Noam Chomsky on moral equivalence

Noam Chomsky in an interview condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine.  He said it is not only morally wrong, but a violation of international law.

He also said that Russia has not done anything that the USA has not done.  The invasion of Iraq was no less wrong than the invasion of Ukraine.  The bombing of Fallujah caused at least as much death and suffering as the bombing of Mariupol’.

Neither the Russia nor the USA accepts the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  In 1984, the court condemned the United States for mining the harbors of Nicaragua as part of its covert war against that country, the U.S. government shrugged off that decision.

In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing the U.S. government to take military again to prevent any American or allied citizen from being tried as a war criminal.  President Biden has no standing to call for President Putin to be tried for violating international law the USA does not respect.

I believe that many consider it out of bounds for me, or for Prof. Chomsky, to weigh the crimes of the U.S. government in the same balance as the crimes of other governments.  This is “moral equivalence” or “whataboutism.”  Instead you’re supposed to be silent about U.S. crimes unless you have first researched and condemned every other wrong that may have been worse.

It can be argued that a murderer who kills one person is less of a murderer who kills ten people, but the first is a murderer just the same.  And the fact that one murderer gets away with their crime does not generate an entitlement to commit murder.

None of this is a justification for the invasion of Ukraine.  The ordinary people of Ukraine did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are not responsible for the persecution of Julian Assange.  They do not deserve to be killed, maimed and terrorized because of what the U.S. government has done.

The U.S. government has an obligation to provide the Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves, Chomsky said.  But he said it also has a duty to try to bring both sides to the negotiating table before Ukraine is completely ruined.  He’s right.


Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill on the Russia-Ukraine War, an interview for The Intercept.

Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III, an interview for Current Affairs.  [Added 04/20/2022]

The military situation in Ukraine, as seen by an ex-member of the Swiss intelligence service, an interview of Jacques Baud for The Rio Times [Added 4/20/2022]

Russia’s Sergey Glazyev introduces the new global financial system, an interview by Pepe Escobar for The Cradle.  [Added 4/20/2022]

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4 Responses to “Noam Chomsky on moral equivalence”

  1. whungerford Says:

    Robert Draper, interviewing Fiona Hill, reports missteps by several US Administrations wrt V. Putin.


  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    The problem is that the supporters and apologists for Putin will raise this very issue. You did Iraq, so you have no right to call us on this. Many people on the far left and right will use prior American sins as a reason not to get involved. There are people who blame the west for “forcing” the Russians to invade.

    Have you heard of John Mearsheimer?


    • philebersole Says:

      I’ve linked to John Mearsheimer a number of times. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed this. I think his ideas make good sense. I’m glad to hear this one.

      But I think the question of blame is less important than how to honorably pull back from a conflict that will be disastrous for the U.S., Russia and the whole world.

      Liked by 2 people

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