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Noam Chomsky packs Lehigh's Packard Auditorium

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Feb 05 2013 09:31:40 PM CST
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Labels do not easily fit the iconic Noam Chomsky. An intellectual jack-of-all-trades, the linguist, teacher, author, social critic, political theorist and professional provocateur spent Tuesday night on the campus of Lehigh University where he offered a lecture entitled “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East.”

And while Chomsky is now in his mid 80s, his rock star status among intellectuals, academics and students still shines radiantly. His presence packed and jammed the Packard Auditorium as not a seat was to be had, with people standing up to three rows deep and out into the hallway to hear the quiet and hushed tones of one American imperialism’s harshest critics.

Not a man to mince words, he noted that Israel and the United States as the gravest threats to Middle East peace, not Iran.

“The Iranian threat is largely a U.S. obsession that is shared by Arab dictators, but not the Arab people,” Chomsky said Tuesday night.“…The truth of the matter is that Americans are not truly aware of why diplomacy with Iran has not worked and that is because almost nothing of it is reported by the press. And that is what is truly interesting.”

The reason any attempts at diplomacy have failed is because it’s in the United States and Israel’s best interest for them to fail, Chomsky asserted.

“Other countries don’t have the rights that we (the U.S.) do,” he said at one point in describing the mentality of American foreign policy initiatives. “…Those other countries are only expected to obey.”

The United States has the mentality of a “rogue nation” who shape foreign policy predicated upon executing “pre-emptive strikes” against those nations or people who could, but have not actually, posed any direct threat to the security of our nation.

Chomsky cited several examples that he said, proved his point. The Non-Aligned Movement, which includes the membership of several countries around the world including Arab counties in the the Middle East, reiterated a long-standing proposal to mitigate or eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons in the Middle East by establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

He noted that a conference on the matter was planned for last November in Helsinki, Finland, but was cancelled by the United States after it was learned that Iran had agreed to intend. Chomsky also said the region’s only nuclear super power, Israel, also refused to attend.

“The United States will not allow measures to place Israel’s nuclear facilities under international inspection,” he said.

Another example of the brutish mentality that he said dominates U.S. and Israeli thinking manifested itself at a dinner held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which Chomsky said is in reality just a front for the Israeli lobby, during December when the Israeli press reported that Dennis Ross, Elliot Abrams and other “Obama and former Bush administration advisers” told the audience that “the president will strike Iran next year if diplomacy does not succeed.”

But Chomsky was just getting warmed up. Like a sledgehammer methodically pounding into cement until it cracks, he continued his argument against the U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, citing a front-page article in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times that gave President Obama what Chomsky said were “broad legal powers to order a pre-emptive strike” if the U.S. discerns creditable evidence of a major cyber attack.

“If Iran is not developing nuclear weapons they are crazy,” he said at one point.