(Originally posted at the socialist web site http://www.freespeech.org/nazisneveragain/Essays/chomskylies.html but it mysteriously disappeared from that site, a disappearance perhaps related to the several posts I made ridiculing it, so I have kept a copy at my web site.)

Reproduced, as usual, without permission.

Chomsky's reply to "Chomsky Lies".

You asked me to comment on material by a critic distributed on the net. If you like, I'll run through it in detail, but it is just a joke. Take the first example to illustrate. I hope you still have it. That had to do with "the case of the missingbloodbath."

Herman and I were clear and explicit about this, not only in the article cited, but elsewhere repeatedly. In brief, from the early days of the Vietnam war, the standard justification across the spectrum (as far to the left as "Dissent" and democratic socialists) was that the US had to keep up the aggression (called "defense," just as in Russia the attack on Afghanistan was called "defense") because if the US pulled out of Vietnam the Communists would carry out a bloodbath. Therefore we had to carry out a bloodbath (currently estimated by US sources at about 3.5 million dead Vietnamese, another 600,000 or so in Cambodia, and probably comparable figures in Laos, where no one counts). As we pointed out in this early 1977 article, no one even pretended that there was a bloodbath in Vietnam; this was a brief article, so we didn't review the data carefully, but we did so shortly after, in our two-volume study "Political Economy of Human Rights" (1979).

So what happened to the "missing bloodbath"? Did those who advocated invading in the first place and fighting on in order to prevent the inevitable bloodbath say, "sorry folks, we were wrong, we didn't have to kill millions of people in unprovoked aggression against South Vietnam (later the rest of IC) to prevent an inevitable bloodbath"? No, not at all. There was not a word of that. That's the "case of the missing bloodbath."

What the apologists for state violence did do was interesting: they turned to Cambodia, where no bloodbath had been predicted at all, and no argument had ever been given that in order to prevent a bloodbath, the US had to continue massacring people there (as noted, 600,000 according to the CIA during the first phase of the "decade of genocide" -- 1969-1979 -- I borrow the phrase from the title of the one independent governmental inquiry, Finland). In a marvellous illustration of how a well-oiled propaganda system can work when it is protected from any critical discussion, the atrocities in Cambodia were used (more accurately, exploited with great joy and passion) to yield retrospective justification for the US invasion of Vietnam. That's pretty neat. In a totalitarian state, it's unlikely that they could have gotten away with it -- probably would have aroused well-merited ridicule.

Here, the KR were being accused of "genocide" (e.g., in the NY Times) within weeks of their takeover -- at a time when US intelligence was estimating deaths in hundreds, maybe thousands, in any event, nothing like the death rate in Phnom Penh alone, let alone the countryside, in the weeks before. And the intellectual elite quickly switched their story, saying that our invasion of Vietnam was retrospectively justified by the Cambodian bloodbath (about which, they lied at a level that would have embarrassed Stalin, as we demonstrated).

That's the "case of the missing bloodbath." Clearly,unequivocally.

Turning to the criticism, the author says that "the holocaust in Cambodia is now well known," and by elementary logic, supports our point insofar as his claims are true. I trust that's obvious. As for the "bloodbath in Vietnam," no such claim was being made when we wrote -- as documented in PEHR -- surely not by those who had been using the bloodbath in Vietnam as justification for the US wars. Hence the first part of his criticism supports our point, and the second part is irrelevant even if it were true.

The critic is exploiting the fact that well after we wrote, there were claims about boat people, repression, etc. We review these in detail in PEHR -- an illuminating exercise, but we can put it aside here. By the most elementary logic, even if the Vietnamese had later been discovered to have massacred every person in South Vietnam, it would have had no bearing whatsoever on what we wrote in this article. That's about as trivially obvious as anything can be. In fact, many of these charges were also outlandish; see PEHR for extensive discussion.

Furthermore, the crazed and hysterical lies about Cambodia and Vietnam were never supported by the serious sources, for example, State Department intelligence, which (everyone agrees) had by far the best evidence throughout. We didn't cite them in the article under discussion, because they only came out with their public evaluation of the evidence a few weeks after we wrote. We review in it PEHR (including the suppression of their evidence). Basically, they gave the same story as other serious observers who we cited (Chanda, etc.; we not only cited him correctly, but actually understated his point, because of lack of space in this brief article; see PEHR for details).

The first example given, then, does not even rise to the level of absurdity. But the author understands something known to every commissar. It takes a phrase to produce a lie, a long paragraph to prove that it is a lie. Furthermore, few are going to be interested in checking through the details, so the end result of smut-throwing is to leave an impression that where there is smoke there must be fire. That's the standard way to undermine critical and independent thought, when you know you haven't got a leg to stand on.

If you like, I'll run through the rest, but it's the same; often there are even internal contradictions in the critique.

It's not surprising that this tantrum succeeds in coming up with nothing at all. This particular article has been subjected to far more detailed and critical analysis than any other one in print, to my knowledge, in a desperate effort to find some error, some phrase that can be misinterpreted, anything to discredit it. It's been a total failure. When attempts were made in print, Herman and I responded, though many journals will not permit us to respond to the lies and slanders they spew forth -- the NY Times, for example, again quite recently. To date, nothing has been discovered that would lead us to change a phrase. I should add that it is quite rare for anything in print to withstand such criticism so successfully, even a technical monograph in diplomatic history or a paper in a science journal. I'm a bit surprised that this one was so immune to criticism, to be frank. That's highly unusual. But true. The whole thing has been highly revealing. Herman and I review it in "Manufacturing Consent."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this intriguing phase of intellectual history is what is considered just fine and irreproachable. Thus parts of our article are never criticized: specifically, our observation (relying on data from Hildebrand and Porter, the only source with any documentation) that US atrocities had been much exaggerated (namely, Ponchaud's misreading of the casualty figures for US bombing). That's fine. It's right to be scrupulous about US crimes. Furthermore, it's quite OK to say that Cambodia was a "gentle land" during the "first phase of the genocide," when the US was responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people and for driving over a million refugees to Phnom Penh -- or before, throughout its bloody history. Rather, it's a crime to point out that this is an utterly outrageous lie. There's nothing wrong with concocting a Khmer Rouge "boast" of having killed 2 million people (which then becomes standard) on the basis of Ponchaud's claim that the US killed 800,000 and that the US Embassy in Bangkok attributed 1.2 million dead to the Khmer Rouge (which the Embassy flatly denied). That's just fine; it's exposing this outlandish lie that is a crime. Same with the conscious use of fabricated photographs, etc.

The lesson is quite clear. It is our DUTY to lie in truly Stalinist style in service of the state, and to throw hysterical tantrums when someone suggests that we might try to tell the truth. That conclusion is clear as day, and quite interesting.

As noted, if you really want me to, I'll find the time to go through the rest, but you can readily determine that it's like the first example, often sillier.

Noam Chomsky