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Books: On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare

Revealing reading about the West's way of war

On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare

by Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek

(Pluto, £12.99)

A widely travelled and radical journalist and film-maker, Andre Vltcheck was born in communist Czechoslovakia before moving to the US.

He's been friends with Noam Chomsky for many years and in this book the two embark on a whirlwind tour through the post-war history of Western imperialism as well as reflecting on the former communist world and the modern transformations taking place in China and Latin America.

They debate the responsibility of Western nations for countless acts of violence and terror globally and how so many wars, atrocities, right-wing coups, suppression of liberation movements and the sabotaging of progressive governments are down to Western interference.

It makes for enlightening, provocative and revealing reading and it's a welcome antidote to the plethora of books and films on the "horrors" of communism. The authors question many Western shibboleths and pinpoint where the real horrors have been committed and by whom.

And they describe perceptively the role of the media in not only destabilising progressive governments and movements but also in censoring real news and in dumbing-down. Chomsky cites The Black Book Of Communism, published in 1997 to ecstatic reviews everywhere, in which it's claimed that communism was responsible for 100 million victims worldwide and describing how evil the system was. The main charge is against China where the book's authors claim that "an estimated 25-30 million people died."

Yet, as Chomsky notes, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen compared China with India and demonstrated that around 100 million died in "democratic, capitalist" India in a comparable period. "Were they not also victims, but of capitalism?" he queries.

Reflecting on how the anti-communist dissidents in eastern Europe were all made into heroes and honoured by the West, Chomsky and Vltchek point out how thousands of dissidents fighting against capitalist injustice in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere were and are totally ignored or demonised. Chomsky records with sadness how the newly elected ex-Czech president Vaclav Havel, on a first official visit to the US, addressed Congress and praised his audience as "the defenders of freedom."

Lucid, knowledgable and courageous, Chomsky is beholden to no-one and together with Vltchek he diagnoses with precision the chronic debilities and exposes the quackery at the heart of modern capitalism.

John Green


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