The Paranoia of the Superrich and Superpowerful by Noam Chomsky

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by Noam Chomsky
February 3, 2013

[This piece is adapted from “Uprisings,” a chapter in Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Noam Chomsky’s new interview book with David Barsamian (with thanks to the publisher, Metropolitan Books).  The questions are Barsamian’s, the answers Chomsky’s.]

Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it’s not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it’s been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources — the main concern of U.S. planners — have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.


via Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Why It’s “Legal” When the U.S. Does It | TomDispatch


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3 thoughts on “The Paranoia of the Superrich and Superpowerful by Noam Chomsky

  1. Pingback: Noam Chomsky: Public Education and The Common Good (2013) « Dandelion Salad

  2. This was an interesting article. It’s the first time that I read any analysis which said that the U.S. lost the war in Iraq. Of course, we don’t admit much to losing wars. I don’t think most Americans are even aware of the fact that we lost the war in Vietnam. I think people have a vague sense that we decided not to fight there any more because of the protest movement.

    Is the U.S. weaker in the Middle East than it was in the past? I think that remains to be seen. I appreciate Noam Chomsky’s clarity on the situation. Despite the heavy military buildup and growing military strength with more than a 1,000 military bases and a coordinated command from space, it’s interesting that on the ground, the U.S. has been unable to achieve its goals.

    However, the ability of the U.S. to destroy other countries is greater than ever, by grabbing bank accounts, thwarting international trade and other economic sanctions as well as bombing with drones, interference from the CIA and military operations, ratcheting up civil unrest into outbreaks of violence by putting mercenaries on the payroll and arming them. This is actually operating from a playbook that’s been around for decades. There’s a little more awareness of what’s going on, that’s all.

    So as long as the U.S. is willing to bomb other people and destroy their countries, it may not get what it wants by doing this, but it does keep the arms industry profitable. Despite all the rhetoric, that’s what’s actually driving these wars; they’re profitable even when the U.S. loses.

    • peacevisionary I agree. It’s the profit that counts! In fact, if winning wars were important there’d be fewer of them. If that was the criterion of success, Vietnam would have been more than a sufficient example of how not to conduct a foreign policy.

      Lewis Lapham, in his 2002 Theater of War, repeatedly refers to this de facto sense of American “omnipotence” and how this is played out with almost liturgical formality. I think that is an extremely apt term, with a 70 year pedigree that Noam Chomsky chronicles with brilliant explanatory detail.

      Paul H. Fry, an English literature professor at Yale, in an online lecture series discussing post-modernism and the concept of symbolic patterning in the psychogenesis of texts, alludes to the significant question of how psychic functioning has dramatic political implications. If we are to understand how this assumption of American omnipotence really works, and how we might usefully counter-act its most deleterious and lethal effects, I think it is very helpful to consider these cognitive mechanisms in some depth, for they seem to undermine most popular rational discourse by operating at a level that is barely conscious, even within the corporate fraternity and among the architects of American PR.

      To penetrate their vulnerabilities, we need to operate on a level of myth and desire, where personal identity is so intimately entwined with the rhetorical posturing and ideological libido of these protagonists, who have so confidently invested in the psychopathies of power. What they are peddling is their own assumed brilliance, their superior expertise in subliminal control.

      My view is that these obscene psycho-dynamics are not just driven by the paranoia of the rich and super-rich, but are actually the function of an appropriated pathology of “divine right” that does indeed take us back to the theme of Magna Carta. Not so much a drive to be super-rich, as a super-charged ego, wrapped in the all-dominant flag (aka true “religion”) and therefore immune from all criticism, let alone accountability. The problem is that they are blindly manipulating symbols and symbolic gestalts that are completely severed from their original, historic meaning and esoteric context.

      In a word, they are mad. Intellectually insane.

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