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Hizbullah & Deterring Israeli Aggression


In response to Assaf Kfoury’s July 12 ZNet article “Noam Chomsky in Beirut”,
where Chomsky is quoted as saying ” I think Nasrallah [head of
Hizbullah] has a reasoned and persuasive argument that the arms should
be in the hands of Hizbullah as a deterrent to potential aggression,
and there are plenty of background reasons for that . . . .”, a ZNet Sustainer
asked Noam “Now, I know you dislike labels, but I’m pretty much feeling
your ethics are Consequentalist, so I am wondering what are a number of
the top consequences you expect (ed) from making this statement?”
Below is Noam’s response…

Reply from Noam Chomsky:

Thanks for raising an important question.

We can drop abstruse matters like consequentialism, and keep to
one of the most elementary of moral truisms: we are responsible for the
anticipated consequences of our actions, or inaction. Of course, that
does not provide a simple guide, because there are always many varied
and often conflicting consequences. But the question does come up all
the time, and is worth considering. Take a few examples.

In 1977, Edward Herman and I revealed gross distortions, often
outright (and uncorrectable) lies, in coverage of Cambodia. In
particular, we pointed out that in the major book on the topic,
considered then the prime source (rightly), the death toll resulting
from the US bombing of Cambodia was vastly exaggerated, apparently
because of a misreading of "casualties" as "deaths." I was aware that
pointing that out might embolden elements of US political and
intellectual classes to continue their support for terrible crimes and
their preparation for others. Not a consequence I wanted, of course,
but I thought it was outweighed by the need to unearth the truth.

To take another case, more closely related to your apparent
concerns, for about 30 years I've been harshly condemning crimes of the
PLO, and writing that Israel should have the rights of any state in the
international system, including the right of self-defense. I realized,
of course, that such statements and the review of the evidence could
well contribute to the dedication of the US government, with the strong
support of articulate opinion, to provide the requisite means for
outrageous Israeli atrocities and to the unilateral US undermining of
the very real opportunities for political settlement. But again, I
thought telling the truth outweighed those dire consequences. There are
many other cases.

Interestingly, none of these cases has ever elicited a word of
criticism. I don't recall receiving any letters from you about them,
for example. Need we ask why?
Turning to your question, an accurate account of my response to a
question asked by a TV journalist in Lebanon, and the context, has
already appeared on Znet: an article by Assaf Kfoury, who accompanied
my wife and me throughout my trip to Lebanon (and knows far more about
Lebanon than I do, as does Irene Gendzier, who also accompanied us
throughout, including visits that you didn't learn about from your
sources, such as much longer ones with the leading opponents of
Hezbollah). See

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=10568.

His account on Znet also answers your question. As he points out,
the anticipated consequence of the comments is that they should "feed
the right-wing rumor mill for a long time to come," thereby
contributing to US-Israeli crimes against Palestinians and Lebanese.
These are now reaching new levels of intensity, with the US-Israel
virtually destroying Lebanon, continuing the massive assault against
Gaza, and systematically pursuing their programs of annexation,
cantonization, and imprisonment in the West Bank to ensure that
Palestinian rights will never be recognized.

So yes, the anticipated consequences were very ugly — though of
course I didn't know then how grotesque US-Israeli behavior would
become. I didn't anticipate that Israel would step up its atrocities
(always with US backing and the complicity of articulate opinion and
the media) by kidnapping two civilians in Gaza, a doctor and his
brother, and removing them to the oblivion of the thousands of others
like them in Israeli prisons, commonly without charges or sentenced in
courts that are a bad joke, hence kidnapped.. That was June 24. On June
25, in probable retaliation, Palestinian militants captured a soldier
of the attacking army, Corporal Gilad Shalit. Israel responded by sharp
escalation of its crimes in Gaza, followed a few weeks later by the
kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and new US-Israeli war
crimes in Lebanon.

The pretext is the kidnappings, but any person who bothers to
think, instead of reflexively repeating state propaganda, knows that
the US-Israel regard kidnapping is quite fine, including kidnapping of
civilians, a far worse crime under international law than kidnapping of
soldiers. The June 24 Israeli kidnappings are only one of many
examples. Since the powerful don't investigate their own crimes,
details are unknown, but there is plenty of evidence nevertheless. For
example, the shocking revelations about Israel's secret prison/torture
chambers, far worse than Guantanamo, in which hundreds of Lebanese have
been kept, many abducted from Lebanon, some kept as hostages for many
years. No one knows what happened to them, beyond the few who are
acknowledged. There are some who are concerned about them, among them
the father of the captured Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser, who
expresse his sympathy for the families of the abducted Lebanese
prisoners in Israeli jails (Israeli radio, July 20).

That's barely the tip of an iceberg. We can dismiss the pretexts
with contempt. Returning to your question, there are also "opportunity
costs": while you and I are discussing this, we are not acting to put
an end to the horrendous ongoing atrocities for which we both share
responsibility. Back to the elementary moral truism.

NC

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