Why Criticize Your Own Government — and leave out others?

This is the answer to the question posed in the title:

“My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that: namely, I can do something about it. So even if the US was responsible for 2% of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2% I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

— Noam Chomsky, cited by Glenn Greenwald

21 thoughts on “Why Criticize Your Own Government — and leave out others?”

  1. It is not about the quality but rather the quantity of violence committed by.., a militarism regime, being or calling yourself " the superior military" makes you feel that you are superior on everything, simply makes you think that you are superpower, supper race, superior car maker, superior farms products and etc. In the end, the concept simply makes you believe that everyone on this planet is your enemy which in psychological terms, you are then clinically proven to be paranoid, or just acting as one doing your superior thing. But in case of economical regimes, the economic concept by capitalism is what is wrong, a deceitful, a deceptive and fully corrupt system that consist of cooperation by the kind which for that reason… "because it happens to be the larger component of international violence". Let me give an example of such kind, his name is Dick Cheney.

  2. Exactly so.

    It is a fortunate (if that's the right word) coincidence for westerners that this moral imperative happens usually to coincide with the pragmatic urge also to criticise the troublemakers first, since the US and its European satellite states have the vast majority of the military and economic power in the modern world and hence tend to be the initiators of many wars or conflicts (such as the Ukraine case).

    A similar argument, by the way, applies in the case of domestic crime and punishment. The old dictum of it being better to let ten guilty men walk free than to wrongfully convict one man reflects the moral truth that we are in no way responsible for the crimes that criminals commit, but we are notionally, at least, responsible for what government does in our names.

  3. This is exactly the crux of the matter in the debate between Justin Raimondo and ersatz libertarians like Gregory.
    But there is more to it. In our society it is permitted to criticize the US, even US foreign policy, albeit to a very limited degree and mainly on a tactical level.
    But what is not permitted is to omit condemnation of the major official enemies, Iran, Russia and China. The US can be seen as evil but never the greater evil. That status is reserved for official enemies. He who does not toe this line is no longer considered "loyal" opposition and has no future in the MSM punditry. And many wannabe pundits for the MSM understand this very well in their little black hearts.

  4. I'm stuck on this: "it would be that 2% I would be primarily responsible for."

    How so?


    1. I think Chomsky knows this so called "democracy" is a joke. People poll for one thing but public policy is a completely different thing. But just because the game is rigged, doesn't mean there isn't something that might work.

  5. The most logical way to fuck up a world wide Mafia operation is to take out the GOD FATHER!

  6. I'm puzzled by Chomsky here. First he says that "he can do something about" US "international violence." Second, he claims to be "primarily responsible for" US world violence. The answers are not much and not even.

    1. I think "primarily responsible" here is just more reponsible than he is for say the violence some other country is commiting – so maybe some percentages slightly above zero? Because the alternate reading that Noam Chomsky is the main reason the U.S. empire exists is absurd, regardless of one's take on Chomsky.

  7. How about criticizing our government and defending others? It is obvious that whenever our government demonizes another party to international disputes the real aim is to turn public opinion against the "demon" and in favor of our own "altruistic" efforts to save the world from it. Fairness and justice require that we both defend the slandered party and criticize our own efforts at public deception; truth must be told about all parties to the dispute. But the manner of our truth-telling and not just the facts in a case also have a great part in the credibility of our narrative.
    Historian Gary Leupp, in his criticism of Peter Leonard's AP report on Eukraine and Christiane Amanpour of CNN, lists a number of items that good journalism on Ukraine should contain or avoid. [http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/19/ap-blasts-russian-propaganda-war-over-ukraine/]

    Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the U.S.S.R. from 1987 to 1991, issues similar warnings about public misperception of the Cold War and Putin's intentions. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/who-is-the-bully-the-united-states-has-treated-russia-like-a-loser-since-the-cold-war/2014/03/14/b0868882-aa06-11e3-8599-ce7295b6851c_story.html].

    But these suggestions are only effective for reaching a public that has a relatively open mind, a mind that is actively in search for truth and is in addition susceptible to reason. What should be done about the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance? The great chasm created by the psyop tactics of the "war Party" between the faculties of emotion and reason? Those who only turn to the mainstream media and have only had government approved history books as their primary source of information often sincerely believe in the goodness of the mission of the "war party". Any doubts are suppressed with flak, the major sources of this effective propaganda tool being charges of treason or identification with those who engage in unfounded conspiracy theories? How do we reach these people? This is not a small matter, considering that the "war party" has been highly active in changing hearts and minds in the economic realm (neoliberalism) since WWII, and in the political realm (neoconservatism) since the emergence of the American Counter Culture.

  8. Zhukov is winning at 'hearts & minds' poker at Casino Royal leaving Mr. Bond losing at the tables.

  9. Brucito, this is not a game. Neocons want you to believe it is, and it appears that they have succeeded, judging from the language you are using. Your reaction is a good illustration for the workings of the cognitive dissonance I mentioned above. Putin has not gained any hearts and minds; on the contrary, it is the Western so-called democracies (Mr. Bond?) that have lost hearts and minds as midwifed by the one-percenters who are robbing the ordinary earthling blind with their neoliberal economics, have created chaos on the planet with their neoconservative, West-supremacist policies, and have turned this country into a security state to protect themselves against any dissent. No one is giving unqualified assent to Zhukov (I assume that stands for Putin). As Justin Raimondo stated at the conclusion of the essay that has initiated this debate, for us truth is first. If you acquaint yourself with the events in Ukraine and the history of the region, not through the mainstream media, but by a hearty research, unmarred by nationalistic lies we have learned to habitually tell ourselves, you will also agree that in this particular case, Putin is the victim and not the aggressor.

  10. Its so sad watching people who can't think try to understand someone who can think.

    1. Any thinking, if it employs logic, has premises; we never think from a blank slate. The statement you are making can apply to as many arguers as there are to this debate. Starting with the premise that this is a game, you arrive at the conclusion that we must win at any cost, even at the cost of any truths the facts or rules of the "game" imply. The people who have criticized Justin Raimondo in this debate have generally started from this "game theory" premise. The "war party" encourages this so-called post-modern theory, because it is amoral and has no ethical standards at its foundation. Here is the syllogism they use:
      Might is right; America is the mightiest; therefore, America is right in using any means to maintain her superiority.
      And the mayhem on the planet is the result.

  11. The argument is fundamentally flawed as it places "the State" above or separately from humanity and, in reality, usually the needs or wants of a subset "elite" from that "State". We should all be human beings first and foremost. Our responsibility to any "State" is secondary to that. Thus, fundamental human rights take precedence over the "State" and are not subservient to the "State".

    1. Happy to hear someone bringing individual human beings into the debate. I am all for this, since my main worry and indignation comes from the number of people this country has destroyed and displaced and all the misery this nation has showered on the people of this planet. The depleted uranium bombs are still maiming people in Iraq and the Balkans. Our returning soldiers are resorting to violence and suicide in greater and greater numbers.Game theorists are totally blind to these facts, but in this game so far everyone has been an absolute loser.

  12. It's alright to criticize any government, not just yours. Criticizing only your government is like admitting you do something wrong but not admitting someone else does something wrong.

  13. To each his own; that applies also to virtues and vices. But the metric is truth; if it becomes necessary to criticize another government, one must do so. But the problem with us has been of a different kind: we have learned to praise our own virtues and exaggerate the other's vices. And what is worth, we rarely ever own up to the mistakes we know we have made. We engineer a coup, say in Iran, Chile, or most recently Ukraine, remove a democratically elected government, cause chaos and inflame political and sectarian violence and perhaps drive the country to civil war, and wait for truth to surface years later in declassified documents. If this is the case, and it certainly is, then we must change and we are the ones who can "do something about it." This is why I think Noam Chomsky holds us only responsible for the correction of our own vices, not the other's.

  14. First of all, I long ago declared eternal hostility towards anything that “expands the government’s tool box” or its bank account or its bathing-suit areas or whatever else it wants to expand. But the larger point is that it is clear this initiative is just a reiteration of the hypercritical approach to tyranny Washington has displayed for decades.

  15. First of all, I long ago declared eternal hostility towards anything that a??expands the governmenta??s tool boxa?? or its bank account or its bathing-suit areas or whatever else it wants to expand. But the larger point is that it is clear this initiative is just a reiteration of the hypercritical approach to tyranny Washington has displayed for decades.

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