Ford, Angola, Iran, Iraq & Helsinki

A ZNet sustainer recently asked Noam Chomsky about Gerald Ford. The sustainer question is beneath Noam’s wide ranging response… 

Noam Chomsky: There's a lot more.  Take Angola, for example.  There is very illuminating scholarly work on this by Piero Gleijeses, who brings out remarkable material on Cuba's very significant (and apparently quite selfless) role in throwing US-backed South African forces out of Angola, and in liberation of the continent generally.  How much Ford may have known about this (or Timor for that matter), and how much was primarily Kissinger's doing, is I think still unknown, and probably won't be known until archival material appears (if then).  Or take the January 1976 veto of a two-state Israel-Palestine settlement, the first serious step in the unilateral rejectionist course that has cast a dark shadow over not only this conflict but far beyond, dramatically today.  Again, what Ford may have known about it is unclear.  There's presumably much more if one cares to look.  I don't think there's much importance to the famous "gaffes".  People can easily mis-speak in discussion, or when they are caught off-guard by a question.  This is stuff for gossip columns and ideological fanatics, in my opinion. The Helsinki accords are, I think, about as they seem to be on their face: an attempt by the major world powers to formulate some system of world order pretty much reflecting the realities of power.  With regard to the US-USSR, the implications were that each would run its own system without external interference: for the USSR, its Eastern European dungeon; for the US, much of the rest of the world.  The first part is bitterly condemned as a sell-out of East European desires for freedom (as if the US could use force to prevent repression there without blowing up the world, or would even want to).  The second part is considered simply normal and proper.  It's the divine right of the US to carry out murderous terrorist wars in Central America, for example.

It is all rather like the discussion of Iraq-Iran today.  There's a somber debate underway about whether Washington really has evidence about Iranian support for anti-occupation forces, or whether it's a replay of the deceit preceding the Iraq invasion.  Strikingly, there is no debate about whether support for anti-occupation forces would be justified — particularly when US-run polls show that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis want them out, either immediately (2/3 in Baghdad according to US-polls) or soon. 
 The debate is intriguing.  There was no debate in the 1980s about whether the US had the right to provide support to anti-occupation forces in Afghanistan (there was some debate about whether it would be costly to us, but not about the right).  It was taken for granted that the US had the right to support resistance to aggression.  In Pravda there wouldn't have been a debate about whether the US and its allies (Britain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,…) were in fact providing support for the resistance to the Soviet occupation, because there was no doubt about it.  The US was proudly proclaiming it. True, the cases are not identical, only analogous.  The Soviet invasion, though criminal, was based on real security concerns on its borders, while the US invasion had no credible pretext.  And there are other differences.  But the point is that the right of the US to use force and violence and the illegitimacy of any resistance to it is a Holy Doctrine, which cannot be questioned in polite society, even thought about.  Therefore debate is confined to the marginal question of whether Iran is in fact providing support to forces opposing the US occupation.  Similarly, the debate over US tactics is restricted to the question of what is likely to work.  That was not the debate over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan — though I presume it was in Moscow.

This generalizes very far.  Vietnam was similar.  By the time the war was becoming unpopular and costly enough (to the US) for some criticism to emerge in the mainstream, about the harshest one could find was similar to JFK adviser Arthur Schlesinger: criticizing the hawkish Joseph Alsop who thought that with more force the US could win, AS replied that we all pray that Mr. Alsop will be right, and if he is, we'll all be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a war that is leaving Vietnam a land of wreck and ruin, but he probably isn't right.  (The only reason I didn't put this in quotes is that I don't have time to check, easy enough; but it's either direct quote or very close paraphrase).  Like the debate about Iraq today. And just about every other case in history, including the worst monsters. NC     

Z Sustainer: Considering the recent passing of Gerald Ford and the hagiographies that have been written about him in the media, I was wondering if you could go through some of his record and his major accomplishments in office. I imagine the genocidal US-Indonesian invasion of East Timor would be his most grave crime. What other notable transgressions did he commit?

What was the deal with his famous gaffe during the 1976 Presidential Debate between Carter that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration" and that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union…"? Apparently it has something to do with the Helsinki Accords. Could you explain what function those Accords served for US "national interests" to use the technical term?

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