Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I picked this slim pamphlet up after watching "Manufacturing Consent," the 1992 documentary about Noam Chomsky and his theories on the mainstream media's manipulation of the American public. Like the documentary, this book presents several viewpoints that clash with commonly-held ideas. The particular focus of ACTS OF AGGRESSION is U.S policy with Iraq leading up to the 1991 bombing (known as the Gulf War), and U.S. policy with Iraq following that action (but preceding our current situation; this pamphlet was published in 1999).

One of the principle ideas behind Chomsky's examination of U.S.-Iraq policy is this: the U.S. government controls the American people by keeping them frightened. During the time following World War 2, Communism and the Cold War were the threat used to inspire that fear (JFK described it as a "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy;" Reagan named it "the evil empire."). With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. government needed a new enemy, and so it developed the concept of "Rogue States." Iraq was chosen as one of them.

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of this pamphlet are the statistics it offers regarding the effects that U.S. policy has had on the Iraqi people. Chomsky includes findings of U.N. Investigations: 567,000 deaths by 1995, and an additional 4,500 children dying each month in 1996, mostly due to disease and malnutrition brought about by the U.S. embargo of Iraq. I don't remember seeing that number in the American news during that time. In the pamphlet's appendix, written by Ramsey Clark, the total number of deaths is put at more than 1,500,000. I shudder to think how much that body count has grown due to our current actions.

(Another stunning statistic included in Clark's piece, though on a different topic: 40 percent of all African-American males between the ages of 17 and 27 in the state of California were in prison when he wrote his piece. That's nearly every other young black man.)

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