BOOKREVIEW: Failed States

Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy
By Noam Chomsky
Henry Holt and Co.
Metropolitan Books
Hardcover, 320 pages, $24.00

A “failed state” is a condition of state dilapidation, when a state no longer functions properly because of government corruption and lawlessness, which jeopardizes the general populace and causes democracy to go awry. Chomsky says the United States currently fits this category.

Chomsky argues that practices like “democracy promotion,” militarism, violations of international law, and promotion of juntas and coups d’état around the world are slowly discombobulating the foundation of America, while causing third world nations to implode. He considers the U.S. and its partner governments “failed states” because of these practices.

Many pundits limit the concept of a “failed state” to places like Haiti, “the prototypical failed state.” The question that many never ask is why states like Haiti fail. Chomsky cites Woodrow Wilson’s 1915 invasion of Haiti, which “dissolved the National Assembly” after it refused to ratify a U.S.-drafted constitution that gave U.S. corporations rights to purchase Haitian land. Thousands of Haitians were killed while virtual slavery was introduced. In 1990, Haiti had its first democratic election, which Jean-Bertrand Aristide won. That’s when a U.S. terror campaign commenced, with the result being the eventual ouster of Aristide, leaving the country in chaos. Presently Iraq is facing a similar crisis.

Chomsky also discusses the battle over George W. Bush’s trampling on the Geneva Conventions. He quotes international law professor Jordan Paust saying, “Not since the Nazi era have so many lawyers been so clearly involved in international crimes concerning the treatment and interrogation of persons detained during war.”

Many Americans wonder, “Why are we detaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Egypt instead of United States?” Chomsky answers, “The Bush administration selected Guantanamo because legalistic chicanery could portray it as exempt from domestic or international law.” Otherwise the Bush neo-cons would face criminal prosecution under Article II Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution for torturing detainees.

Other examples of the U.S. disregarding international law cited by Chomsky include the indefinite detention of Haitian refugees in the Krome Detention Center in Miami, in violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, in violation of UN Resolution 242 and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Another is its disregard for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The bottom line is that the U.S. is estranging itself from the rest of the world with these practices.

Chomsky also concludes that the U.S. is a “failed state” because public opinion isn’t taken into account. The government ignores majority opinion favoring universal health care, ending the war in Iraq, and endorsing the Kyoto protocols. The point is, when government doesn’t serve the public’s interest, then it’s a failed government.

“Failed States” is significant for anyone who wants an in-depth analysis of world events and “the assault on democracy.” The mainstream media is hardly covering this. Chomsky does a great service by exposing the truth. “Failed States” is one of the most important books of the year.

— Michael Turman