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 Sunday, June 15, 2003

  What's Happening ? - Interview with Noam Chomsky

" ... And what they want to do is turn the country (United States) almost completely into a passive undemocratic society, controlled totally by high concentration of capitals.. (they) are statist reactionaries.. There is a kind of quasi-fascist spirit there, in the background, and they have been attempting to undermine civil rights in many ways

Bush´s campaign manager, Karl Rove pointed out if we can make the primary issue national security then we will be able win because people will flock to power if they feel frightened... And Rove also pointed out that something similar would be needed for the presidential election..

To control the oil has been a leading principle of US foreign policies since the Second World War"....

The US had continued to support the more extremist positions within Israel. ..(Its) hypocritical of the United States (as) it continues to provide the military, and economic, and diplomatic support for more (Israeli)settlements, but the official position has been opposed to it. Now the official position is in favor of it."

--- Noam Chomsky (June 14, 2003)

Prof. Noam Chomsky was interviewed by Atilio Boron on 14th June 2003.

Noam Chomsky, "the man once called the most important intellectual alive , for the last 30 years, has been one of the most prolific, radical, and contrary political commentators in the United States. Adherents of his school of political thought number at least as many as do the apprentices of his linguistic theory; a half-dozen Chomsky Web sites dot the Internet, featuring his latest lectures and essays on politics and society." Profile of Chomsky (1995)

Read HERE full transcript of the interview "What's Happening in Iraq" with Prof. Chomsky

Attilio Boron is Executive Secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Here is an excerpt of the interview with Atilio Boron

Atilio A. Boron: Looking at the recent US policies in Iraq, what do you think was the real goal behind this war?

Noam Chomsky:
The reasons we are given can't possibly be the reasons..... When people give you contradictory reasons every time they speak, all they are saying is: "don't believe a word I say." So we can dismiss the official reasons... On the other hand it doesn't explain the timing.

And the actual reasons I think are not very obscure. First of all, there´s a long standing interest. And that is that Iraq has the second large oil reserves in the World and controlling Iraqi oil and even ending up probably with military bases in Iraq will place the United States in an extremely strong position to dominate the global energy system even more than it does today. And the US probably doesn't intend to access the oil of Iraq... But to control the oil has been a leading principle of US foreign policies since the Second World War, and Iraq is particularly significant in this respect. So that's a long standing interest. On the other hand it doesn't explain the timing.

If you want to look at the timing, it became quite clear that the massive propaganda for the war began in September of last year, September 2002. Well, two important things happened. One was the opening of the mid term congressional campaign, and the Bush´s campaign manager, Karl Rove, was very clearly explaining what should be obvious to anybody anyway: that they could not possible enter the campaign with a focus on social and economic issues. As he pointed out, if we can make the primary issue national security then we will be able win because people will flock to power if they feel frightened. And that is second nature to these people; that's the way they have ran the country – right through the 1980´s – with very unpopular domestic programs but accustomed to press into the panic button – Nicaragua, Grenada, crime, one thing after another. And Rove also pointed out that something similar would be needed for the presidential election.

And what they want do is... to institutionalize the very regressive program put forward domestically... and turn the country almost completely into a passive undemocratic society, controlled totally by high concentration of capitals.... .

After the government-media propaganda campaign began in September they succeeded in convincing a majority of the population very quickly that Iraq was an imminent threat to the security of the United States, and even that Iraq was responsible for September 11th. I mean, there is not a grain of truth in all that. If people think they are threatened with destruction by an enemy who´s already attacked them it is likely that they'll go to war.

In September the government announced the national security strategy. It is quite new as a formulation of state policy. What is stated is that we are tearing the entire system of the international law to shreds, the end of UN charter, and that we are going to carry out an aggressive war – which we will call "preventive" – and at any time we choose and that we will rule the world by force. In addition, we will assure that there is never any challenge to our domination because we are so overwhelmingly powerful in military force that we will simply crush any potential challenge. It is not that things like that haven't been heard in the past. I suspect you will have to go back to Hitler to find an analogy to that.

And we have to choose the right target. The target has to have several properties. First it has to be completely defenseless. No one would attack anybody who might be able to defend themselves. That would be not prudent. Iraq meets that perfectly: it is the weakest country in the region, it's been devastated by sanctions and almost completely disarmed and the US knows every inch of the Iraq territory by satellite surveillance and overflights, and more recently U-2 flights. So, yes, Iraq it is extremely weak and satisfied the first condition.

And secondly, it has to be important. So there will be no point invading Burundi, you know, for example, it has to be a country worthwhile controlling, owning, and Iraq has that property too. It´s, as mentioned, the second largest oil producer in the world. So it's perfect example and a perfect case for this exemplary war, intending to put the world on notice saying that this is what we´re going do, any time we choose. We have the power. We have declared that our goal is domination by force and that no challenge will be accepted. We've showed you what we are intending to do and be ready for the next. We will proceed on to the next operation. Those various conditions fold together and they make a war a very reasonable choice in taking to a test some principles.

Atilio A. Boron: Who is next?

Noam Chomsky:
No, they already made this clear. For one thing they need something for the next presidential election. And that will continue. So Syria is a possibility. Iran is a more difficult possibility because it´s a harder country to dominate and control. Yet there is a reason to believe that for a year or two now, efforts have been under way to try dismantle Iran, to break it into internally warring groups. These US dismantling efforts have been based partly in Eastern Turkey, the US bases in Eastern Turkey apparently flying surveillance over Iranian borders.

There is a third possibility is the Andean region. The Andean region has a lot of resources and it´s out of control. There are US military bases surrounding the region, and US forces are there already. And the control of Latin-America is of course extremely important. With the developments in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia it´s clear that US domination is challenged and that can´t be accepted, in particular in a region so close and so crucial because of its resource base. So that is another possibility.

Atilio A. Boron: What may be the future of the Palestine question?

Noam Chomsky:
The US is very concerned with attitudes in the region so they have pretty good studies made by US Middle East scholars on the attitudes in the region.. One study shows that a very large majority of the population wants religious leaders to have a greater role in government. It also shows that approximately another 95% believe that the sole US interest in the region is taking its oil, strengthening Israel and humiliating the Arabs. This is the last thing the US wants, so chances of any kind of democratic opening very likely will be immediately opposed. The voices of secular democracy will also be opposed. If they speak up freely, about violation of UN resolutions for example, they will bring up the case of Israel, which has a much worse record than Iraq in this respect but is protected by the United States.

What we know is this tremendous hatred, antagonisms and fear – probably more than ever before – on the Israel-Palestine issue that is, of course, the core issue in the Arab world. The US had continued to support the more extremist positions within Israel. So what the press describes as George Bush's most significant recent statements, then later reiterated by Colin Powell, was... that settlement in the occupied territories can continue until the United State determines that the conditions for peace have been established, and you can move forward on this mythical "Road Map.".

The statement amounts to a shift in policy, to a more extremist form. Up until now the official position has been that there should be no more settlements. Of course, that's hypocritical of the United States because meanwhile it continues to provide the military, and economic, and diplomatic support for more settlements, but the official position has been opposed to it. Now the official position is in favor of it, until such time as the US determines unilaterally that the "peace process" has made enough progress, which means, basically indefinitely.

Also it wasn't very well noticed that last December, at the UN General Assembly, the Bush administration shifted the US policy crucially on an important issue. Up until that time, until last December, the US has always officially endorsed the Security Council resolutions of 1968 opposing Israel's annexation of Jerusalem, and ordering Israel to withdraw the moves to take over East Jerusalem and to expand Jerusalem, which is now a huge area. . As of last December the Bush administration came out in support of it. This was a pretty sharp change in policy, and it is also significant that it was not reported in the United States. But it took place.

So the indications are that the US will move towards a very harsh policy in the territories, granting the Palestinians at most some kind of meaningless formal status as a "state".

Atilio A. Boron: The future of the United Nations system and an article by Henry Kissinger that argued that multilateralism is over and that the world has to come to terms with the absolute superiority of the American armed forces and that we've better go alone with that because the old system is dead. What is your reflection on the international arena?

Noam Chomsky:
The unilateralism with regard to the United Nations goes far back. Was there any UN authorization for the US invasion of South Vietnam 40 years ago? In fact, the issue could not even come up at the United Nations. The UN and all the countries were in overwhelming opposition to the US operations in Vietnam, but the issue could literally never arise and it was never discussed because everyone understood that if the issues were discussed, the UN would simply be dismantled.

When the World Court condemned the United States for its attack on Nicaragua, the official response of the Reagan administration, which is the same people now in office, was that other nations do not agree with us and therefore we will reserve to ourselves the right to determine what falls within the domestic jurisdiction of the United States. I am quoting it. In this case, that was an attack on Nicaragua. You can hardly have a more extreme unilateralism than that.

And American elites accepted that, and so it was applauded and, in fact, quickly forgotten. In your next trip to the US take a poll in the Political Science Department where you are visiting and you will find people who never heard of it. It's as wiped out as this. As is the fact that the US had to veto the Security Council's resolutions supporting the Court's decision and calling on all states to observe international law.

Well, you know that is unilateralism in its extreme, and it goes back before that. Right after the missile crisis, the Kennedy administration resumed its terrorist activities against Cuba and its economic warfare... and Dean Acheson, Kennedy advisor essentially stated the Bush Doctrine of September 2002. What he said is that no "legal issue" arises in the case of a US response to a challenge to its "power, position, and prestige." Can't be more extreme than that. The differences with September 2002 is that instead of being operative policy now it became official policy. That is the difference.

The UN has been irrelevant to the extent that the US refused to allow it to function. So, since the mid 1960's when the UN had become somewhat more independent, because of decolonization and the recovery of other countries of the world from the ravages of the war, since 1965 the US is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions on a wide range of issues – Britain is second – and no one else is even close. All that renders the UN ineffective. It means, you do as we say or else we will kick you in the pants. Now it is more brazen.

The only correct statement that Kissinger is making is that now we will not conceal the policies that we are carrying out.

Atilio A. Boron: What has been the impact of the Iraqi War on the freedoms and public liberties of the American public? We have heard horrifies stories about librarians been forced to indicate the names of people checking out books regarded as suspicious or subversives. What has been the real impact of the war in the domestic politics of the US?

Noam Chomsky:
Well, those things are taking place but I don't think they are specifically connected with the Iraq War. The Bush administration are not conservatives; they are statist reactionaries. They want a very powerful state, a huge state in fact, a violent state and one that enforces obedience on the population. There is a kind of quasi-fascist spirit there, in the background, and they have been attempting to undermine civil rights in many ways. That's one of their long term objectives, and they have to do it quickly because in the US there is a strong tradition of protection of civil rights.

The kind of surveillance you are talking about of libraries and so on is a step towards it. They have also claimed the right to place a person – even an American citizen – in detention without charge, without access to lawyers and family, and to hold them there indefinitely, and that in fact has been upheld by the Courts, which is pretty shocking.

They have a new proposal, sometimes called Patriot II, a 80-page document inside the Justice department. Someone leaked it and it reached the press. There have been some outraged articles by law professors about it. This is only planned so far, but they would like to implement as secretly as they can. These plans would permit the Attorney General to remove citizenship from any individual whom the attorney general believes is acting in a way harmful to the US interests.

I mean, this is going beyond anything contemplated in any democratic society. One law professor at New York University has written that this administration evidently will attempt to take away any civil rights that it can from citizens and I think it´s basically correct.

That fits in with their reactionary statist policies which have a domestic aspect in the economy and social life but also in political life.

Read HERE on earlier posting on Prof.Chomsky's interview on Radio Amsterdam "The US- Domination by Force?"

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