e book is full of the traditional themes of Chomsky's work, such as US support for terrorism, dictators, war crimes, Islamic fundamentalists, nuclear proliferation, human rights violations,etc. Citing Ahmed Rashid, he notes Reagan's support for the fundamentalist Pakistani dictator Zia Al Haq, whose rule laid the groundwork for the maladies that afflict Pakistan today. He notes that Gullubdin Heckmatyar, the favorite Afghan fundamentalist terrorist of Reagan, is now at the forefront of the political process in Afghanistan. He cites new evidence from the Spanish press about the murder of the 6 Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter by the US trained Altacatl Battalion in November 1989. He quotes Michael Kinsley's and Time Magazine's positive portrayal of the attacks on civilian targets by the Contras in Nicaragua that terrorized the Nicaraguan people into voting out the Sandinistas in 1990. The Contra war was all part of the effort by the Reagan administration, backed by the Vatican, to restore the poor majority of Central Americans to misery and passivity. He notes that Bernard Fall, the right wing military historian described Vietnam in the 1960's being threatened with extinction "as a cultural and historic entity" as the Vietnamese countryside "literally dies" under massive US bombing.
Chomsky has a great deal to say in this book about Israel, Obama's continuation of Bush's policies toward its settlement building, extreme violations of the Geneva Conventions and the context of Israel's attack on Gaza in December 2008 and its economic strangulation of Gaza. Chomsky has always stressed that Israel's main goal is not security but stealing all the best land and resources from the territories. He quotes Moshe Dayan from the early days of the occupation as saying privately that Israel should make Palestinians live "like dogs" and invite them to leave the territories if they didn't like it. He also has a few words about the BDS. He suggests that the boycott movement against South Africa wasn't exactly the rousing success that some BDS advocates assume it was.
There are other subjects discussed in this book. Chomsky notes Obama's continuation of Bush style militarism and the terrible toll on civilians of Obama's drone strikes on Pakistan and air strikes in Afghanistan. He points out the important ways the Obama administration supported the coup in Honduras. He describes the horrendous toll of Haiti's January 2010 earthquake as rooted in the economic policies the US has forced on Haiti. He quotes a number of mainstream strategic analysts, including former weapons inspector David Kay and the neoconservative Reuel Marc Gerecht, that Iran has very rational reasons for building up its nuclear capacity as a deterrent. Chomsky explores the possibility for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. He quotes with admiration Malalai Joya, the feminist human rights activist now in hiding from the misogynist fundamentalist Northern Alliance warlord gangsters Rumsfeld re-installed in power. He quotes an observation made by the last British ambassador to the Soviet Union, that from the ambassador's conversations with pro-Western Afghans, these Afghans greatly prefer life under the Soviet backed regime, when women achieved significant gains and the country seemed to be modernizing.
. Chomsky writes that financial industry interests are clearly reflected in the policies of the Obama administration. He notes that the financial industry has taken up a disproportionate share of our economic life. Economic growth during the Bush years relied on an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble whose extreme danger Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and other official geniuses did not fathom. Meanwhile, American manufacturing capacity has declined significantly in recent decades. The real wages of most American workers have declined since the late 70's, except for a spike during the Clinton tech stock boom of the late 90's, Chomsky notes. One of the quotes Chomsky often uses in his works (as he does in this book) is taken from Alan Greenspan's senate testimony from 1997 about the stagnating wages and "greater worker insecurity" fueling American economic growth. Chomsky cites an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal relating to Obama's stimulus and the decline of American manufacturing. On the health care bill, the Obama administration made a deal with the pharmaceutical industry whereby the health care reform bill would contain no mandate for the government to negotiate drug prices downward or demand rebates. Chomsky cites a Business Week article of August 2009 which said the health care industry had "already won" the health care debate. Health care industry lobbyists worked intensively behind the scenes to make sure the bill didn't seriously threaten their interests. Chomsky quotes the chairman of the Business Roundtable as saying that the bill that came out of Max Baucus's committee was closely aligned to his group's own vision for a proper reform bill. The Business Week article predicted that the health care industry would come out of the reform process more profitable than ever.
Chomsky also discusses one of my favorite topics: how the most successful economies in the world, including the United States, have routinely violated free market principles in order to become successful. He points out that Chile's following of the principles of Milton Friedman under Pinochet led to complete disaster by 1982. Since then, he notes, Chile has achieved some economic success by placing controls on capital flow and relying on its copper export industry, the largest company in which is the government run CODELCO.
I do wish Chomsky would go into more depth on health care. In his works, he often likes to cite polls showing that a majority of Americans have views that are often significantly more left wing than the Democrats. In this book, for example, he cites polls on Obama's health care plan, including polling relating to the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. These polls show that many Americans opposed to Obama-care base their opposition not on Republican style arguments but on the feeling that the legislation does not go far enough.
Chomsky is a nice relief from the insanity and imbecility of mainstream political discourse.