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Further Reply To Michael Berube


I owe an apology to Michael Berube on the point of the title to his article in the Chronicle, although I do believe the title does convey a true picture of its tone and message. He is lecturing to the antiwar movement, and he does call for its greater maturity, sloughing off those wild lefties that compromise it, and offering a message more acceptable to large numbers (legitimate and popular). He is still pretty darned self-righteous in his “good conscience” put-down of me, Chomsky, and the large numbers on the left who don’t agree with him.

He says next that I am wrong in alleging that the coming into power of Bush et al. doesn’t disturb his faith in great power coercion, because (1) he favored intervention against regimes like Suharto’s that the U.S. actually supported; and (2) that he said the antiwar movement should distrust Bush-Cheney’s “claims to be acting on behalf of oppressed Iraqis…” etc. But the fact that the U.S. supported Suharto (etc.) doesn’t cause Berube to be sceptical about the beneficence of Great Power interventionism in general, even against governments that kill their own people. Nowhere does he discuss the problem of the Great Powers themselves “exterminating vast numbers” in their interventionary processes, and I noted how he can’t even honestly confront the genocidal character of U.S.-British sanctions of mass destruction against Iraq, where he tries to pin the deaths on Saddam Hussein.

A leftist, and even an aware liberal, wouldn’t be lauding the breakdown of the UN Charter prohibitions against Great Power intervention that give Bush-Cheney more freedom of action. The threat that Berube sees is not from Bush-Cheney and imperialism but from the rogues targeted by the imperial leadership. On his qualification about Bush-Cheney’s devotion to Iraqis, this does not prevent him from taking their line on the menace of Saddam, the urgency of getting him to allow inspections–which he implies is important to make the UN viable!–and ultimately his implicit approval of a war based on this U.S.-British contrived UN inspections process.

He remarks again on Chomsky’s “recent habit of exaggerating US crimes beyond all plausibility.” Given that I showed in my rebuttal that Chomsky was saying what both the NYT and food aid groups were saying, and that Berube had misrepresented this and claimed that those facts should not even be debated, his repetition of this claim of exaggeration, without any further empirical support, is not admirable. What is really clear is Berube’s habit of underrating U.S. crimes–in the Chomsky case finding Chomsky’s STRESS on those crimes horrifying, but the crimes themselves not worthy of any condemnation whatsoever.

Berube is still enobling an alleged “retaliatory military campaign waged against the Taliban,” downplaying its indiscriminateness and ruthlessness against Afghan civilians, and the context of prior U.S. support of the Taliban, the war’s illegality, the refusal to pursue other options in going after Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and the effect of this war in feeding into a policy of serial wars. No problems of motives or probable effects strike him based on the fact that the war was carried out by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team. He differentiates the Afghan war from “an unprovoked and unjustified war in Iraq,” but in his earlier articles, as I showed in my first rebuttal, he makes a good case for an Iraq war which he tries here to bury. In his Boston Globe piece Berube said that Bush “actually has a serious case to make against Saddam Hussein’s violations of UN resolutions.” Aren’t these provocations? Does he now want to show the UN to be unviable by letting Saddam get away with such violations? Isn’t Saddam a fine example of a man abusing his own people, that Berube has told us he wants the Great Powers to deal with?

Best regards, Ed Herman

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