Outtakes from Chomsky For Beginners

Pieces that didn't make the cut

By David Cogswell

An experiment with Time

How important is "most important intellectual alive" to Time magazine? An analysis of the record would indicate that to Time magazine, Noam Chomsky is hardly worth mentioning.

Time/Warner markets a CD ROM called the "Time Almanac" which contains the entire text of every issue of Time from 1989 through 1993, as well as selections going back to the beginning of the magazine in the 1920s. A global search on the CD ROM turns up exactly two references to the outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy and revolutionary linguistics scholar.

In one of the references, Chomsky is mentioned in passing in the phrase, "and she reads Chomsky," in an article about college entrance qualifications, saying that a certain applicant seemed academically qualified because, among other things, she had read Chomsky. That's one.

The other mention of Chomsky appears in a 1994 article called "The Media's Wacky Watchdogs" by Joe Queenan. In an article that lambastes "media bashers" Chomsky rates exactly one mention as a contributor to "Lies of our Times," a now-defunct journal that was an ongoing critique of the coverage of America's most important newspaper.

An analysis of the text of the article may reveal Time's bias, at least in the case of those it calls "the media's wacky watchdogs."

The title of the article leaves little doubt where the author/publisher stands in regard to its subject. If you merely scan the magazine and read only the title, its conclusion is clearly evident without going further. Those who criticize the media's coverage of events are not "critics," "analysts," or anything that may seem like a neutral description. They are referred to as "wacky watchdogs," "press bashers," "media bashers," "media watchdogs," "media hounds," "hobbyists," "rank amateurs." There are no other names applied to those who criticize media coverage. The tone of the article is righteously indignant toward any who dare to criticize those noble bastions of journalistic integrity.

Chomsky's name occurs only in passing, grouped with Alexander Cockburn and Ramsey Clark as "unapologetic leftists." The clear implication here is that "leftist" positions or beliefs in today's America, if they exist at all, should be apologized for. Chomsky, himself, does not categorize himself as a leftist, rejecting the simplistic left-right paradigm as a phony way of manipulating and limiting political debate.

The Time article takes pains to frame the major media as centrist, in between extremists of both "the left and the right," as if the critics on both ends of the spectrum cancel each other out. Chomsky explicitly states that the issues of media bias are not defined by left and right, but that both positions, as the terms are used in mainstream media, lie safely within the status quo.

The article starts out with one of the right wing "bashers," Accuracy in Media (AIM), headed by Reed Irvine, and funded generously by right-wing and large corporate interests. AIM's periodical publication, The AIM Report, says the article, is "obsessed with persuading the New York Times and Washington Post to admit that they shape the news to fit a liberal political agenda." Time frames the realm of political debate with perfect symmetry, placing AIM, as the extreme right, in perfect balance with those "unapologetic leftists" on the other end and with itself and the rest of the mass media at the perfect center, godlike as in pre-Copernican models of the universe.

Chomsky himself is very clear that he is not aligned with a "liberal political agenda." In fact he is passionately opposed to those who have been called "liberals." But as he points out, the mass media -- including this major voice of the Time/Warner empire -- draws the boundaries of the political debate very narrowly so as to exclude any positions that don't fit within the conservative/liberal axis.

The "political arena" is a sort of fantasy domain, a formal sporting arena of a privileged few who have little in common with the majority of the population. In actuality the Republicans and Democrats are about as far apart as the campaign managers of the opposing camps in the Bush\Clinton election who, after the election, got married and wrote a book together with themselves posing cutely on the cover looking like This Week's Celebrity Couple. Which is to say, they are in the same bed.

As Orwell points out through Syme, a character in "1984," the purpose of Newspeak is to limit political debate by putting some thoughts outside the realm of language and thereby making it impossible to think about those ideas.

Post Script Warner and Chomsky: a historical note

An earlier episode, before Warner was part of Time, Inc., reveals more about the way companies like Warner operate in relation to ideas like those of Noam Chomsky.

In 1979 Chomsky and Edward Herman published The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism on South End Press, but an earlier version of the book would have appeared back in the fall of 1973 if its appearance in the United States had not been all but aborted. The book had been contracted by Warner Modular Publications Inc., a relatively independent subsidiary of the Warner conglomerate, and 20,000 copies were produced. The editors and publisher were enthusiastic to get the book out and to promote it until officials of the parent company found out about the book and objected to its "unpatriotic" contents.

William Sarnoff, a high officer of the parent company, was especially upset about the statement in the book that "the leadership in the United States, as a result of its dominant position and wide-ranging counterrevolutionary efforts, has been the most important single instigator, administrator, and moral and material sustainer of serious bloodbaths in the years that followed World War II." The parent company ordered the project stopped, including distribution of the 20,000 copies already printed and the advertising campaign that had begun. The publisher then worked out a compromise with the parent company that would allow them to publish the book but only if they published another opposing book for "balance," i.e. one that supported U.S. policies to suppress popular movements. But before the project could go forward, Warner closed down the publishing house and sold its inventory and contracts to a small noncommercial publisher that had no distribution capabilities.

The book was available only to those who had already known of it and of where it had ended up, or to those who read about it in "Radical America," a small publication that distributed a few copies. In Europe it was translated into several languages, including French. In France, it went into a second printing and its suppression in the U.S. added to its appeal.

Orchestrating Operation Just Cause: The Panama Invasion

On December 19, 1989, while Panamanians were preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday, 26,000 American troops were secretly mobilizing for a midnight attack. Twenty-seven targets were hit simultaneously. Hundreds or thousands of Panamanian civilians were killed, many more injured, and many homes were burned down in a three-day assault. It was a Christmas gift from President Bush.

What happened there remains unclear to many Americans. The Blitzkrieg-style military operation was accompanied by a parallel media blitz that left most Americans in a cloud about what actually had gone on. Blitzkrieg, literally "lightning war," was introduced by the Nazis in the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and its characteristics are surprise, speed, and superiority of firepower. In the case of recent US operations it makes use overwhelming military might, brutality, and terror to make the US prevail quickly before any resistance can be mobilized back home. This helps to avert what is called "the Vietnam Syndrome." Control of information is also an essential part of the domestic strategy.

This act of war was undeclared, of course; the government has obliterated that constitutional custom. Any military action in which civilian lives are taken is properly of utmost importance to the people of America, who are theoretically, endowed by the Constitution with the ultimate authority over their government. The Constitutional requirement of a declaration of war by Congress is meant precisely to prevent abuses of power such as a government making life and death decisions without the consent of the public or from the elite body of elected representatives who legally have the war making authority. Of course there are exceptions when the country is attacked. In a defensive military action, if the country were threatened or attacked, the requirement is waived temporarily for obvious reasons. But for foreign intervention, there is no justification for the President to invade a country without legal sanction.

However, the executive branch wants a free hand and to not be encumbered by consent from the likes of Congress, much less the public itself.

Military action

Instead of informing the American public about the true nature of what was going on in this attack, the reports on the war from the news media obscured the essential facts and reported the matter in a simplistic adventure scenario, a sort of good-guy/bad-guy video game. By the time most Americans heard anything about the midnight invasion the next day, it had been going on for hours already. The invasion would be completed in three days, far too quick for any domestic resistance to be organized, too quick even for Americans to come to their senses from the initial shock to even grasp the reality of it. The media made it unreal, kept it distant from Americans. The news media were sealed off from the action. They were in military hands, and the military could do whatever it wanted with them. They said that the helicopter that was supposed to pick them up to take them to the action couldn't make it because it had to be used for something else. Too bad. So the press itself didn't see much, and what filtered through to the public was only a droplet of that.

Chomsky presents an analysis of government-media interaction during "Operation Just Cause" in his book "Deterring Democracy."

Chomsky marks the Invasion of Panama as a historic event in that it was the first such military action not justified as a response to the Soviet threat. When the US invaded Grenada six years before, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could still say that if the Soviets were to attack Eastern Europe, Grenada might prevent US shipments of oil to help the cause in Europe. During the '80s, the attack on Nicaragua was justified by saying that if we didn't stop the commies in Nicaragua, they would soon be into Texas only a two-and-a-half hour drive away. But by the time of the Panama Invasion, the old standby justification, fear of "the evil empire," just wouldn't fly anymore.

In the mid-'80s, when the White House decided Noriega, who had been working with American intelligence since the 1950s, had gotten out of line and had to go, the media quickly picked up the signal and started a campaign to vilify Noriega, a man certainly worthy of some vilification, but not significantly more than he had been during much of his past 30 years of service to the US government. This campaign was bolstered by another vigorous campaign, the War on Drugs. The "War on Drugs" became a rallying symbol for the Post Cold War War.

Chomsky calls the War on Drugs a "government-media hoax" designed to create the fear that used to be aroused with the image of the Soviet menace. This was a fundamental change in "the propaganda framework."

When American troops invaded Panama, the media took a patriotic stand and rallied around its government, passing on the government's version of the story wholesale, ignoring whatever it was expected to ignore, and avoiding the obvious though embarrassing questions, like: "Why is it necessary to overthrow Noriega in 1989 when it wasn't in 1985?"

"Manuel Noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains, men like Qaddafi, Idi Amin, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Americans just love to hate," proclaimed Ted Koppel, so "strong public support for a reprisal was all but guaranteed." Here, in a typical self-fulfilling prophecy, Koppel gives the signal as to what Americans are supposed to think.

ABC anchor Peter Jennings called Noriega "one of the more odious creatures with whom the United States has had a relationship." Dan Rather at CBS placed Noriega "at the top of the list of the world's drug thieves and scums."

Virtually all of the major media reported the three-day Blitzkrieg entirely from the point of view provided by the White House, which was to frame it all as an attempt to get the villain Noriega. "Where is Noriega? Did they find him yet? Where did he disappear to?" were the questions that preoccupied the reports. There was little attention paid to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of Panamanian civilian casualties, mass graves, tanks rolling over bodies in the streets, destruction of civilian ghettoes that could not possibly be called military targets or detainment of civilians.

Washington Post correspondent David Broder mentioned some "static on the left" about "the prudence of Bush's action," and went on to dismiss it with, "What nonsense." The invasion helped to establish, he said, "the circumstances in which military intervention makes sense." This system of justification was defined by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger with six criteria. The first four of the criteria concern making sure the action succeeds. The last two are: that it should be "vital to our national interest," and that it be "a last resort." Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' foreign policy advisers had come up with a set of criteria of their own very similar to Weinberger's, saying that US force should be used "to deter aggression against its territory, to protect American citizens, to honor our treaty obligations and take action against terrorists," after peaceful efforts had failed.

"The Panama Invasion met all those tests," said David Broder, although even the State Department did not pretend to be deterring Panamanian aggression or taking action against terrorists. The banner of "Protecting American lives" was waved, but without much conviction. There was also a mechanical gesture of justifying the action under international law when the US ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering cited article 51 of the UN charter, which restricts the use of force to self-defense until the Security Council acts. Pickering said it "provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people." The Justice Department interpreted the article to entitle the US to invade Panama to prevent "its territory from being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States."

Conservative columnist and baseball fan George Will called the invasion an exercise of "the good neighbor policy," an act of "hemispheric hygiene" exercising our "rights and responsibilities" in the hemisphere.

There were scattered voices of dissent in the press, such as David Nyhan in the Boston Globe, who called the media a "docile, not to say boot-licking lot, subsisting largely on occasional bones of access tossed into the press kennel," and willingly responding with "worshipful prose." But those voices were very few and were drowned out in the chorus of praise and dutiful support.

With "to protect American lives" as the reason settled on for the invasion, the White House announced that there had been "literally hundreds of cases of harassment and abuse of Americans" in recent months by Noriega's men. There had been, however, no warning during these months to American travelers to this effect. An American soldier had been killed after his car had driven through what the New York Times described as "a military roadblock near a sensitive military area." Panamanian officials alleged that the US officials had fired on a military headquarters and wounded a soldier and two civilians, including a one-year-old girl. This report was confirmed to US reporters by a wounded Panamanian soldier in a military hospital.

Panamanians reported that American soldiers became very aggressive and created many provocations at this time, until an incident emerged that could be called a justification for military action.

The catalytic event was said to have occurred when the wife of an officer who had been arrested and beaten was threatened. At this point, the "kinder and gentler" President George Bush went before the American people in a stirring performance. The President, said the New York Times, "often has difficulty in emotionally charged situations, but his deep feelings clearly came through," in this case as he proclaimed that "this president" would not tolerate such a thing. The same president, however, had not been moved to even utter a protest a few weeks earlier when another American woman, a nun, had been not merely threatened, but kidnapped, tortured, and sexually abused by Guatemalan police. When the story came through the wire services, the media had not even seen fit to report it.

The murders of sisters Maureen Courtney from Milwaukee and Teresa Rosales by US-organized terrorists in Nicaragua a few days later on January 1 also aroused no response from the president. When head of operations of the Nicuaraguan Contras Fermin stated in a deposition that he had ordered American Ben Linder killed in 1987 in order to sabotage a small dam project he was working on in a remote village, there was no official reaction.

Protection of democracy was also put forth as a justification for the invasion citing Noriega's having stolen the 1989 election. But Noriega had stolen the 1984 election with considerably more violence, showing protesters he meant business by ordering troops to fire on them, killing two and injuring 40. But in 1984, Washington had approved heartily and Secretary of State George Schultz had been sent to Panama to publicly praise the election as "initiating the process of democracy." Reagan had sent a congratulatory message to the victor seven hours before his victory had been certified.

The report of election fraud by ex-Congressman Father Roberto Drinan, who was monitoring the election, had passed unnoticed and there was no criticism of the election such papers as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times or the Miami Herald.

Though Noriega was certainly guilty of human rights abuses as noted by the 1988 Americas Watch report on Human Rights, these were significantly less than in many other dictatorships supported by and dependent on the US government such as El Salvador and Guatemala. Even as US troops attacked Panama, the White House was announcing a $300 million dollar high-tech sales deal to the Chinese government who had not long before massacred its own citizens who had demonstrated for democracy in Tiananmen* Square. Clearly the concern for democracy was applied very selectively.

At the same time as the Panama Invasion, the US government was resuming its generous bank loans to Iraq while the State Department explained its goal of "increasing US exports and put[ting] us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record." Iraqi atrocities at that time went unnoticed and unmentioned while the US government propped up his regime until a later episode when Saddam Hussein's turn came to fall from grace.

"In comparison to Bush's friends in Beijing and Baghdad, Noriega could pass for a choirboy," says Chomsky. [DD p. 152]

Noriega's gangsterism and corruption was also nothing new. He was known to be a thug when he was a US ally and there had been no significant change in this regard. His drug trafficking was well-known long before when he was on the CIA payroll pulling nearly a $200,000-a-year salary from the US budget. The US government had known about his involvement in drug trafficking since at least 1972 when the Nixon administration considered assassinating him. His criminal indictment by the US government on drug trafficking charges lists only one charge after 1984.

Banks that had been identified by a Senate banking report and by a Federal District Attorney in Miami as major conduits of drug money and criminal capital, key links in laundering and drug shipments, had been closed by Noriega in 1985 in an action the DEA had considered an important blow to the Colombian drug cartel. These bankers were returned to power after the invasion.

The Miami Herald reported that the post-invasion vice president and banking commission president Guillermo Ford had close business ties to Ramon Milian Rodriquez, a cartel money-launderer now serving a 35-year prison sentence. Rodriguez testified that they were co-directors of companies that were used to launder money. Leslie Cockburn reports that Rodriguez had received a personal invitation to Reagan's inaugural festivities "in recognition of the $180,000 in campaign contributions from his clients."

After Noriega received the boot, the US still supported the Panama Defense Force that he had headed, even though it was well known that the PDF was deep into the rackets. Noriega's successor was Colonel Eduardo Herrera Hassan whose troops had "shot, gassed, beat and tortured civilian protesters during the wave of demonstrations against General Noriega that erupted here in the summer of 1987," according to the New York Times. Secretary of State Schultz called the PDF "a strong and honorable force that has a significant and proper role to play," even though, as the Times pointed out, "it is layered with General Noriega's cronies who have shared in the profits from drug-trafficking and other criminal activities."

Civilian casualties

Lina Hossie of the Toronto Globe and Mail reported "open skepticism" about the official casualty figures. She quoted church workers, slum dwellers and others who describe many civilians "buried because there were no transports to take them to a morgue."

"Virtually all the Panamanians interviewed agreed that the vast majority of the dead are civilians," said Hossie.

The Argentine press quoted government spokesman saying "they have taken the necessary legal steps for the cremation of great quantities of dead bodies piled in the morgues of the central hospitals now overflowing with cadavers."

The official US figures of 202 civilians dead seem preposterous when seen against the backdrop of all that is known from other sources. New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter cited figures as high as 673 killed, attributing higher figures solely to Ramsey Clark and saying that in Panama they were "widely rejected."

The Mexican press reported that two Catholic bishops estimated the death toll at perhaps 3,000. Hospitals and nongovernmental human rights groups had estimates of over 2,000. A joint delegation of the Central American Human Rights Commission based in Costa Rica and the Panamanian Human rights Commission published its study saying that "the human costs of the invasion are substantially higher than the official US figures," reaching 2-3,000 according to "conservative estimates." Eyewitnesses in the slums reported that US helicopters aimed their fire at buildings with only civilian occupants, that a US tank destroyed a public bus killing 26 passengers, that civilian homes were burned down killing the occupants, that American troops shot at ambulances and killed the wounded. The Catholic and Episcopal churches called estimates of 3,000 dead "conservative."

Prominent Israel military analyst Ze'ev Schiff said there was nothing remarkable about the invasion, "neither from a military standpoint -- in that the American forces are killing innocent Panamanian civilians... nor from a political standpoint, when a great power employs its military forces against a small neighbor, with pretexts that Washington would dismiss at once if they were offered by other states....Washington permits itself what other powers, including the USSR, to not permit themselves, though they plainly have no less justification."

But why really?

Getting beyond all the hoopla and hype, why did the United States invade Panama?

According to the Canal Treaty, control of the Panama Canal was to have been turned over largely to Panamanian hands by January 1, 1990, with the rest to follow by the year 2000. So, as the London Economist put it, "Timing was vital." A major oil pipeline is 60 percent owned by Panama. Noriega was displaying too much independence from American authority. As Chomsky puts it, US clients had to be restored to power. A new government had to be installed.

Panama had been under the control of a European elite since the United States supported its secession from Colombia and completed the canal project that had been abandoned by the French in the early 1900s. In 1968, Omar Torrijos, a populist general, led a coup and established a military dictatorship which gave a measure of power to the black and mestizo majority. Noriega was a cohort of Torrijos.

Noriega's work with the US government goes back to the 1950s when he worked as an informant reporting on students, officers, and faculty of the Military Academy who displayed leftist tendencies. He became a contracted worker in 1966 or '67, according to US intelligence officials. The spy network he set up "would serve two clients," reported Frederick Kempe in the Wall Street Journal, "the Panamanian government, by monitoring political opponents in the region, and the US by tracking the growing Communist influence in the union organized at United Fruit Co.'s banana plantations..."

His relationship with George Bush was a long one. When Bush became head of the CIA in 1976 under President Ford, Noriega had been working with the organization a long time. There are documents that indicate Bush had been working with the CIA a long time too and that he didn't just emerge at its helm in 1976 as he claims.

President Jimmy Carter's head of the CIA Admiral Stansfield Turner claims to have removed Noriega from the payroll, but when Reagan became president, he put Bush in charge of his war against drugs and Bush put Noriega back on salary with payments from the CIA and the DIA averaging nearly $200,000 a year.

Within months after Reagan's election, Panama's head of state Torrijos was killed in a plane crash. Authorities said the craft crashed into a mountain, but witnesses said the plane exploded in flight. Jose de Jesus Martinez, a top aide to Torrijos for many years, believes the CIA killed Torrijos. "They killed him at precisely the moment they had to because he was a big influence on South American revolutionary movements... He represented the solution to the whole Central American problem." [PD] Torrijos had become a very popular leader and had instituted reforms that benefited the majority population of Indian, Black, and Mestizo people. His treaty with Carter had aroused the anger of conservatives like Reagan.

After Torrijos' death, Noriega, with support from the CIA, was able to outmaneuver his opponents to achieve control. He emerged as head of the Panamanian military in 1983. He was instrumental in stealing the 1984 election in a way favorable to US interests. Working with the CIA and Israeli arms dealers, he was helpful in the US government's war against the revolutionary Sandanista government in Nicaragua. In 1987, he assisted the DEA in a sting operation against drug cartels and froze millions of dollars worth of assets in Panamanian banks, which infuriated the financial community and turned them against him.

But there were problems with him. He was not as cooperative as Americans like Admiral Poindexter and Colonel North wanted him to be. He did not always go along with the program. He supported the Contadoran peace process for Central America, which the US opposed. In 1984 he hosted a conference in Panama of Contadoran leaders who called for an end to US intervention in the region. His commitment to the war against Nicaragua was proving unsatisfactory. The US wanted a greater military presence in Panama, and Noriega was resisting.

When pressure on Noriega increased both from the US and from within Panama, he unleashed a wave of brutal repression, creating opposition in the privileged classes and the business elite, which began to be an irritant to the US. When the Iran Contra scandal broke in 1986, the potential embarrassment of the US connection to Noriega rose to very sensitive levels. His three main American contacts: Oliver North, Poindexter and William Casey were under intense scrutiny. It was then determined to get rid of him.

Washington placed economic sanctions on Panama virtually destroying the economy with most of the pressure falling on the lower classes. That turned them against Noriega because he was the reason for the sanctions that were causing their children to starve.

Through the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy, the US funneled $10 million into installing its candidates: for president Guillermo Endara, a wealthy corporate lawyer educated in the US, and his two vice presidential candidates Guillermo Ford and Riccardo Arias Colvarone (sp?).

Former UN Diplomat from Panama Humberto Brown expresses the opinion that the elections were irregular from the beginning. With economic sanctions, he said, the United States could starve the population into supporting the US candidate.

In the US it would be illegal for some one to receive money from a foreign power to influence an election. Economic sanctions were also used to blackmail the people into voting for the US-supported candidates. On election day, when it appeared that the US candidates were winning, Noriega had the ballot boxes seized and the election stopped. The country erupted in violence and the US candidates were beaten on the streets by mobs while cameras rolled. The photographic evidence mobilized world opinion against Noriega.

The US supported a coup plot among a group of officers from the Panamanian Defense Force but failed to come through with its promised support at the crucial moment when the group had captured Noriega. The coup failed. Journalist Douglas Vaughn suggests that it may have been the US government' intent to lead the plotters on and then abandon them at the last minute so that the plot would fail and US intervention would be justified. Whether or not that was the intent, it was what happened.

By installing a new government, the US could consolidate power in the region and put increased pressure on Cuba and Nicaragua, countries that do not play into the US economic plan for Latin America. The invasion returned to power the white European elite that had controlled Panama before being put out by the General Torrijos coup in 1968.

The new government, the Endara government, was proclaimed to be the realization of democracy for which the war and the killing took place. But they imprisoned their opposition just to make sure. Diego Ribadeneira wrote in the Boston Globe that "Most political activists and labor leaders" are "on a list of several hundred people whom the Endara government seeks to detain."

Chomsky: "Noriega's career fits a standard pattern. Typically, the thugs and gangsters whom the US backs reach a point in their careers when they become too independent and too grasping, outliving their usefulness. Instead of just robbing the poor and safeguarding the business climate, they begin to interfere with Washington's natural allies, the local business elite and oligarchy, or even US interests directly. At that point, Washington begins to vacillate; we hear of human rights violations that were cheerfully ignored in the past, and sometimes the US government acts to remove them, even to attempt to assassinate them, as in the case of Trujillo. By 1986-7, the only question was when and how Noriega should be removed..."[DDp.161]


In June, 1988, Spin published an interview with Ruben Blades, the Panamanian Salsa Singer, "one of the most popular singers in the Latin world." Blades also holds a law degree and is politically active. At the time of the interview, Reagan was still US president, the invasion had not happened but Noriega had been indicted. Blades commented:

"The indictments (handed down by grand juries in Florida) against Noriega are politically motivated. Where are the indictments against the Honduran and Salvadoran militaries, or against the Nicaraguan contras? The United States indicts the corruption it cannot control or that doesn't serve the perceived interests of the United States. They knew about Noriega's corruption for many hears -- why did they wait so long? The only explanation IL can see is that this is not an attack on Noriega per se but an attack against Panama and its opposition to US intervention in Nicaragua.

"This is a way of sending a signal not only to Noriega but to Panama and other countries in the area, that if you don't play ball with us, we'll go after you. It's the most stupid, mindless, self-defeating foreign policy I've ever seen any country display at any time in history. Imagine, with the Iran-contra business, now we have a reality that's more fantastic than fiction, thanks to the Reagan administration."


Contras or freedom fighters: What's in a name?

In 1985 Reed Brody, former Assistant Attorney General of New York, published "Contra Terror in Nicaragua," the report of a fact-finding mission undertaken under the initiatiative of a New York law firm representing Nicaraguan interests. These are two sections from 140 pages of similar testimony with some 150 affidavits in this report. And there are many other sources reporting essentially the same kinds of stories.

"Five of them raped me at about five in the evening... they had gang-raped me every day. When my vagina couldn't take it anymore, they raped me through my rectum. I calculate that in five days they raped me 60 times."

These are the words of a mother of two from Esteli[accent mark on i], Nicuaragua describing an attack by the Contras on a cooperative farm in the mountains where she lived with seven other women and 15 men. They worked land that was formerly a coffee plantation owned by an absentee landlord.

Later, she said, the Contras beat her husband and gouged out the eyes of another civilian before they killed him as she watched.

Another Nicuaraguan described an attack on his cooperative in April 1984 in these words:

"They had already destroyed all that was the cooperative; a coffee drying machine, the two dormitories for the coffee cutters, the electricity generators, 7 cows, the plant, the food warehouse. There was one boy about 15 years old, who was retarded and suffered from epilepsy. We had left him in a bomb shelter. When we returned... we saw... that they had cut his throat, then they cut open his stomach and left his intestines hanging out on the ground like a string. They did the same to Juan Corrales who had already died from a bullet in the fighting. They opened him up and took out his intestines and cut off his testicles."

A French priest and trainer of nurses in the north of Nicaragua testified to the World Court about a handicapped person murdered "for the fun of it," of women raped, of a body found with the eyes gouged out and a girl of 15 who had been forced into prostitution ad a Contra camp in Honduras. He testified that the Contras create an atmosphere of terror through kidnappings, rapes, murder and torture.

The Boston Globe did a 100-word story on this testimony. The New York Times didn't report it.

This is terrorism. It is more than murder. Its purpose is to inspire fear of any alternative to compliance.

"What the US-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 faces peeled back so they will bleed to death, chopping people's heads off and putting them on stakes. The point is to crusch independent nationalism and popular forces that might bring about meaningful democracy." [Chomsky WUS]

Enough said. There are hundreds, thousands more examples of such unbelievable atrocities. If you don't believe it, check it out

This is the work of the Contras, remember them? Americans who get their news exclusively from mainstream sources remember them as "The Freedom Fighters," which is what Ronald Reagan would call them when he would go on TV to persuade the American people to give them more money. The Reagan administration believed in the Contra cause so much they set up illegal arms and drug-smuggling deals to finance the Contras when congress had prevented them from continuing to do it legally with American tax money. This eventually broke in the mountain of illegal activity known as the Iran Contra affair.

What exactly was this cause that justified using American tax money and finances from weapon and drug deals to support it?

The Nicaraguan problem

The Sandanista government, which had overthrown the brutal dictatorship of Somoza, the US ally, was a little too successful. There was a danger of it being an example to other Third World countries how a country can prosper under a system of self-determination rather than a military government supported by the United States and run for US interests. So US officials decided to make it an example in their own way: an example of what happens to people who rebel against the US-dominated system.

As Chomsky points out, the existence or nonexistance of Nicaragua has virtually no impact on the economy of the United States, but that doesn't stop the United States from intervening. If any country does not go along with the system, and worse yet, flourishes, it creates the danger that other countries may want to try some of the same reforms. This creates a hole in the dyke, potential disaster for the control system.

Any country deviating from its assigned role must be made an example of. Massive economic leverage is applied as well as military force. Many millions of dollars of US tax money (not to mention the profits of the arms- and drug-trafficking money of Iran/Contra fame) to finance the Contras efforts to overthrow Nicaragua.

During the 10 years preceding the revolution that overthrew Somoza, Chomksy says, the American networks devoted precisely one hour of air time to the country of Nicaragua, a report in 1972 that was solely about the Managua earthquake.

When the Sandanistas overthrew Somoza, they initiated land reforms that put the authentic spirit of free enterprise (with the increased incentive of self-interest -- remember the American Dream?) into the lives of countries formerly run as dictatorships for foreign interests. To the United States, this is called Communism because it threatens American ownership. To the people living in their own native countries, often with indigenous ancesters going back hundreds or thousands of years, ownership of their land and resources by Europeans has questionable legitimacy. When it results in near slave-labor working conditions and wretched poverty, it cannot endure peacefully. Uprisings are inevitable and they are expected. They are dealt with using the most brutal measures.

Most Americans would remember the Contras only as what Ronald Reagan called the Freedom Fighters when he would go on TV asking America to give them more money.

The Reagan Administration was so dedicated to his "Freedom Fighters" that when Congress passed the Boland Amendment to outlaw aid to them, the illegal drug and weapon smuggling schemes that came to be known as the Iran Contra Affair were devised to keep money flowing to the Contras.

How much do Americans know about the way their tax money was being spent in the case of the Nicuaraguan Contras? If Americans knew that their own hired army was perpetrating atrocities like the ones above, would they authorize more money for them? Did Americans know? If not, why not?

Ronald Reagan visited Latin America and when he came back he showed how enlightening the trip had been for him by remarking that "they are all different countries down there!" As always, a part of his act was to be an example. He was projecting a behavior model of the kind of American who doesn't know much, who minds his own business and doesn't get in the way of things like military intervention in other countries, the kind of American the big guys like.


After 300 years of only incidental occurrence in the West, torture is back. A 1975 Amnesty International "Report on Torture," listed some 26 countries that use torture "on an administrative basis" or as "an essential mode of governance."

Another thing all these countries had in common during this period was major U.S. influence including military aid, police training, and military personnel.

The Amnesty International Report for 1975-76 states that "more than 80 percent" of the urgent calls for help and action for victims of human torture came from Latin America. After the military coup in Chile in 1973, the Report on Torture reported that "Many people were tortured to death by means of endless whipping as well as beating with fists, feet and rifle butts. Prisoners were beaten on all parts of the body, including the head and the sexual organs. The bodies of prisoners wer found in the Rio Mapocho, sometimes disfigured beyond recognition. Two well-known cases in Santiago are those of Litre Quiroga, the ex-director of prisons under the Allende government, and Victor Jara, Chile's most popular folk singer. Both were detained in the Estadio Chile and died as a result of the torture received there. According to a recurrent report, the body of Victor Jara was found outside the Estadio Chile, his hands broken and his body badly mutilated. Litre Quiroga had been kicked and beaten in front of other prisoners for approximately 40 hours before he was removed to a special interrogation room where he met his death under unknown circumstances."

Like the Dhiem and Thieu dictatorships in South Vietnam, the military states in Latin America are propped up by U.S. support and serve the interests of some American businesses. Torture is not only tolerated by American interests, the training and equipment for it is provided by the American government.


Quotes on Politics and Propaganda

``When it comes to the news, force-fed to us through the media, corporately-owned, we know the cards are stacked. The corporate view is `objective,' all else is `propaganda.'

-- Studs Terkel

``When Ben Bagdikian first published `The Media Monopoly' in 1982, some 50 corporations controlled most of the major media outlets in the United States: 1,787 daily newspapers; 11,000 magazines; 9,000 radio stations; 1,000 television stations; 2,500 book publishers and seven major movie studios. But the time the fourth edition was released in 1993, the number was down to about 20 corporations, and it is still dropping.''

-- Molly Ivins, columnist Ft. Worth Star Telegram, from the Introduction to ``Adventures in Medialand'' by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon.

At the head of everything is God, the Lord of Heaven. Everyone knows that Then comes Prince Torlonia, lord of the earth Then come Prince Torlonia's guards. Then come Trince Torlonia's guards' dogs. Then, nothing at all Then, nothing at all Then, nothing at all Then come the peasants. And that's all.

description of the traditional hierarchy in southern Italy from ``Fontamara,'' by Ignazio Silone

``Advertising tries to con you into thinking you're the one that can do what's never been done that can win what's never been won meantime life outside goes on all around you.''

--Bob Dylan, ``It's All Right Ma, I'm Only Bleeding''

``You can cool it you can heat it cause baby I don't need it take your TV tube and eat it and all that phony stuff on sports and all those unconfirmed reports you know I watched that rotten box until my head begin to hurt from checkin out the way those newsmen say they get the dirt before the guys on channel so and so and further they assert that any show they'll interrupt to bring the news when it comes up they say if the place blows up they will be the first to tell cause the guys they got downtown are workin hard and doing swell and if anybody gets the news before it hits the street they say that no one gets it faster their coverage can't be beat and if another woman driver gets machined gunned from her seat they'll send some joker with a brownie and you'll see it all complete...''

--Frank Zappa ``Trouble Comin Everyday''

``Honesty is hardly ever heard''

--Billy Joel ``Honesty''

``They keep you doped with religion and sex and TV and you think you're so clever and classless and free but you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see''

--John Lennon, ``Working Class Hero.''

``They who have put out the people's eyes reproach them for their blindness.''

--John Milton.

``In the 1990's, blind faith in your leaders will get you killed.'' --Bruce Springsteen, introducing the song ``War.''

``That government is best that governs least.''

--Thomas Jefferson

``As the speed of information increases, the tendency is for politics to move away from representation and delegation of constituents toward immediate involvement of the entire community in the central acts of decision. Slower speeds of information make delegation and representation mandatory... When the electric speed is introduced into such a delegated and representational organization, this obsolescent organization can only be made to function by a series of subterfuges and makeshifts. These strike some observers as base betrayals of the original aims and purposes of the established forms.

--Marshall McLuhan, ``Understanding Media,'' 1964.

``The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

--George Orwell, ``Notes on Nationalism''

``You're gonna have to serve somebody/''

--Bob Dylan

``Veblen writes of the leisure class as the shrewd, exploiting group in society that holds the strings and dares to be called superior, that takes no part in production, only in the role of entrepreneur smoking cigars and being superior and smug and forgetful, in short, the enemy.''

--Jack Kerouac ``Letters 1940-1956''

``Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.''

--Wendell Phillips, ``Public Opinion'' (speech, 1852)

``Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course other may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!''

--Patrick Henry, speech 1775.

``Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.''

--Adolf Hitler, ``Mein Kampf''

``Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.''

--Book of John, New Testament.

``Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.''

--Thomas Jefferson ``Epigrams''

``God has left this tincture in the blood That all men would be tyrants if they could.''

--Daniel Defoe, ``The Kenfish Petition''

``The very first essential for success is perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.''

--Adolf Hitler, ``Mein Kampf''

``They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.''

--Ernest Hemingway, ``Notes on the Next War''

``The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line.''

--John Steinbeck, ``The Grapes of Wrath''

``No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.''

--Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln-Douglas debate

``Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.''

--Thomas Paine, ``Common Sense''

``National Socialism does not harbor the slightest aggressive intent toward any European nation.''

--Adolf Hitler, to Nazi Congress, 1935

``...the ultimate failures of dictatorship cost humanity far more than the temporary failures of democracy.''

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address, 1937

``You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.''

--Abraham Lincoln, from A.K. McClure's ``Lincoln's Yarns and Stories

``O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!''

--Walter Scott, ``Marmion''

``Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;''

--J. R. Lowell, ``The present Crisis''

``These are the times that try men's souls.''

--Thomas Paine, ``The American Crisis''

``And who are the greater criminals -- those who sell the instruments of death, or those who buy them and use them?''

--Robert Sherwood, ``Idiot's Delight''

``Capitalism did not arise because capitalists stole the land and the workmen's tools, but because it was more efficient than feudalism. It will perish because it is not merely less efficient than socialism, but actually self-destructive.

--J.B.S. Haldane, ``I believe''

``We demand that big business give people a square deal,''

--Theodore Roosevelt, letter.

``It will never be possible for any length of time for any group of the American people, either by reason of wealth or learning or inheritance or economic power, to retain any mandate, any permanent authority to arrogate to itself the political control of American public life.''

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address, June, 1936.

``We will grind your revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine have the power.''

--Everhard, leader of the Oligarchs, ``The Iron Heel'' by Jack London

``Publicity and openness, honest and complete -- that is the prime condition for the health of every society, and ours, too. The man who does not want them in our country is indifferent to his fatherland and thinks only about his own gain.''

--Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, in a letter to the writers' union of the Russian Republic, 1969.

``Freedom of the press from governmental interference under the First Amendment does not sanction suppression of that freedom by private interests,''

--Supreme Court decision, 1945.

``It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which the truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market, whether it by the Government itself or a private licensee.''

--Supreme Court decision, 1969.

``The business of America is business.''

--Calvin Coolidge

``Big business is government.''

--Morton Mintz and Jerry Cohen, ``America, Inc.''

``The vice president [Agnew] is incredible. I feel I should write him a letter. He's amazing, what he has done to the media, helping it to reform itself. I'm a close watcher of newspapers and TV. I think they've taken a second look. You can't underestimate the power of fear. They're afraid if they don't shape up...''

--Tricia Nixon, Newsweek, March 2, 1970.

``I read the news today, oh boy,''

--John Lennon-Paul McCartney, ``A Day in the Life''

``Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism -- which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.''

--Hunter S. Thompson, ``He was a crook,'' Rolling Stone, June 16, '94

Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.

--Harry Emerson Fosdick

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

--Winston Churchill

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.

--Harry S. Truman

As I would not be a slave, neither would I be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.

--Abraham Lincoln

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one. This is a most valuable and sacred right -- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.

--Abraham Lincoln

Sunday papers (don't ask no questions) Sunday papers (don't get no lies) Sunday papers (don't raise no objections) Sunday papers (ain't got no eyes)

--Joe Jackson, ``Sunday Papers''

We hold the power and bear the responsibility.

--Abraham Lincoln

It is not possible to found a lasting power on injustice.


Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.

--Leo Tolstoy

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force.

--George Washington

Paranoia strikes deep Into your life it will creep It starts when you're always afraid Step out of line, the man comes and takes you away

--Stephen Stills,

The legitimate object of a government is to do for a community of people what ever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.

--Abraham Lincoln

How can you govern a country with 246 varieties of cheese?

--Charles DeGaulle

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.

--Henry Kissinger

History: an account mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

--Ambrose Bierce

Man was born free and everywhere he is in shackles.

--Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Liberty means responsibility. That's why most men dread it.

--George Bernard Shaw

Living is easy with eyes closed Misunderstanding all you see

--John Lennon-Paul McCartney ``Strawberry Fields Forever''

When you have robbed a man of everything he is no longer in your power. He is free again.

--Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn

``America is run largely by and for about 5,000 people who are actively supported by 50,000 beavers eager to take their places. I arrive at this figure this way: maybe 2,500 megacorporation executives, 500 politicians, lobbyists and Congressional committee chairmen, 500 investment bankers, 500 partners in major accounting firms, 500 labor brokers. If you don't like my figures, make up your own...''

--Robert Townsend, former head of Avis

Burke said there are three Estates in Parliament; but in the reporters' gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important than them all.

--Thomas Carlyle

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

--A.J. Liebling

If you ever injected the truth into politics, you would have no politics.

--Will Rogers

Politics, and the fate of man, are shaped by men without ideals and without greatness.

--Albert Camus

Confusion, indecision, fear; these are my weapons.

Adolf Hitler

When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.

--Richard Nixon

Every man wishes to pursue his occupation and to enjoy the fruits of his labors and the produce of his property in peace and safety, and with the least possible expense. When these things are accomplished, all the objects for which government ought to be established are answered.

--Thomas Jefferson

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

--Oscar Wilde

Sure we'll have fascism here but it will come as an anti-fascist movement.

--Huey Long

War is the trade of kings.

--John Dryden

Hitler, the idol of this mass , and himself only a petty bourgeois -- a petty bourgeois posing as a Napoleon -- in reality followed the dictates of a higher power.

--Ernst Henri

A good catchword can obscure analysis for 50 years.

Johan Huisinga

The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country and not for the benefit of an individual or a party.

--John C. Calhoun

What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?...The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

--Thomas Jefferson

Tyranny is a habit capable of being developed, and at last becomes a disease.

--Fyodor Dostoevsky

When a tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.


Who wants yesterday's papers?

--Mick Jagger-Keith Richards, ``Yesterday's Papers''

Oligarchy: a government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it.


The condition upon which God that given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

--John Philpot Curran

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.


"Ownership" of physical entities by man is untenable in natural law and inherently obstructive to evolution and realization of the comprehensive emancipation of man.... Only one's own personality and life are ownable.

--Buckminster Fuller

There is no program, no policy, no ideology and certainly no philosophy back of Fascism, as there is back of almost every other form of government. It is nothing but a spoils system.

--George Seldes, ``Facts and Fascism,'' 1943

The viewer of Renaissance art is systematically placed outside of the frame of experience... The instantaneous world of electric informational media involves all of us, all at once. No detachment or frame is possible.

--Marshall McLuhan, ``The Medium is the Massage,'' 1967

Every Roman was surrounded by slaves. The slave and his psychology flooded ancient Italy, and every Roman became inwardly, and of course unwittingly, a slave. Because living constantly in the atmosphere of slaves, he became infected through the unconscious with their psychology.

--C.G. Jung, ``Contributions to Analytical Psychology'' 1928

The story of El Salvador the silence of Hiroshima destruction of Cambodia short memory short memory must have a short memory

--Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil, ``Short Memory''

There's a battle outside raging It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls for the times they are a-changing

--Bob Dylan, ``The Times They Are A-Changing''

The rich get richer the poor get the picture

Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil, ``Read about it''

I find that approximately no one knows what is going on. That's why we have been leaving it to the politicians to make the world work.

--Buckminster Fuller

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