Saturday, September 25, 2021

Noam Chomsky, U.S. Foreign Policy, Propaganda, Syria, International Terrorism, And Grasping At Straws

Jeremy Kuzmarov, Managing Editor of Covert Action Magazine, has recently posted a piece called The U.S. May Have Lost the Military War in Syria, But Has Won the Propaganda War at Home By Portraying its Murderous Invasion as a Moral Crusade, which he opens by claiming that, in the case of Syria, the
propaganda has been so good that [Noam] Chomsky himself at times was taken in by it.
This is the first article I have ever read by Jeremy Kuzmarov, and I couldn't agree less! So we're off to a good start!

In my view, the propaganda regarding Syria has been so obvious and so desperate that it's now much easier than ever to see that Noam Chomsky himself plays a part in it.

It's not easy for everyone, of course. It's not even easy for Jeremy Kuzmarov, who himself has at times been taken in by Chomsky, I would say.


In my view, Noam Chomsky is now, and has been for many years, the de facto leader of the faux opposition.

How can I say this? Consider a few simple facts:

Chomsky taught for more than 40 years at MIT, the Pentagon's favorite research institution. How could a true dissident have stayed there for so long? I ran away from the whole country when I was 14 and never looked back. Not that this makes me a hero. But Chomsky grew old and grey under the shadow of the big guns. How does that make him a dissident? And if he were a serious threat, why would they have kept him around? Let alone kept paying him?

In the mid-1960s, Chomsky was attacking critics of the Warren Commission. Why would anybody do that?

Forty years later, he was attacking critics of the 9/11 Commission. Why would anybody do that?

Both of these so-called investigations were obvious whitewashes, and national disgraces, and it didn't take very much research or very much thinking to see that their final reports could not possibly be true, let alone complete. But Chomsky stood by them with a loyalty that should have been reserved for truthful causes. Why?

Watch him speak in public. Hundreds of hours of his presentations are available on YouTube. He knows where all the bodies are buried, and who put them there, and he makes low-key presentations in which he reveals some of what he knows, but ever so gradually, and in the most passionless, toneless way one could possibly speak.

He puts half of his listeners to sleep while he tells the other half that it's the system's fault, and there's no one to blame, and nothing can be done about it.

I'm understating my case when I say Noam Chomsky doesn't exactly inspire people to do things. On the contrary, he lulls them into an apathetic stupor. Physically asleep or mentally asleep, it doesn't matter. Half of each is fine.

And this, in my view, is why Noam Chomsky is considered America's greatest living public dissident intellectual.

Furthermore, he deserves the title, since he is still, even at his advanced age, the most effective gatekeeper the evil bastards have on their side.

Who cares about this? Who connects these dots? Who asks these obvious questions? As far as I know, I am the only one. And I do not say this to congratulate myself.

But it makes me wonder: If I can see this ... you're probably far ahead of me here.


When I taught math, I marked far too many tests. And I was very generous about it, within the constraints imposed by the college where I taught.

If a student gave an incorrect answer, I would look for an opportunity to award "part-marks" for the question. A "mistake", such as error in arithmetic, or in copying an equation from one line to the next, would merit a small deduction. Our theory was that the student could have caught and corrected this mistake by double-checking everything, but probably didn't have time to do so.

But a "blunder", a different kind of error, showing that the student did not understand the material, would be more heavily punished. We saw blunders not as failures to double-check, but as failures to comprehend. And the main idea behind testing was to find out which students were learning quickly, and which needed more help. So covering up a failure to understand something was a bad idea, one that could have serious consequences.

I mention this because on first reading, I had to wonder whether Jeremy Kuzmarov made a "mistake" by trying to craft a catchy introduction to his piece, but didn't have time to check whether his catchy intro made any sense. If not, he made a "blunder", which would make the rest of the article extremely suspect.

Because I couldn't decide which it was, I read the whole article very carefully, and I kept finding bits which are obviously true and yet largely unknown to loyal, patriotic Americans, who don't believe anything critical of their country or uncritical of a foreign country.

For instance, if you say "They have good roads in Indiana," you're a patriot, but if you say, "They have good roads in India," you're a traitor. Two letters make all the difference in that example, which illustrates my point. Smart, patriotic Americans notice little things, seemingly insignificant details, and that keeps the rest of us on our toes.

It's difficult to pinpoint the smartest, least patriotic bits in Jeremy Kuzmarov's article, because he hits so many nails on their heads, so to speak. For instance:
The Syrian war should not be seen in isolation but as part of a larger pattern of the U.S. allying with Islamic fundamentalists in the attempt to fulfill its foreign policy goals.
But sometimes the facts seem partially masked, or excused somehow, as in this passage:
The primary U.S. operation to arm Syrian insurgents was Operation Timber Sycamore, carried out by the CIA with support from British, Qatari, Saudi and Jordanian intelligence services and the Pentagon.

The program saw relatively little regulation of whom the arms went to, and lacked accountability, as weaponry very consistently ended up in the hands of UN-recognized terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and IS.
The last sentence seems to contain "magic words". If we remove the magic, and concentrate on the main elements, we get:
The primary U.S. operation to arm Syrian insurgents was ... carried out by the CIA with support from British, Qatari, Saudi and Jordanian intelligence services and the Pentagon. ... weaponry very consistently ended up in the hands of UN-recognized terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and IS.
which gives a very different impression, raising the question: Does Jeremy Kuzmarov think the weapons ended up in the hands of terrorists because there wasn't enough regulation or accountability?

Personally I am far more inclined to believe that the weapons ended up in the hands of terrorists because that's where they were intended to go -- and that if there is any difference between "Syrian insurgents" and "terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and IS", the difference is one of nomenclature only.

We spell their names differently. And we pronounce them differently, too. But we're talking about the same madmen, who seem to be organized into groups of roughly platoon size, each of which appears to have a member or two of the U.S. Special Forces embedded within it. And all this looks very dodgy on the face of it. But how else would they know what to do? And how else would the supply planes know where they were, and what they needed? It's madness, but there is definitely method to it.

And at first I couldn't figure out: How much of this does Jeremy Kuzmarov understand? How much does he know that he's not willing to tell? How much pressure is he under, and from whom? The last question, of course, is critical for most writers; I don't have to think about it at all because I have so few readers. But Jeremy Kuzmarov is not as lucky as I am in that regard.

Let's have Jeremy Kuzmarov answer my questions:
U.S. military personnel deployed to Syria directly included Special Forces, engineering experts and medical and psychological warfare teams who were supplied through a network of small airstrips set up on Syrian soil which received MC-130 and CV-22 transports.

Small numbers of U.S. troops embedded with rebel counterparts—including the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—and called in air strikes from U.S. bases in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and other countries.

According to [author A.B.] Abrams, the U.S. was “in effect invading Syria to seize a portion of its territory and was doing so in a much more subtle and cost-free way than prior operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama or other target states.”
And on and on. The more I read, the more I think, "He gets it."

What Jeremy Kuzmarov thinks of Noam Chomsky, and my questions about what he's telling us and in what order, pale in comparison to the scope of the picture he's painting here, and the amount of detail he's putting in it.

I'll give you one more example before I urge you to read the whole piece for yourself.

I have always considered the so-called "Arab Spring" to be a U.S. effort to destabilize the Middle East, and this is because it sprung while I was in my heaviest blogging phase. Because of the topics I was researching at the time, I was reading news from all over the world every day. And the first I read of Arab Spring came from the Washington Post via sources in the State Department. It was some time later before I started reading about it from pro-democracy activists in Arab countries, and they were saying, "We're so glad the U.S. is finally on our side!"

I wrote at the time about how naive they were and how sad it made me to think of what would soon be happening to them. But I don't know anybody who shared this opinion.

My son has been reading everything he can get his hands on concerning the overthrow of Libya. New books arrive by courier every week or two. He talks about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and what they did and with good understanding. I'm proud of him -- he's done all this research on his own, with no prompting from me, and he's only 20 years old. Recently I asked him if he'd ever read anything hinting that the Arab Spring was a State Department operation, and he said, "No, that's a new one on me. Tell me more!" He always says "Tell me more," and that's another reason I'm proud of him. But I digress.

Here's Jeremy Kuzmarov on Arab Spring:
The Obama administration laid the ground for major investments in information warfare by the State Department, forming a close public-private sector partnership with American tech giants to capitalize on their unique capabilities to manipulate public opinion globally.

As The New York Times reported in an article entitled “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” not only were the uprisings against the Syrian state from March 2011 closely connected to Western NGOs, where the leaders of several anti-government groups had received training, but the U.S. Congress and State Department had worked with tech giants to strengthen these operations.

The Times reported: “A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region … received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.”

Skills provided included using social networking and mobile technologies to promote calls for political change along Western lines. Among those sponsoring the meeting were Facebook, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School, and the State Department.
There's more, and it's on point:
A leak of Hillary Clinton’s emails shows cooperation between Google and the State Department to undermine the Syrian government.

Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, formerly an adviser to Clinton, wanted to encourage defections among the Syrian armed forces and launched a “defection tracker,” which was designed to “encourage more people to defect and give confidence to the rebel opposition.”

Google also renamed various streets in Damascus after jihadi leaders—which was also done in Libya.

A key part of the information war was control over the media, which blamed the Syrian government for atrocities later found to have been committed by the FSA and other insurgents.

In August 2012, for example, the Western media reported that the massacre of 245 people in the Daraya suburb was carried out by “Assad’s army”; however, an investigation by British journalist Robert Fisk found that the FSA had been responsible.
There's much more and it's very good:
Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett reported from the front lines in Syria that the White Helmets frequently staged videos for propaganda purposes.

British reporter Vanessa Beeley showed that they had ties to private security firms and the “deep state” in both the U.S. and UK and were comprised of members of al-Qaeda-linked terror groups. Their purpose, she said was to fabricate atrocities and provide pretexts for Western military intervention.
The more I read Jeremy Kuzmarov, the more I think I must have seen a mistake and thought it was a blunder.

I think you should click here: The U.S. May Have Lost the Military War in Syria, But Has Won the Propaganda War at Home By Portraying its Murderous Invasion as a Moral Crusade, if you haven't already, and read the whole article, maybe more carefully than I've done, and tell me what you think -- if you can still think after you've read it all.

And it's OK if you disagree with me about Noam Chomsky -- nearly everybody does, and we're all still here. It's OK if you disagree with me about Syria. And the same goes for Jeremy Kuzmarov.

It's been an interesting journey for me, reminding me of the first time I saw Markus A. Nonnamus play (and sing). To open his set, he covered a few classics. And by "covered" I mean "demolished". I was with some good guitar players, and I was one myself at the time, and we all sat there stunned and embarrassed, thinking "What the ...?" Then Markus played some originals, and they were brilliant! All of a sudden we were banging on the tables, yelling "Play it again! Play it again!" It was the fastest change of group-think I've ever seen.

Like Markus, Jeremy Kuzmarov had me going at the beginning, thinking "What? Chomsky taken in by the propaganda? Haha!" But by the end I was banging on the table, saying, "Right on! This is brilliant!"

Or maybe it's more like a hustler in a pool room. You start off thinking, "I know more than this guy!" but before long you're sitting there thinking, "Oh no, I don't!"

I've bookmarked Covert Action Magazine, and a little bit of monkey-see, monkey-do would be appropriate here, in my cold opinion.


I have long harbored a question that I can't answer, and I've put it to a few people who are far smarter and better informed than I am -- people who live in the world of intelligence analysis, and who, I presume, know far more than I do. After all, it's only a hobby to me. I have to make a living doing something else. But I've digressed again.

None of them could answer it, so I want to put the same question to you, my long-suffering readers, and I plan to present it to Jeremy Kuzmarov as well. Maybe one of us will have an idea. We could sure use one.

Here's the question: Given that the USA is likely to remain the USA and continue to do what the USA does; given that the KSA is likely to remain the KSA and continue to do what the KSA does; given the same assumptions about Jordan, Qatar, and the UK (who are all equally complicit in fomenting international terrorism for political gain), AND given that we know this much about it: What can we DO about it?

Some questions are easier asked than answered, and I have no doubt that this is one of them, so I am open to all suggestions. Grasping at straws is OK at this point. After all, what other options do we have? In a situation such as we are in, one should leave no straw ungrasped.


  1. I am pleased to report that I've heard from Jeremy and that he has given me a good answer to the question I left you with.


    as far as the question about what to do--this is obviously a very difficult one. we may not be able to change the world and its evil ways. a big problem as far as altering US foreign policy is that the Pentagon and war apparatus has found a way to fight wars absent a draft and which involve only a limited number of Americans. If people's lives aren't directly impacted by events overseas, they won't get aroused and mobilized, as they did in the Vietnam era.

    in spite of this situation, as individuals I think what we can do is a) live our own lives according to good human values emphasizing peace, cooperation, cultural understanding, environmental sustainability, etc. and in turn set a positive example for our children, friends, colleagues, neighbors, family, etc. and hence perpetuate those values and inspire others; b) strive to educate ourselves and promote education within our communities; any movement for social change has to begin with a rise in political consciousness and people who are well informed on the issues. b) join other activist groups such as Code Pink that are fighting against endless wars and try and grow those organizations into something significant politically in the US and countries around the world; c) form or join new political parties like the new people's party as an example, and try and get people within those organizations to broaden their analysis and to link the crimes of US foreign policy with injustices at home, and push for a progressive platform that includes transition away from a permanent war economy in the US.

    within these groups alliances can be formed with peace oriented and progressives groups in countries around the world, including ones you mention that support terrorism or adopt warlike policies.

    I am not saying change will happen today or tomorrow, but if more and more people do this, change could happen as history shows, and we can try our best to help facilitate that. at least in the process we have set a positive example others can emulate and a positive legacy for ourselves in the face of an evil world.


    I am grateful for this response and I look for more good things to come from Jeremy and Covert Action Magazine. So stay tuned to this humble blog for more ... and in the meantime, if you have any thoughts to add, please don't hesitate.

  2. The moment I knew (many years ago) that Chomsky was tenured at MIT, I knew he was a shill - controlled opposition. It couldn't be more obvious - to those looking for it, that is.

    The problem is that most people do not think that there is such a thing as a controlled opposition. So they don't see it when it is right in front of their eyes.

    I do not have an issue with anything that is within Jeremy Kuzmarov's article (except perhaps the slack he cuts Chomsky). It is not what's in the article but what's not in it. And it is an almost universal omission.

    There's lots of data/facts etc but little to no logical progression tying it all together and leading to a conclusion that identifies "who" and "why".

    All these atrocities have a cause and a motivation behind them. For instance, Syria became a target we learn because it shared a border with Turkey.

    Why was that a problem and to whom?

    Anyway, it's a particular bug of mine, I admit (and I'm probably guilty of it myself). It seems all journos do it even the likes of John Pilger. In fact, he's terrible for it.

    Perhaps Jeremy takes the view that it is not his prerogative to interpret the meaning of it all for us. Fair enough.

    Regardless, his article introduced a lot of information I did not know and I appreciate that very much.

    I have been inspired by your question, though! I am working on an answer which, per force, can only be a partial answer.

  3. Hi James

    Regarding "controlled opposition", I would say:

    If there is any significant anti-war or other anti-establishment group which is not already infiltrated and controlled, the "national security" apparatus is not doing its job.

  4. Re: "Stupendium" (part 1)

    Many years ago I wrote a long and very detailed article about one of the horrible events that took place in Iraq, and one of my friends described it as "a stupendous compendium". I shortened the expression, removing the complimentary aspect of it, and called it a "stupendium", only half in jest.

    After that time I wrote some other pieces in a similar style (but not too many, I hope!) and I read plenty of "stupendia" from other authors. So I came to recognize the "style", which more or less amounts to dumping all the pieces on the table and letting the reader put the puzzle together. Or drawing all the dots but never hinting at how they should be connected. Too many details, not enough synthesis. The wealth of details is extremely valuable, but often readers can reach the end of a stupendium without encountering any ideas about what it all means.

    I think there are many reasons why people write like this. One is editorial interference. Writers under tight control can sometimes shos us some dots, but they can never show us all of the dots, or tell us how the dots are connected, because that would jeapordize "national security", or "advertising revenue" (which amount to the same thing when you think about it).

    Another reason is fatigue. Pulling together all the information for a stupendium is a huge job, and the information is usually so horrible that it takes an emotional toll as well as all the hours of work. Sometimes after compiling the info for a stupendium, I've barely been able to write it up, and adding another section explaining what it meant seemed beyond my abilities, so I just poured all the pieces on the table and slept for a couple of days.

    A third reason is, let's call it "fear" of negative feedback. And that depends on the audience. If you've cultivated an audience of pro-Israeli readers, for example, you're not likely to write anything about Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, for example.

  5. Re: "Stupendium" (part 2)

    I'm sure there are other reasons, but I probably don't need to spell them all out (even if I could).

    Regarding Jeremy Kuzmarov: He's the managing editor of Covert Action Magazine so I don't imagine he's under too much pressure. He's not running the whole show on his own, so there's undoubtedly some pressure. But I don't think that's a big problem for him (from what I know, which isn't much).

    And I don't fear of negative reaction is a part of the equation for him at all. He responded directly and respectfully to my criticisms, and people who can do that are not usually afraid of any reactions at all. His response was very admirable in my opinion, and people who are not admirable simply cannot do that. They can't even fake it.

    I think it's more likely that the independent writers who do "serial stupendia" are [1] exhausted by the effort and can hardly imagine doing even more, and/or [2] unaware that a "bare stupendium" is quite unsatisfying for most readers, who don't already know what the puzzle looks like, or how the dots should be connected. After all, sometimes they already know what the puzzle looks like before they even start collecting the pieces. And that's why the start collecting the pieces. And along the way they forget that most of us don't know what they know.

    A clear recent example was part 2 of the "Twenty Year Shadow" series, in which Peter Dale Scott and his co-authors dumped all the pieces on the table and fled. Because I already had a good idea what the puzzle looks like, those pieces were valuable to me. But I were coming to it cold, so to speak, I would have had no idea what the point of it all was -- or whether there was any point at all.

    I really don't mean to be too critical of Jeremy or Peter because I think they're two of our smartest and best friends in the world of intel analysis. On the contrary: I sympathize with them; and I understand the difficulty.

    But that doesn't mean we can't encourage them to do better. So maybe we should.

    The third installment of "Twenty Year Shadow" is promised soon ... and I will certainly write something about it, no matter what it says. So be sure to drop by again "soon" (whatever that means) and by all means if you have any comments, please don't hesitate!