Institutions of higher learning, designed to be the most temperate pillars of society, produce some of America’s most intemperate and unsubstantiated rhetoric; and the two Granddaddies of grandiloquence have to be Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. “Doubtless Iran’s government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis,” Chomsky writes on tompaine.com, coming as close as he ever does to moderation.
But then he returns to form: “It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called “liberation,” of course),” the sage of MIT writes. “Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites—nuclear and otherwise—in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons).”
And then he really lets his imagination cut loose: “Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans).”
“Would we watch quietly?” he asks. “A reasonable resolution of the present crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons,” Chomsky suggests. “Is that outcome feasible?”
“It would be, given one condition: that the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies in which public opinion had a significant impact on public policy.” He goes on to assert that “this solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who generally are in agreement on nuclear issues.” Of course he backs this up with public opinion numbers from the U. S. that he gives no source for. He does not attempt to relay poll data from Iran, an Islamofascist dictatorship in which Gallup and Harris cannot canvass very effectively.
Not to be outdone, Boston University professor emeritus Howard Zinn, writing on tompaine.com as well, also takes issue with elected officials who are too conservative for his taste. His targets are not the same as Chomsky’s though; He blasts legislation proposed by congressional Democrats calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
“Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war,” he writes. “It’s as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.”
But his best analogy is yet to come in what many probably did not think possible—a left-wing attack on timetables of troop withdrawals from Iraq. “Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical,” writes the author of one of the best-selling and most widely used history textbooks.
“Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant,” Zinn admits. “But his capture and death have not made the lives of Iraqis better, as the U.S. occupation has created chaos: no clean water, rising rates of hunger, 50 percent unemployment, shortages of food, electricity, and fuel, a rise in child malnutrition and infant deaths.”
In keeping with his own standards, Zinn gives no source for these charges.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.