The 2011 City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture was delivered to a sold-out crowd at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday 2nd November, by the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Recipient, Prof Noam Chomsky – Published on ZNet, by Noam Chomsky (first on Sydney Peace Blog), November 03, 2011.
Revolutionary Pacifism: Choices and Prospects:
As we all know, the United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The words can only elicit deep regret when we consider how we have acted to fulfill that aspiration, though there have been a few significant successes, notably in Europe.
For centuries, Europe had been the most violent place on earth, with murderous and destructive internal conflicts and the forging of a culture of war that enabled Europe to conquer most of the world, shocking the victims, who were hardly pacifists, but were “appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare,” in the words of British military historian Geoffrey Parker. And enabled Europe to impose on its conquests what Adam Smith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” England in the lead, as he did not fail to emphasize. The global conquest took a particularly horrifying form in what is sometimes called “the Anglosphere,” England and its offshoots, settler-colonial societies in which the indigenous societies were devastated and their people dispersed or exterminated. But since 1945 Europe has become internally the most peaceful and in many ways most humane region of the earth – which is the source of some its current travail, an important topic that I will have to put aside … //
… In writing about Muste’s stand 45 years ago, I quoted his warning that “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will teach him a lesson?” His observation was all too apt at the time, while the Indochina wars were raging. And on all too many other occasions since.
The allies did not fight “the good war,” as it is commonly called, because of the awful crimes of fascism. Before their attacks on western powers, fascists were treated rather sympathetically, particularly “that admirable Italian gentleman,” as FDR called Mussolini. Even Hitler was regarded by the US State Department as a “moderate” holding off the extremists of right and left. The British were even more sympathetic, particularly the business world. Roosevelt’s close confidant Sumner Welles reported to the president that the Munich settlement that dismembered Czechoslovakia “presented the opportunity for the establishment by the nations of the world of a new world order based upon justice and upon law,” in which the Nazi moderates would play a leading role. As late as April 1941, the influential statesman George Kennan, at the dovish extreme of the postwar planning spectrum, wrote from his consular post in Berlin that German leaders have no wish to “see other people suffer under German rule,” are “most anxious that their new subjects should be happy in their care,” and are making “important compromises” to assure this benign outcome.
Though by then the horrendous facts of the Holocaust were well known, they scarcely entered the Nuremberg trials, which focused on aggression, “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”: in Indochina, Iraq, and all too many other places where we have much to contemplate. The horrifying crimes of Japanese fascism were virtually ignored in the postwar peace settlements. Japan’s aggression began exactly 80 years ago, with the staged Mukden incident, but for the West, it began 10 years later, with the attack on military bases in two US possessions. India and other major Asian countries refused even to attend the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty conference because of the exclusion of Japan’s crimes in Asia – and also because of Washington’s establishment of a major military base in conquered Okiniwa, still there despite the energetic protests of the population.
It is useful to reflect on several aspects of the Pearl Harbor attack. One is the reaction of historian and Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger to the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003. He recalled FDR’s words when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on “a date which will live in infamy.” “Today it is we Americans who live in infamy,” Schlesinger wrote, as our government adopts the policies of imperial Japan – thoughts that were barely articulated elsewhere in the mainstream, and quickly suppressed: I could find no mention of this principled stand in the praise for Schlesinger’s accomplishments when he died a few years later.
We can also learn a lot about ourselves by carrying Schlesinger’s lament a few steps further. By today’s standards, Japan’s attack was justified, indeed meritorious. Japan, after all, was exercising the much lauded doctrine of anticipatory self-defense when it bombed military bases in Hawaii and the Philippines, two virtual US colonies, with reasons far more compelling than anything that Bush and Blair could conjure up when they adopted the policies of imperial Japan in 2003. Japanese leaders were well aware that B-17 Flying Fortresses were coming off the Boeing production lines, and they could read in the American press that these killing machines would be able to burn down Tokyo, a “city of rice-paper and wood houses.” A November 1940 plan to “bomb Tokyo and other big cities” was enthusiastically received by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. FDR was “simply delighted” at the plans “to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu,” outlined by their author, Air Force General Chennault … //
… Consistent with Muste’s “revolutionary pacifism,” the Sydney Peace Foundation has always emphasized peace with justice. The demands of justice can remain unfulfilled long after peace has been declared. The Santa Cruz massacre 20 years ago can serve as an illustration. One year after the massacre the United Nations adopted The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which states that “Acts constituting enforced disappearance shall be considered a continuing offence as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared and these facts remain unclarified.” The massacre is therefore a continuing offence: the fate of the disappeared is unknown, and the offenders have not been brought to justice, including those who continue to conceal the crimes of complicity and participation. Only one indication of how far we must go to rise to some respectable level of civilized behavior. (full long text).