: “In the West, any wild statement by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, immediately gets circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But as is well known, Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

“They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets," is presumably one such translation. As is: “Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.” No doubt these quotes have been taken out of context – the president was comparing recipes. Also, how would Chomsky know if something has been dubiously translated? He doesn’t speak Persian.

Wedding his anti-war stance to a pro-Islamic Republic one is so odious that Chomsky is a sitting duck for his rightwing detractors; imagine ceding moral high ground to the neo-cons.

Last US election, Chomsky grudgingly backed John Kerry over George Bush. In his view only “small differences” separated Democrats from Republicans. But those differences, he said, “can translate into large outcomes”.

If the two main opposing forces of US politics are virtually identical, how is it that difference is so easily discernible within a single wing of Iran’s political landscape – and the ultra-reactionary one at that. Khamenei, no Iranian needs reminding, is at the helm of a terrorist organisation called the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad is his enforcer. Does Chomsky really expect us to go, “Hmm, maybe Khamenei is more urbane, might pop around for tea and to talk the legacy of Ingmar Bergman.” (The Swedish director who died this week might if making The Seventh Seal today find no better shadowy figure to play the role of Death than, er, the Ayatollah.)

Anti-war organisers and the left look to Chomsky for direction. But while rightly highlighting the US’s thirst for Iran’s energy reserves he fails to level a single charge at the mullahs (here’s an idea, call for the release of your fellow academics Kian Tajbaksh and Haleh Esfandiari, Noam). Rightwing columnists will have a field day gunning for his reckless short-sightedness. (His naïve assurance that the US is likely only to conduct a “cold war’ against Iran is further evidence of this). War will be a step closer. Comment

-- Blog: Soul Bean Café


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