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Thread: "Civilization" vs. "Barbarism" - An Interview with Noam Chomsky

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    "Civilization" vs. "Barbarism" - An Interview with Noam Chomsky

    December 27, 2004

    "Civilization" vs. "Barbarism"
    An Interview with Noam Chomsky

    On December 17th I met with Professor Noam Chomsky at his MIT office to get his thoughts on the ideological justifications and historical realities behind America's "war on terror." Professor Chomsky spent a half-hour taking apart the framework of "civilization" versus "barbarism," pointing to Western and particularly US state-sponsored atrocities, laying out the grave nature of war crimes committed in Iraq, attacking the intellectual culture which sanctions massive suffering, and explaining the elite's knowledge of the roots of terrorism. The transcript follows below.

    Transcribed by the interviewer and slightly edited for clarification by Professor Chomsky

    (double-hyphen "-"indicates a couple words not picked up)

    Alam: Professor Chomsky, thank you for doing this interview with Left Hook.

    In the time we have, I wanted to discuss with you the consequences and implications of America's current war stance, how some of its programs or objectives might be interrelated.

    The first thing I wanted to bring up is, it seems that the general ideological picture painted for us by the administration and conservative outlets is that the overall so-called war on terror is about the "civilized" world combating "barbarism," a position Business Week recently voiced. In what ways do you think is * in what ways do you think this is historically or politically inaccurate, in terms of the scale and intensity of the crimes committed by ourselves versus the "barbarians," presumably Islamists and nationalists in Iraq and Palestine?

    Chomsky: Well, it doesn't even come close. I mean, the level of destruction and terror and violence carried out by the powerful states far exceeds anything that can imaginably can be done by groups that are called terrorists and subnational groups.

    I mean just take, say, Iraq. The best current estimate of deaths after the invasion is 100,000 maybe more, maybe less. Take a long time for Islamic terrorists to kill 100,000 people. Take say, the most extensive terrorist act attributed to Islamic terrorists,
    9-11. About 3,000 people killed, which is a pretty horrible atrocity. But as atrocities go, it doesn't rank very high.

    Take for example, what south of the Rio Grande is often called the other 9-11. September 11th, 1973, in which the United States was very heavily involved -- that's the bombing of the presidential palace, the military coup, the death of the president, the destruction of the leading democracy, the oldest democracy, in Latin America. The official death toll for that 9-11 is * the official death toll is over 3,000, but that's just the bodies they can actually count. The estimated toll is probably twice that. If you give that number in comparative terms, comparative population terms, that'd be the equivalent of about 50 to 100,000 people killed in the United States. We've just learned recently the detailed numbers of people tortured -- it's 30,000, that's 700,000 in the United States, thousands of cases of rapes and other abuse, and many people just lost, disappeared, who knows what happened to them.

    It also set up international terrorist operations, under the rubric of what was called Operation Condor, which brought together similar state terrorist organizations in
    neighboring countries which the US also had a major role in establishing...The US intelligence compared DINA, the Chilean state terror organization, compared them to the Gestapo and KGB. They didn't fool around, and that's the way they were viewed by the United States while the US was supporting them, and Britain was supporting them enthusiastically, and so on. In fact their international terror activities only stopped when they went one step too far. They murdered a well-known diplomat in Washington DC, and that's not allowed, so they were sort of called off and stayed pretty brutal, but not that bad.

    Well that's one event * September 11th, 1973. Happens to be one in which the US was only indirectly involved. If we take those which the US carried out itself, then the scale isuncountable. I mean, take the one case where the US was indeed condemned for international terrorism and ordered to terminate the crime, namely the attack on Nicaragua, which went to the World Court. The World Court had to take a very narrow case, because the US had excluded itself from all international treaties. So the US cannot be brought to the World Court for major crimes, for example the supreme international crime, invasion, or violation of the UN Charter, or violation of the Genocide Convention, these are things the US is exempt from, because they exempted themselves from being subjected to international treaties in World Court proceedings.

    So the World Court had to deal with Nicaragua case on extremely narrow grounds, just bilateral Nicaragua-US treaties, and customary international law. Nevertheless the Court condemned the US for what it called unlawful use of force, gave a pretty broad judgment, well beyond the actual terms of the case, ordered the US to terminate the crimes, pay substantial reparations. The US ignored the ruling, vetoed two Security Council resolutions affirming it, and went on with the war.

    The end result was, again in per capita terms, about the equivalent of 2.5 million people being killed in the United States. More than the number of deaths in all wars including the Civil War in US history, destroyed the country, it's now the second poorest
    country in the hemisphere. After the US took it over again in 1990, it went downhill further -- by now, it's estimated that over half the children under 2 are suffering from severe malnutrition, I mean, probable brain damage.

    In the early 80's, when the US started the war, Nicaragua was being praised by international organizations, even international banks, for its substantial progress, won prizes for improvement, UNICEF prizes for * awards for improvement in child health and development. Now it's quite the opposite.

    I mean this is a single incident, so it totally outweighs all terrorist activities you can attribute to anyone else, but it's not even worth discussing.

    And that's only one, I'm not even talking about the major wars like say, Vietnam, which was straight aggression, can't call it terror, with, who knows, four million people or so killed, and people still dying from the effects of massive chemical warfare started by Kennedy. And that's just the United States. Take a look at other states, they're not as powerful as the US, but their violence is extraordinary * France in Africa, the British in Kenya and elsewhere, justfar beyond the scale of any terrorist activity.

    Alam: So, so much for the framework of "civilization" versus "barbarism."

    Chomsky: No, it's absurd, I mean look, let's just take * what's the worst atrocity since the Mongol invasions? You know, it's what happened in Germanyin the late 30's - 40's primarily. Germany was the peak of Western civilization. It was the most advanced society in the Western world, in the sciences, in the arts, in literature, the stellar example of Western civilization. In fact up until the first World War, when people turned anti-German, Germany had been described by American political scientists as the model of democracy. That's the peak of Western civilization * yeah, it's the worst barbarism since the Mongol invasion. What kind of correlations can one make?

    Alam: It's interesting to note that * you mentioned a little bit the 100,000 casualties * it's interesting to note that while much media attention here is focused on the sensationalistic and gruesome beheadings of perhaps a few dozen foreigners in Iraq, the same media is more or less silent about the Lancet report * Lancet being the British medical journal * that said about 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, mostly by US bombing, and also missing in the media is talk about the Iraqi children's malnutrition rates which have apparently doubled.

    Chomsky: They're worse than - at the level of Burundi * they're worse than
    Uganda and Haiti * and that's since the war.

    Alam: That actually reminded me of-

    Chomsky: In fact the way the media treated this Lancet report is kind of interesting. I mean it was mentioned * it's not that you couldn't find it. But it was either ignored or downplayed. The standard reaction to it was well, that it was just a sample.

    Alam: Exactly

    Chomsky: How do you know it was accurate, and maybe the number was smaller * and they [Lancet] actually did give a spread, which was 8,000 to 200,000, which is *

    Alam: Excluding Fallujah, too.

    Chomsky: Well, let's look at how they did it. The highest probability estimate was around 100,000. The immediate reaction has been well, maybe it's much lower. Yeah, maybe it's much lower * maybe it's much higher. In fact they did it very conservatively. They excluded Fallujah because that would have raised the estimate, the extrapolated estimate, they included the Kurdish areas, no fighting there, which would reduce the extrapolated estimate, and in general they did a careful and rather conservative analysis.

    But it's either been ignored or the silly claim has been made that, well it's only an estimate, so maybe it's too high * true, it's only an estimate, so maybe it's too low. In fact that's the way every study is done of estimated casualties or health studies and so on. But whatever it is, whether it's 50,000 or 150,000, or whatever the number might be, it's obviously a major atrocity.

    And in fact, it's not exactly correct that the media haven't reported the war crimes. They often report them and celebrate them. So take for example the invasion of Fallujah, which is one of the * it's a major war crime, it's very similar to the Russian destruction of Grozny 10 years earlier, a city of approximately the same size, bombed to rubble, people driven out.

    Alam: They herded all the males, I think, they didn't let them escape the corridor.

    Chomsky: Which incidentally is very much like Srebrenica * which is universally condemned as genocide -- Srebrenica was an enclave, lightly protected by UN forces, which was being used as a base for attacking nearby Serb villages. It was known that there's going to be retaliation. When there was a retaliation, it was vicious. They trucked out all the women and children, they kept the men inside, and apparently slaughtered them. The estimates are thousands of people slaughtered.

    Well, with Fallujah, the US didn't truck out the women and children, it bombed them out. There was about a month of bombing, bombed out of the city, if they could get out somehow, a couple hundred thousand people fled, or somehow got out, and as you say men were kept in and we don't know what happened after that, we don't estimate [the casualties for which we are responsible].

    But what was dramatic about Fallujah was that it was not kept secret. So you could see on the front page of the New York Times, a big picture of the first majorstep in the offensive, namely the capture of the Fallujah general hospital. And there's a picture of people lying on the ground, soldier guarding them, and then there's a story that tells that patients and doctors were taken from * patients were taken from their beds, patients and doctors were forced to lie on the floor and manacled, under guard, and the picture described it.

    -- The president of the United States is subject to death penalty under US law for that crime - alone. I mean that's a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, Geneva Conventions say explicitly and unambiguously that hospitals must be protected, hospitals and medical staff and patients must be protected by all combatants in any conflict. You couldn't have a more grave breach of the Geneva Conventions than that.

    There's a War Crimes Act in the United States passed by a Republican Congress in 1996, which says that grave breaches of the Geneva Convention are subject to the death penalty. And that doesn't mean the soldier that committed them, that means the commanders. They weren't thinking about the United States of course, but take it literally, that's what it means.

    And then they went onto explain why they carried out this war crime in the general hospital. New York Times explained calmly that it was done because the US command described the Fallujah general hospital as a propaganda outlet for the guerrillas because they were reporting casualties. I -- don't know if the Nazis produced things like that. Of course the Times said it was "inflated" casualties - how do we know it was inflated?

    Alam: We don't even count'em.

    Chomsky: Well our Dear Leader said it was inflated, so that means that since we're like North Korea, it has to be inflated. But suppose it was. I mean the idea of carrying out a major war crime, explicit, because the hospital was a propaganda weapon by distributing casualty figures, I mean you really have to work to find an analog to that.

    And then it went on, destroying the whole city. Finally they end up saying well the Marines are going to face a serious challenge of regaining the confidence of the people of Fallujah after having destroyed their city. Yeah, it's going to be a pretty serious challenge. It's also described how they're going to do it * by instituting a police state.

    Alam: Right.

    Chomsky: Nobody will be allowed into Fallujah until they undergo retinal scans and fingerprinting and they're going to be marked and identified, do everything except put chips in them, maybe they'll get to that next time, organize them into work gangs, in which they'll be compelled under the order to rebuild what the US has destroyed. Try and find a counterpart to that. And that's just <i>one</i> war crime, one part of the general atrocities.

    In fact, you could argue that it's insignificant. By the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which the US initiated and carried out, it concluded that the supreme international crime is invasion, aggression, and that supreme crime includes within it all the evil that follows. So therefore the doubling of malnutrition rates, the maybe 100,000 casualties, the grave war crimes in Fallujah, they're all footnotes, they're footnotes to the supreme international crime.

    And that crime is taken pretty seriously. In Nuremberg they did not try soldiers, and they didn't try company commanders, they tried the * the people who were on trial and hanged - were the top command. Like the German Foreign Minister was hanged. Because of participation in the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Do we hear anything about that?

    Alam: Right.

    Chomsky: But you can't say it's concealed. What I've just talked about is all quoted from the front pages. Which is even more astonishing. Actually, you know, that, however awful it is, it's a big improvement over the past. I mean <i>much</i> worse than this was happening in Vietnam and there wasn't even any concern. It's hard to say the words, but there's been a lot of progress since then. I mean now at least many people find it appalling. It went on in Vietnam at a much higher level for <i>years</i>, literally years, and there was no protest at all. I mean the war in Vietnam started in 1962, was really a war against South Vietnam. Kennedy launched it in 1962, was very brutal from the start. Bombing, chemical warfare, to destroy crops and cover to undercut support for indigenous guerrillas -- driving millions of people into what amounted to concentration camps, or urban slums.

    By the time protests developed, 1966 or 67, South Vietnam had virtually been destroyed. I mean the leading and most respected rather hawkish military analyst on Vietnam,
    [the Indochina] specialist Bernard Fall, by 1966 and 67, was writing he wondered whether Vietnam as a historic and cultural entity would escape extinction, under the heaviest attack that had ever been suffered by an area that size. Well, [for]
    years there was almost no protest. Bad now, but a lot of improvement in the last 33 years.

    Alam: This brings to mind actually, for me anyway, a quote, from Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee, maybe you could find something in it to comment on, he wrote * of the French Revolution I think he was speaking of :

    "There were two 'Reigns of Terror' if we would remember it and consider it; the one wrought in hot passion, the other in heartless cold bloodour shudders are all for the 'horrors' of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak, whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror, that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror, which none of us have been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."

    Do you think one of the functions of the mainstream media in either not really allowing the * allowing for the vastness or the pity of the crimes that are deserved to be seen or really experienced * is that simply reflecting the prejudices and racism of American society, or is it actually creating the prejudices of American society?

    Chomsky: The media are, in this respect, just part of the general intellectual culture, which includes all of us, including you and me. I mean, we don't see, we prefer not to see the horrible crimes that are going on all the time, which we could do something about easily. So take say, we just passed the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda massacres, which were pretty horrible, maybe 8,000 people killed a day for a 100 days. Pretty awful massacre. And there's a lot of wringing of hands and lamentations about how we didn't do anything about it, we didn't intervene, we didn't send military forces, and so on, wasn't that terrible. Well yeah, it was pretty terrible, but let's take a look at today.

    Right now, about the same number of people, about 8,000 people, about 8,000 children in fact, are dying in southern Africa every day from easily treatable diseases. We add hunger, it's going to go way up, let's keep to easily treatable diseases. That's Rwanda-level killing among children only, in southern Africa, not for 100 days, but every day. There's a very easy way to deal with it, namely bribe pharmaceutical corporations to provide them with drugs and the limited infrastructure that's required. [But almost no one is] talking about it. I mean that's far worse than Rwanda.

    Furthermore if we go a step further and ask ourselves * speaking of barbarism * what kind of society do we live in where the only way we can think of preventing Rwanda-level killing among children everyday is by bribing private tyrannies to do something about it. I mean that itself is beyond barbarism.

    But we accept that, we don't think about it, we prefer not to think about it. It's not that we worry about small crimes rather than big ones, it's that attention is focused on anything that's done against us. What we do to others just doesn't matter. And it's not specific to the United States, it's quite general. It's an unfortunate part of dominant cultures and powerful societies.

    Alam: With all the grandiose rhetoric about "barbarism," it's also interesting to note that the Pentagon's own Defense Science Board, composed of top military commanders and intelligence figures, issued a report about two months ago declaring that resentment in the Islamic world is mainly due to US support for Israel and US support for Arab dictatorships, and not about an inner hatred or hatred of Western values themselves. But if the top people in the Pentagon and the military understand this, then why is there such a large disconnect in what they themselves concede and what they say * I mean what are the strategic imperatives that are so great that they are willing to incur the wrath?

    Chomsky: That was an interesting report [interruption, door is opened, background noise continues from here on] * this Pentagon report which was sort of interesting, is virtually a repetition, almost a verbatim repetition of a report by the NSC in 1958 when President Eisenhower raised the question with his staff, why there is a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world, and not among governments but from the people. That's Eisenhower, 1958, why is there a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. An answer was given in an analysis by the National Security Council in 1958: it's because there's a perception in the Arab that the United States supports brutal and repressive regimes and blocks democracy and development, and we do it because we want to get control of oil and resources * their oil. That's 1958. And they went on to say, yes the perception's accurate, and we're going to continue doing it. That's been perfectly well known for years that that was the case.

    It's exacerbated further by specific policies. Right after 9-11, as far as I know one newspaper in the United States had the integrity to investigate opinion in the Muslim world, the Wall Street Journal. They kept to the people they cared about, what they called moneyed Muslims, managers of multinational corporations, international lawyers, you know * their type of people * so there's no concern about globalization or anything else, they're part of the US-run system. But they had the same results they had as in 1958, as the Pentagon just reported. They hate and fear bin Laden, who's trying to destroy them, but nevertheless they express understanding for the position that he articulates, and they hate US policy, because it supports brutal and oppressive regimes, blocks democracy and development, because of the support for Israeli aggression and atrocities at that time, because of the Iraq sanctions, which were killing hundreds of thousands of people, devastating society, and caused enormous anger.

    The Pentagon report is just repeating what anybody knew who had their eyes open. The fact that it was regarded as a surprise in the United States just shows how much intellectuals prefer to keep their eyes closed. What they said is correct, furthermore you can read it - it's articulated almost the same way in 1958, it's found in every study since. Furthermore you can find it any book on terrorism * any serious book on terrorism, not just anyone ranting and screaming * but someone taking it seriously, say, Jason Burke's study of al-Qaeda, which is the best one around, or just about anyone you pick.

    They don't hate our freedom, you know, what they hate is US policies, and for good reason, because those policies have been crushing them for years. So yeah, they hate the policies. Pentagon just discovered * re-discovered * what everybody with eyes open already knew, and these 1958 reports have been declassified for about 15 years, I was writing about them in 1990. Just better not to * it's easier to just stand on a pedestal and scream about Islamic fascism and how it's trying to destroy us. It doesn't require thinking about the policies and doing something about them.

    Furthermore that's true of what's called terrorism in general * I mean, it doesn't come out of nowhere. Take say the IRA * which the US was pretty much supporting, it was being funded * IRA terrorism, which was pretty serious * was being funded from the United States including church collections, FBI knew about it, wouldn't do anything about it. It was pretty awful, but it was not without reasons, it did draw on a reservoir of sympathy among the population, who understood the grievances that they were talking about were real...In fact when the British finally responded not by greater violence, but by paying some attention to the grievances, it led to significant improvements. In fact, big improvements. Of course, Belfast is not heaven, but it's enormously improved over what it was ten years ago.

    And that's generally the case. And furthermore every serious specialist on terrorism knows it. You take a look at say, Israeli intelligence, I mean the former heads of this Shin Bet have spoken about this - the current ones can't but the former ones have - the former heads of military intelligence, and they all said the same thing: until you treat the Palestinians with respect, until you grant them their elementary rights, you're never going to stop terrorism. That's the way to do it * they have grievances, the grievances are real, we're treating them with contempt and humiliation and destruction, we're stealing their land and resources. [There's something like a] near-universal consensus on this, among people who care about the topic.

    [Interruption, another interview beckons]

    Alam: Thank you very much Professor, thank you for your time.

    M. Junaid Alam is co-editor of the radical youth journal Left Hook, where this interview originally appeared. He can be reached at

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    “Failed States" by Noam Chomsky

    31-03-’06: Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, with Juan Gonzalez, interviews Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the foremost critics of U.S. foreign policy. Professor Chomsky (arguably the most important intellectual alive – The New York Times) has just released a new book titled “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”

    The transcript of this interview has been edited for clarity only.

    In his book, Noam Chomsky examines how the United States is beginning to resemble a failed state that cannot protect its citizens from violence and has a government that regards itself as beyond the reach of domestic or international law. Professor Chomsky presents a series of solutions to help rescue the nation from turning into a failed state. They include: Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; Sign the Kyoto protocols on global warming; Let the United Nations take the lead in international crises; Rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; Sharply reduce military spending and sharply increase social spending.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Failed States, what do you mean?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Over the years there have been a series of concepts developed to justify the use of force in international affairs. It was possible to justify it on the pretext, which usually turned out to have very little substance, that the U.S. was defending itself against the communist menace. By the 1980s, that was wearing pretty thin. The Reagan administration concocted a new category: terrorist states. They declared a war on terror as soon as they entered office in the early 1980s, 1981. ‘We have to defend ourselves from the plague of the modern age, the return to barbarism, the evil scourge of terrorism,’ and so on, and particularly state-directed international terrorism. In 1994 Clinton devised the concept of rogue states. Then, later on came the failed states, which either threaten our security, like Iraq, or require our intervention in order to save them, like Haiti, often devastating them in the process. In each case, the terms have been pretty hard to sustain, because it’s been difficult to overlook the fact that under any, even the most conservative characterisation of these notions – let’s say by U.S. law – the United States fits fairly well into this category, as has often been recognized. For example, even in the Clinton years leading scholars, Samuel Huntington and others, observed in the major journals, such as Foreign Affairs, that in most of the world the United States is regarded as the leading rogue state and the greatest threat to their existence. Now, in the Bush years, leading specialists of the same journals don’t even report international opinion. They just describe it as a fact that the United States has become a leading rogue state. Surely, it’s a terrorist state under its own definition of international terrorism, not only carrying out violent terrorist acts and supporting them, but even radically violating the so-called Bush Doctrine – that describes a state that harbours terrorists as a terrorist state. Undoubtedly, the U.S. harbours leading international terrorists, people described by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department as leading terrorists, like Orlando Bosch, now Posada Carriles, not to speak of those who actually implement state terrorism. I think the same is true of the category “failed states.” The U.S. increasingly has taken on the characteristics of what we describe as failed states. And also, in another critical respect, namely what is sometimes called a democratic deficit, that is, a substantial gap between public policy and public opinion.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Professor Chomsky, in the early parts of the book, especially on the issue of the one characteristic of a failed state, which is its increasing failure to protect its own citizens, you lay out a pretty comprehensive look at what, especially in the Bush years, the war on terrorism has meant in terms of protecting the American people. You lay out clearly, especially since the war, the invasion of Iraq, that major terrorist action and activity around the world has increased substantially. And also, you talk about the dangers of nuclear weapons being used against the United States. Could you expand on that a little bit?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there has been a very serious threat of nuclear war. Unfortunately, it’s not much discussed by the public. But if you look at the literature of strategic analysts, they’re extremely concerned. They describe particularly the Bush administration’s aggressive militarism as carrying an “appreciable risk of ultimate doom,” to quote one, and “apocalypse soon,” to quote Robert McNamara and many others. There’s good reason for these descriptions. Aggressive militarism has been expanded by the Bush administration consciously, not because they want nuclear war, but it’s just not a high priority concern. So there’s rapid expansion of offensive U.S. military capacity, including the militarisation of space, which is the U.S.’s pursuit alone. The world has been trying very hard to block it. 95% of the expenditures now are from the U.S., and they’re expanding. All of these measures bring about a completely predictable reaction on the part of the likely targets. They don’t say, ‘Thank you. Here are our throats. Please cut them.’ They react in the ways that they can. For some, it will mean responding with the threat or maybe use of terror. For others, more powerful ones, it’s going to mean sharply increasing their own offensive military capacity. So Russian military expenditures have sharply increased in response to Bush programs. Chinese expansion of offensive military capacity is also beginning to increase for the same reasons. All of that raises the already severe threat of accidental nuclear war. These systems are on computer-controlled alert. We know that our own systems have many errors, which are stopped by human intervention. Their systems are far less secure; the Russian case, deteriorated. These moves all sharply enhance the threat of nuclear war. That’s serious nuclear war that I’m talking about. There’s also the threat of dirty bombs, small nuclear explosions. Small means not so small, but in comparison with a major attack, which would pretty much exterminate civilized life. The U.S. intelligence community regards the threat of a dirty bomb, say in New York, in the next decade as being probably greater than 50%. And those threats increase as the threat of terror increases. And Bush administration policies have, again, consciously been carried out in a way which they know is likely to increase the threat of terror. The most obvious example is the Iraq invasion. That was undertaken with the anticipation that it would be very likely to increase the threat of terror and also nuclear proliferation. That’s exactly what happened, according to the judgment of the C.I.A., National Intelligence Council, foreign intelligence agencies, independent specialists. They all point out that, yes, as anticipated, it increased the threat of terror. In fact, it did so in ways well beyond what was anticipated. To mention just one, we commonly read that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. Well, it’s not totally accurate. There were means to develop weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and known to be in Iraq. They were under guard by U.N. inspectors, who were dismantling them. When Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest sent in their troops, they neglected to instruct them to guard these sites. The U.N. inspectors were expelled, the sites were left unguarded. The inspectors continued their work by satellite and reported that over a hundred sites had been looted, in fact, systematically looted, not just somebody walking in, but careful looting. That included dangerous biotoxins, means to hide precision equipment to be used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, means to develop chemical weapons, and so on. All of this has disappeared. One hates to imagine where it’s disappeared to, but it could end up in New York.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Professor Chomsky, in your book you also talk about how Iraq has become almost an incubator or a university now for advanced training for terrorists, who then are leaving the country there and going around the world, very much as what happened in the 1980s in Afghanistan. Could you talk about that somewhat?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Actually, these are quotes from the C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence agencies and analysts. Yes, they describe Iraq now as a training ground for highly professionalised terrorists skilled in urban contact. They do compare it to Afghanistan, but say that it’s much more serious, because of the high level of training and skill. These are almost entirely Iraqis. There’s a small number of foreign fighters drawn to Iraq.

    Estimates are maybe 5% to 10%. They are, as in the case of Afghanistan, expected to spread into many parts of the world and to carry out the kinds of terrorism that they’re trained in, as a reaction to the invasion. Iraq was, whatever you thought about it, free from connections to terror prior to the invasion. It’s now a major terror centre. It’s not as President Bush says, that terrorists are being concentrated in Iraq so that we can kill them. These are terrorists who had no previous record of involvement in terrorism. The foreign fighters who have come in, mostly from Saudi Arabia, have been investigated extensively by Saudi and Israeli and U.S. intelligence, and what they conclude is that they were mobilised by the Iraq war, they had no involvement in terrorist actions in the past. Undoubtedly, just as expected, the Iraq war has raised an enormous hostility throughout much of the world, and particularly in the Muslim world. It was probably the most unpopular war in history, even before it was fought. There was virtually no support for it anywhere, except in the U.S. and Britain and in a couple of other places. Since the war itself was perhaps one of the most incredible military catastrophes in history, has caused utter disaster in Iraq – and all of that has since simply intensified the strong opposition to the war. This increases the reservoir of potential support for the terrorists, who regard themselves as a vanguard, attempting to elicit support from others, bring others to join with them. And the Bush administration is their leading ally in this. Not my words, the words of the leading U.S. specialists on terror, Michael Scheuer in this case. And definitely, that’s happened. It’s not the only case. In case after case, the Bush administration has simply downgraded the threat of terror. One example is the report of the 9/11 Commission. Here in the United States, the Bush administration didn’t want the commission to be formed, tried to block it, but it was finally formed. This bipartisan commission gave many recommendations. The recommendations, to a large extent, were not carried out. The commission members, including the chair, were appalled by this, set up their own private commission after their own tenure was completed, and continued to report that the measures are simply not being carried out. There are many other examples. One of the most striking involves the Treasury Department, which has a branch, the Office of Financial Assets Control, which is supposed to monitor suspicious funding transfers around the world. Well, that’s a core element of the so-called war on terror. They’ve given reports to Congress. It turns out that they have a few officials devoted to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, but about six times that many devoted to whether there are any evasions of the totally illegal U.S. embargo against Cuba. There was evidence of that just a few months ago, when the U.S. infuriated energy corporations by ordering a Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City to cancel a meeting between Cuban oil specialists and U.S. oil companies seeking to explore the development of offshore Cuban oil resources. The OFAC ordered the U.S. hotel to expel the Cubans and terminate the meeting. Mexico wasn’t terribly happy about this. It’s an extraordinary arrogance. But it also reveals the hysterical fanaticism relating to the goal of strangling Cuba. And we know why. It’s a free country. We have a rich source of records going way back to the Kennedy-Johnson administrations. They had to carry out a terrorist war against Cuba, as they did, and try to strangle Cuba economically, because of what they called Cuba’s successful defiance of U.S. policies, going back to the Monroe Doctrine. No Russians, but the Monroe Doctrine, 150 years back at that time. And the goal was, as was put very plainly by the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, to make the people of Cuba suffer. They are responsible for the fact that the government is in place. We therefore have to make them suffer and starve, so that they’ll throw out the government. It’s a policy, which is pretty consistent. It’s being applied right now in Palestine. It was applied under the Iraqi sanctions, in Chile, and so on. It’s savage.

    AMY GOODMAN: You mention Israel, Palestine, and I wanted to ask you about this new study that’s come out. A dean at Harvard University and a professor at the University of Chicago are coming under intense criticism for publishing an academic critique of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. The paper charges that the United States has willingly set aside its own security and that of many of its allies, in order to advance the interests of Israel. In addition, the study accuses the pro-Israel lobby, particularly AIPAC, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, of manipulating the U.S. media, policing academia and silencing critics of Israel by labeling them as anti-Semitic. The study also examines the role played by the pro-Israel neo-conservatives in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The authors are Stephen Walt, a dean at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. They, themselves, are now being accused of anti-Semitism. In Washington, a Democratic congressman, Eliot Engle of New York, described the professors as dishonest so called intellectuals and anti-Semites. The Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse, called for the paper to be withdrawn.

    Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz, described the study as trash that could have been written by neo-Nazi David Duke. The New York Sun reported Harvard has received several calls from pro-Israel donors, expressing concern about the paper, and Harvard has already taken steps to distance itself from the report. Last week, it removed the logo of the Kennedy School of Government from the paper and added a new disclaimer to the study. The report is 81 pages. It was originally published on Harvard’s website and an edited version appeared in the London Review of Books. The controversy comes less than a year after Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz attempted to block the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Now, this goes into a lot of issues: the content of the study, what you think of it, the response to it and also the whole critique. In this country, what happens to those who criticize the policies of the state of Israel?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the answer to your last question is well described in Norman Finkelstein’s quite outstanding book and also in the record of Dershowitz’s attempts to prevent its publication. Some of the documents were just published in the Journal of Palestine Studies. Finkelstein’s book gives an extensive detailed account, the best one we have, of a frightening record of Israeli crimes and abuses, where he relies on the most respectable sources, the major human rights organizations, Israeli human rights organizations and others, and demonstrates conclusively that Alan Dershowitz’s defence of these atrocities, based on no evidence at all, is outrageous and grotesque. Nevertheless, Finkelstein comes under tremendous attack for being anti-Semitic, and so on. Now that’s pretty normal. It goes back, I suppose, to the distinguished diplomat, Abba Eban – it must be thirty years ago – who wrote in an American Jewish journal that “the task of Zionists,” he said, “is to show that all political anti-Zionism” – that means criticism of the policies of the state of Israel – “is either anti-Semitism or Jewish selfhatred.” Well, okay, that excludes all possible criticism, by definition. As examples of neurotic Jewish selfhatred, I should declare an interest. He mentioned two people. I was one; the other was Izzy Stone. Once you release the torrent of abuse, you don’t need arguments and evidence, you can just scream. And Professors Walt and Mearsheimer deserve credit for publishing a study, which they knew was going to elicit the usual streams of abuse and hysteria from supporters of Israeli crimes and violence. However, we should recognize that this is pretty uniform. Try to say a sane and uncontroversial word about any other issue dear to the hearts of the intellectual elite that they’ve turned into holy writ, and you get the same reaction. So – and there’s no lobby, which does raise one of a few minor points that raises questions about the validity of the critique. It’s a serious, careful piece of work. It deserves to be read. They deserve credit for writing it. But it still leaves open the question of how valid the analysis is, and I notice that there’s a pretty subtle question involved. Everyone agrees, on all sides, that there are a number of factors that enter into determining U.S. foreign policy.

    One is strategic and economic interests of the major power centres within the United States. In the case of the Middle East, that means the energy corporations, arms producers, high-tech industry, financial institutions and others. Now, these are not marginal institutions, particularly in the Bush administration. So one question is to
    what extent does policy reflect their interests. Another question is to what extent is it influenced by domestic lobbies. And there are other factors. But just these two alone are found in most cases, and trying to sort out their influence is not so simple. In particular, it’s not simple when their interests tend to coincide, and by and large, there’s a high degree of conformity. If you look over the record, what’s called the national interest, meaning the special interests of those in whose hands power is concentrated, the national interest, in that sense, tends to conform to the interests of the lobbies. So in those cases, it’s pretty hard to disentangle them. The thesis of the book is that the lobbies have overwhelming influence, and the so-called “national interest” is harmed by what they do. If that were the case, it would be, I would think, a very hopeful conclusion.

    It would mean that U.S. policy could easily be reversed. It would simply be necessary to explain to the major centres of power, like the energy corporations, high-tech industry and arms producers and so on, that their interests are being harmed by this small lobby that screams anti-Semitism and funds congressmen. Surely those institutions can utterly overwhelm the lobby in political influence, in finance, and so on, so that ought to reverse the policy. Well, it doesn’t happen, and there are a number of reasons for it. For one thing, there’s an underlying assumption that the so-called national interest has been harmed by these policies. Well, you know, you really have to demonstrate that. So who’s been harmed? Have the energy corporations been harmed by U.S. policy in the Middle East over the last 60 years? I mean, they’re making profits beyond the dream of avarice, as the main government investigation of them reported. Even more today – that was a couple years ago. The main concern of the U.S. has been to control what the State Department 60 years ago called “a stupendous source of strategic power,” Middle East oil. Yeah, they’ve controlled it. The invasion of Iraq was an attempt to intensify that control. It may not do it. It may have the opposite effect, but that’s a separate question. It was the intent, clearly. There have been plenty of barriers. The major barrier is the one that is the usual one throughout the world: independent nationalism. It’s called “radical nationalism,” which was serious. It was symbolized by Nasser, but also Kassem in Iraq, and others. Well, the U.S. did succeed in overcoming that barrier. How? Israel destroyed Nasser. That was a tremendous service to the United States, to U.S. power, that is, to the energy corporations, to Saudi Arabia, to the main centres of power here – and it was after that victory in 1967 that U.S.-Israeli relations really solidified, became what’s called a “strategic asset.” It’s also then that the lobby gained its force. It’s also then, incidentally, that the educated classes, the intellectual political class, entered into an astonishing love affair with Israel, after its demonstration of tremendous power against a third-world enemy, and in fact, that’s a very critical component of what’s called the lobby. Walt and Mearsheimer mention it, but I think it should be emphasized. And they are very influential. They determine, certainly influence, the shaping of news and information in journals, media, scholarship, and so on. My own feeling is they’re probably the most influential part of the lobby. Now, we sort of have to ask, what’s the difference between the lobby and the power centres of the country?

    But the barriers were overcome. Israel has performed many other services to the United States. You can run through the record. It’s also performed secondary services. So in the 1980s, particularly, Congress was imposing barriers to the Reagan administration’s support for, and carrying out, major terrorist atrocities in Central America. Israel helped evade congressional restrictions by carrying out training, and so on, itself. The Congress blocked U.S. trade with South Africa. Israel helped evade the embargo to both the racist regimes of Southern Africa, and there have been many other cases. By now, Israel is virtually an offshore U.S. military base and high-tech centre in the Middle East.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Professor Chomsky, in your book you have a fascinating section, where you talk about the historical basis of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, and also its relationship to empire or to the building of a U.S. empire. And you go back, you mention a historian, John Lewis Gaddis, who the Bush administration loves, because he’s actually tried to find the historical rationalisation for this use, going back to John Quincy Adams and as Secretary of State in the invasion by General Andrew Jackson of Florida in the Seminole Wars, and how this actually is a record of the use of this idea to continue the expansionist aims of the United States around the world.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s a very interesting case, actually. John Lewis Gaddis is not only the favourite historian of the Bush administration, but he’s regarded as the leading figure in the American Cold War scholarship, a professor at Yale. He wrote the one book-length investigation into the roots of the Bush Doctrine. He traces it back to his hero, the great grand strategist, John Quincy Adams, who wrote a series of famous state papers back in 1818, in which he gave post facto justification to Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida. Gaddis is a good historian. He knows the cites, all the right sources. But he doesn’t tell you what they say. So what I did in the book is just add what they say, what he omitted. Well, what they describe is a shocking record of atrocities and crimes carried out against what were called runaway Negroes and lawless Indians; devastated the Seminoles. There was another major Seminole war later; either exterminated them or drove them into the marshes, completely unprovoked. There were fabricated pretexts. Gaddis talks about the threat of England. There was no threat from England. England didn’t do a thing. In fact, even Adams didn’t claim that. But it was Gaddis who established the thesis that expansion is the best guarantee of security. So you want to be secure, just expand, conquer more. Then you’ll be secure.

    And he says, yes, expansionism goes right through all American administrations – he’s correct about that – and it is the centrepiece of the Bush Doctrine. So he says the Bush Doctrine isn’t all that new. Expansion is the key to security. So we just expand and expand, and then we become more secure. Well, you know, he doesn’t mention the obvious precedents that come to mind, so I’ll leave them out, but you can think of them.

    And there’s some truth to that, except for what he ignores and, in fact, denies, namely the huge atrocities that are recorded in the various sources, scholarly sources that he cites, which also point out that Adams, by giving this justification for Jackson’s war – he was alone in the administration to do it, but he managed to convince the President – he established the doctrine of executive wars without congressional authorisation, in violation of the Constitution. Adams later recognised that and was sorry for it, very sorry, but that established it and, yes, that’s been consistent ever since then: executive wars without congressional authorisation. We know of case after case. It doesn’t seem to bother the so-called originalists who talk about original intent. The scholarship that Gaddis cites but doesn’t quote also points out that Adams established other principles that are consistent from then until now, namely massive lying to the public, distortion, evoking hysterical fears, all kinds of deceitful efforts to mobilise the population in support of atrocities. And yes, that continues right up to the present, as well. So there’s a very interesting historical record. What it shows is almost the opposite of what Gaddis claims. And it’s right out of the very sources that he refers to, the right sources, the right scholarship. He simply ignores them.

    AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to ask you a question. As many people know, you’re perhaps one of the most cited sources or analysists in the world. And I thought this was an interesting reference to these citations. This was earlier this month on the program Tim Russert, Meet the Press, questioning the head of the
    Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.

    TIM RUSSERT: Mr. Jaafari said that one of his favourite American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky, someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush administration foreign policy. Does that concern you?

    GEN. PETER PACE: I hope he has more than one book on his nightstand.

    TIM RUSSERT: So it troubles you?

    GEN. PETER PACE: I would be concerned if the only access to foreign ideas that the Prime Minister had was that one author. If, in fact, that’s one of many, and he’s digesting many different opinions, that’s probably healthy.

    AMY GOODMAN: That’s General Peter Pace, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, being questioned by Tim Russert, talking about Jaafari, who at this very moment is struggling to hold on to his position as prime minister of Iraq. Your response, Noam Chomsky?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I, frankly, rather doubt that General Pace recognized my name or knew what Tim Russert was referring to, but maybe he did. The quote from Tim Russert, if I recall, was that this was a book that was highly critical of the Iraq war. Well, that shouldn’t surprise a prime minister of Iraq. After all, according to U.S. polls, the latest ones I’ve seen reported. Brookings Institution came up with 87%. That’s 87% of Iraqis want a timetable for withdrawal. That’s an astonishing figure. If it really is all Iraqis, as was asserted. That means virtually everyone in Arab Iraq; the areas where the troops are deployed. I, frankly, doubt that you could have found figures like that in Vichy, France, or, you know, in Poland, when it was a Russian satellite. What it means essentially is that virtually everyone wants a timetable for withdrawal. So, would it be surprising that a prime minister would read a book that’s critical of the war and says the same thing? It’s interesting that Bush and Blair, who are constantly preaching about their love of democracy, declare that there will be no timetable for withdrawal. Well, that part probably reflects the contempt for democracy that both of them have continually demonstrated, them and their colleagues, virtually without exception. But there are deeper reasons, and we ought to think about them. If we’re talking about exit strategies from Iraq, we should bear in mind that for the U.S. to leave Iraq without establishing a subordinate client state would be a nightmare for Washington. All you have to do is think of the policies that an independent Iraq would be likely to pursue, if it was mildly democratic. It would almost surely strengthen its already developed relations with Shiite Iran right next door. Any degree of Iraqi autonomy stimulates autonomy pressures across the border in Saudi Arabia, where there’s a substantial Shiite population, who have been bitterly repressed by the U.S.- backed tyranny but is now calling for more autonomy. That happens to be where most of Saudi oil is.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: I would like to ask you, in terms of this whole issue of democracy: in your book you talk about the democracy deficit. Obviously, the Bush administration is having all kinds of problems with their model of democracy around the world, given the election results in the Palestinian territories, the situation now in Iraq – where the President is trying to force out the Prime Minister of the winning coalition there – in Venezuela, even in Iran. What is your concept of the democracy deficit, and why is this administration able to hold on in the United States itself?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there are two aspects of that. One is, the democracy deficit internal to the United States, that is, the enormous and growing gap between public opinion and public policy. Second is their so-called democracy-promotion mission elsewhere in the world. The latter is just pure fraud. The only evidence that they’re interested in promoting democracy is that they say so. The evidence against it is just overwhelming, including the cases you mentioned and many others. I mean, the very fact that people are even willing to talk about this shows that we’re kind of insisting on being North Koreans: if the Dear Leader has spoken, that establishes the truth; it doesn’t matter what the facts are. I go into that in some detail in the book.
    The democracy deficit at home is another matter. The Bush administration has an extremely narrow hold on political power. Its policies are strongly opposed by most of the population. How do they carry this off? Well, that’s been through an intriguing mixture of deceit, lying, fabrication, public relations.

    There’s actually a pretty good study of it by two good political scientists, Hacker and earson, who just run through the tactics and how it works. And they [the Bush Admin.] have barely managed to hold on to political power and are attempting to use it to dismantle the institutional structure that has been built up over many years with enormous popular support – the limited benefits system; they’re trying to dismantle Social Security and are actually making progress on that; to the tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the rich, are purposely creating a future situation, first of all, a kind of fiscal train wreck in the future, but also a situation in which it will be virtually impossible to carry out the kinds of social policies that the public overwhelmingly supports.

    To manage to carry this off has been an impressive feat of manipulation, deceit, lying, and so on. No time to talk about it here, but actually my book gives a pretty good ccount. I do discuss it in the book. That’s a democratic deficit at home and an extremely serious one. The problems of nuclear war, environmental disaster, those are issues of survival, the top issues and the highest priority for anyone sensible. Third issue is that the U.S. government is enhancing those threats. And a fourth issue is that the U.S. population is opposed, but is excluded from the political system. That’s a democratic deficit. It’s one we can deal with, too.

    Along with his linguistics work, Noam Chomsky is also widely known for his political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments. Chomsky describes himself as a libertarian socialist, a sympathizer of anarcho-syndicalism (he is a member of the IWW), and is often considered to be a key intellectual figure within the left wing of American politics. According to the Arts and Humanities

    Source: The freebooter's Newsletter -

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    Chomsky's politics

    I think his political isn't that strong to worked out.While reading some of his works and interviews, its gives me some sort idea that he has a theory which is ''Anarchism as a process'' howerver there're inviduals want less State system or perhaps certain inviduals wants to live outside of their soceity, Big time mystery.

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    Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy - Noam Chomsky.

    This interview comes from Open Source with Christopher Lydon, a weekly program about arts, ideas and politics. Listen to rest of the conversation with Chomsky here:

    Himmler said "Every German has his good jew."

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