Letter to Samantha Power

Posted to www.marxmail.org on January 4, 2004


Ms. Power,


I understand that your role in American society (and your colleague Michael Ignatieff) is to justify U.S. wars over our barbarian enemies, but your hatchet-job on Noam Chomsky in today's N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/04/books/review/04POWERT.html) is such an unspeakable travesty that I feel compelled to answer you.


To begin with, just on the question of democratic procedure--something that you evidently feel is proprietary to Washington, D.C.--did you ever stop to wonder about the role of the Times book review in shaping public opinion, if I might be so Chomskyian to bring up this topic? When the Times decided to review your "A Problem from Hell", do you think that they considered inviting Tariq Ali or Edward Herman, as if these names were even in the rolodex. No, they invited Laura Secor who is a co-author with Michael Tomasky, Todd Gitlin, Paul Berman and Kana Makiya of a book titled "The Fight Is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World". In her essay, Ms. Secor argues that bombing Yugoslavia is a good way to promote democracy. Gosh, what a surprise. This is why many radicals view the N.Y. Times as having the same political function that Pravda had in the U.S.S.R. and people like you and frequent NY Times contributor Michael Ignatieff (especially on the need for enlightened imperialism) as a kind of commissar.


Turning to the question of bombing Yugoslavia, you say:


"And since he [Chomsky] considers the United States the leading terrorist state, little distinguishes American air strikes in Serbia undertaken at night with high-precision weaponry from World Trade Center attacks timed to maximize the number of office workers who have just sat down with their morning coffee."


I don't know how to put this exactly, but "high-precision weaponry" can be used to terrorize a civilian population. Didn't you learn this when you were an undergraduate at Yale? Were you ever assigned Howard Zinn? He was a bombardier during WWII and can tell you how such weaponry was used to terrorize the people of Dresden in the course of making the world safe for democracy and Exxon.


In Yugoslavia, our cruise missiles were used to blow up the Chinese embassy. I suppose that this might be forgivable in your eyes since China is not a full-fledged democracy. But when cruise missiles were used to deliver a high-precision strike on the Novi Sad bridge in Belgrade, it cut off electricity and water supplies which were part of the infrastructure. While depriving a civilian population from clean water might have a salutary result from a strategic standpoint, a senior South African Government minister, Professor Kader Asmal, said that Nato's bomb damage to water resources in the Balkan war was a crime under international law.


NATO also used its high-precision weaponry on electrical supplies. This led Gordon Clark of Peace Action to make the following statement:


"For the past two nights, NATO forces have bombed electrical power plants in Serbia, plunging millions of civilians into darkness and threatening the water supply of Belgrade and other urban centers.  Peace Action, the nation's largest grassroots peace organization opposed to this war, condemned these bombings as a policy of war against a civilian population."


I should add that Peace Action was formerly known as SANE/Freeze. It has more integrity in its little finger than in all the bodies who make their home at your wretched and misnamed Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.