Chomsky, Noam - Turning the Tide U

Review :

RHETORIC AND REALITY

I recall reading an interview with Noam Chomsky where he said he once awoke to what he thought was an actual earthquake, but upon investigating it turned out that the vast columns of books in his study had toppled over (the domino effect). This speak volumes for the vast amount of research that goes into Chomsky writings. The endnotes in themselves are a vital resource pointing the inquisitive reader to a vast array of sources for those interested in how the world operates in reality as opposed to how it works at the rhetorical level of politicians and mainstream journalists.

Turning the Tide is no exception, over half the book covers U.S. interventions in Central America throughout the twentieth century in general with a particular emphasis on the recent past as it was when the book was published in 1985. The picture is not a pretty one, support for military dictatorships in their efforts to destroy the popular organizations of the down trodden peasantry in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. In Nicaragua where the peasantry and the ordinary people had thrown off the yoke of the Somoza dictatorship, the U.S. was supporting the Contra ("freedom fighters" in the parlance of Ronald Regan) in their attacks on the country. These brave "freedom fighters" attacks were focused on the achievements of the Sandinista regime: Clinics, Schools, Cooperatives. A number of names involved in the brutal U.S. policy in Central America later crop up in Iraq during the Bush II regimes attack on that country (see Greg Grandins brilliant exposition of this "Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism" for more information).

Chomsky analysis focuses on the U.S. involvement in Central America, there is much detailed research into the reality of that involvement which with a occasionally coruscating sense of satire Chomsky compares with the rhetoric from politicians and the writing of journalists. The gap between reality and rhetoric is awesome.

The other part of the book contemplates the state of the Nuclear arm race and "star wars", the situation in the U.S. domestic scene in the face of the Regan administrations swing towards the rich. It concludes with a sober analysis of the prospects for real change, and what might be entailed in reaching that objective.

Despite this book being around 25 years old it is still pertinent and a valuable aid to understanding. Those parts of the book that deal with the last administration that had an alleged concern for human rights, that of Jimmy Carter, can be read as a warning against wishful thinking with regard to the Obama administration.


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