Monday, December 30, 2002

Chomsky on Human Rights Week, 2002 : SF Indymedia

Human Rights Week is not much of an occasion in the US, with some notable qualifications. But it does receive considerable attention elsewhere. For me personally, Human Rights Week 2002 was memorable and poignant. The week opened on the eve of Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where thousands of people gathered to celebrate -- though that may not be quite the right word -- the tenth anniversary of the Kurdish Human Rights Project KHRP, which has done outstanding work on some of the most serious human rights issues of the decade: particularly, but not only, the US-backed terrorist campaigns of the Turkish state that rank among the most terrible crimes of the grisly 1990s, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions driven from the devastated countryside, with every imaginable form of barbaric torture.

Uppermost in everyone's minds from London to Diyarbakir and beyond is the feverish determination of the Bush administration to find a pretext for what it believes will be a cheap and politically useful war in Iraq, with Blair trailing loyally behind. In Turkey, popular opposition to the coming war is overwhelming. Much the same is true throughout the region, and in most of Europe and the rest of the world as well. Poll results for the US look different, but that is misleading. It can hardly escape notice that although Saddam Hussein is reviled everywhere, it is only in the US that people are genuinely afraid that if we don't stop him today, he'll kill us tomorrow.

Engendering such fears is second nature to the re-cycled Reaganites at the helm in Washington. Throughout the 1980s they were able to ram through their reactionary agenda, significantly harming the population, by maintaining a constant state of fear. Twenty years ago Libyan hit-men were wandering the streets of Washington to assassinate our leader. Then the Russians were going to bomb us from an air base in Grenada (if they could find it on a map). Meanwhile the awesome Sandinista army was poised only two days marching time from Harlingen Texas, a "dagger pointed at the heart of Texas." And on through the decade. To determine a meaningful measure of domestic support for the coming war, it would be necessary to extricate the fear factor, unique to the US. The results would probably show little difference from the rest of the world.

There is no historical precedent for such enormous popular opposition to a war, and protest against it, before it is even launched (fully launched, to be more accurate).

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