Simon Mars: I’d like to begin by asking how much damage has been done to the US administration by both its failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and its inability to pacify the country and whether you think these failures will be a set back to some of the more ambitious, hegemonic, plans of the neo conservatives?
Noam Chomsky: Within the United States the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction has not had much of an effect, judging by the polls; part of the reason is that people are so sceptical of government and media that if it turns out somebody is lying they don’t pay that much attention. The other is because the pretexts keep shifting and as the pretexts shift the propaganda shifts. There were, however, several important consequences to the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. The most important consequence, and the least noted, is that it lowered the bar for aggression. The original doctrine, propagated by Bush, Powell and the rest, was that the United States has the right to resort to force in self defense against a country that it regards as threatening; that has, and is developing, weapons of mass destruction and has ties to terror. Well, the ties to terror were quietly dropped when it became clear that the invasion, as predicted, has turned Iraq into a center of terror for the first time and has increased global terror exactly as was expected. So that’s dropped, but what about the weapons of mass destruction? Well the doctrine’s been changed, so the current doctrine, officially, is that it is enough for a country to have the intent and the ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Simon Mars: Which is any country in the world…
Noam Chomsky: Any country in the world. Any country that has a high school laboratory has the ability. And intent is in the eye of the beholder. That’s an important change. Another change is that the pretext shifted. It turns out that the concern wasn’t weapons of mass destruction, it was the noble vision of bringing democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East. As soon as that was declared to be the President’s vision the gears immediately shifted and all the commentary starts talking about the nobility of the vision. Critics say it may be over reaching, maybe we can’t do it. Nobody bothers to point out thatin order to believe this we have to assume that Bush and Blair are some of the history’s most fabulous liars since that wasn’t what they had said and if they were lying before why should we believe them now? But anyway that’s now the doctrine, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t find any weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand the failures of the military occupation are quite surprising and certainly are an impediment to further aggressive action, even though I think the main problem they’re facing is not what is on the front pages, it’s not humvees being blown up or shooting at people, it’s simply the steadfast refusal of the population to accept the form of purely nominal sovereignty that is very specifically being planned for them. They have rejected it all the way. Now the most visible symbol of that rejection is the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, but it’s quite general. And the pro consul Paul Bremer and the authorities have had to back down and modify their plans and are searching for complicated ways To ensure that the transfer of sovereignty will be nominal. Meanwhile they must also suppress the opinion of the American population, which people really don’t know much about; take the vote in Spain a couple of weeks ago where the Spanish population was harshly condemned for appeasing terrorist and so on. I have yet to see anybodypoint out that what they voted for in Spain was the same position as the overwhelming majority of the American population (which has held since last April, but now it’s about seventy per cent) that the UN should take the lead in reconstruction and the transfer of authority and that its not the business of the United States to run Iraq. That’s what the voted for in Spain, they didn’t vote to withdraw troops. They voted to keep troops, but only under UN authorisation. That’s the position of the considerable majority of the American public and it has been for almost a year, but it doesn’t matter. An individual may hold that opinion, but since nobody knows that that’s the way most people feel, you feel alone.
Simon Mars: How do you think the US administration would react if a true form of democracy actually took place in Iraq. Ayatollah Sistani, strangely enough for a reclusive cleric, has got his own web page and you can look up his rules and regulations. One of the things that is banned for example is chess. How do you think the Administration will react if this is the manifestation of democracy in Iraq? Will they care as long as they have control?
Noam Chomsky: They don’t care what happens. Do they care about democracy in Uzbekistan for example or anywhere else? What’s important is control. If you’re going to have a façade of democracy, that’s fine. They’re taken that straight from the British. When the British created Iraq it was theoretically an independent country, it had a constitution and parliament. If you look at the British foreign office records, now declassified, the plan was to ensure Iraq and the other states in the region be what they called an ‘Arab façade’, in that they were to be ruled by an Arab façade but the British would really run the countries behind various constitutional fictions. That’s the way the US runs most of Latin America and other places. What the US is concerned about is not whether people play chess, but they agree to have US military bases, US forces, US control of the way the economy runs and so on. If that’s in place they can play chess or not play chess, they don’t care.
Simon Mars: I thought one of the most telling things that happened is that one of the first things the American administration did was to ‘persuade’the Iraqi Governing Council to totally restructure Iraq’s economy: to allow one hundred per cent foreign ownership; to privatise most parts of the economy, apart from the oil, and permit one hundred per cent repatriation of profits. But this was in fact totally illegal. I have spoken to people from the US Treasury, and the US Commerce Department and they sort of know thatit’s illegal but what they say is that they’re doing it in the best interests of the Iraqi people. Even Blair’s Attorney General said that what they are doing is illegal under the Hague Regulations of 1907, The Geneva Convention and so on …
Noam Chomsky: They don’t care about that. This is the programme that is imposed by force on the third world. In fact it’s basically the programme that created the third world. You go back to the eighteenth century, there wasn’t much difference between what was called the First World and the Third World, in fact India was in may ways more advanced than England. But the European powers were able to impose, by force, what are now called neo liberal programmes, pure market systems. It destroyed these countries. Meanwhile they themselves never obeyed these rules and still don’t. All of them, including the US, has radical state intervention in the economy, at every level including the institution we’re talking in ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology ). It’s a very well established fact of economic history that if you eliminate a country’s economic sovereignty you will, very likely, cut back development and you will surely reduce political life to a kind a shadow. That’s what happens if economic sovereignty is removed. It’s now kind of formalised in the Uruguay Round of the WorldTrade Organisation which eliminates the options that were used, and are still being used, by the rich countries to get where they are and which now prevents other countries from doing it. In an extreme case, where you occupy a country, you can justimpose it by force. There is a kind of theology which lies behind those rules which has no theoretical base, there is no empirical evidence, it is simply a way of ensuring that the country will not have economic sovereignty and that the commanding heights of the economy, the financial system and the manufacturing system will be in the hands of foreign, mostly US, corporations. Now it’s true that oil was excluded, but it would simply have been too brazen of them to take over the oil, but that’s marginal. You can read Halliburton executives in the Wall Street Journal explaining how their current lucrative contracts (thanks to the American tax payer) are placing them in the position where they’re gaining the knowledge which will enable them to direct and manage the oil industry after the transfer of sovereignty. So economic sovereignty is to be excluded with all the obvious consequences, but political sovereignty will also be minimal. The US is now building (in Iraq) its biggest diplomatic mission in the world for three thousand people but not to transfer sovereignty, that’s not why you need the biggest embassy in the world. They’re seeking, in various ways, to ensure they can maintain military forces and military bases even after there is a theoretically sovereign government. Paul Bremer announced just the other day that the State Department lawyers think they have figured out some legal chicanery to show that this is legal under the UN resolutions and soon on. When you ask how they would react is there was authentic sovereignty? It would be a disaster, what was the point of invading then? What was the point of invading if you don’t end up with a client state in which you can have a strong military presence and a major diplomatic presence which will extend and enhance US control over what the State Department described sixty years ago as: “a stupendous source of strategic power and the greatest material prize in world history,” namely Middle East energy resources, that’s a lever of world control. It’s not a matter of access to the oil, it’s a matter of world control, so there’s no point in invadingunless that’s the outcome and that’s what the struggle is about now.
Simon Mars: Many learned scholars and analysts talk about the “democracy deficit” in the Middle East which is true, there is no functioning democracy, asunderstood in the Developed World, in the Middle East, but these analysts rarely hold a mirror up to their own societies. You have quoted John Dewey as describing how “politics is the shadow big business casts over society.” I’d like to go into that a little bit and in particular the role played by corporations. You have called them unelected tyrannies. What do you meanby that and what impact do they have on our lives?
Noam Chomsky: First I should mention that there are a few elected governments in the area. In fact there’s oneleader who was elected in a reasonably fair election, Yassir Arafat, yet the US has decided they didn’t want him, so it doesn’t matter if he was elected or not. There’s a more or less democratic government elected in Turkey. That government made a serious error in taking the same position as ninety five per cent of the population and was bitterly condemned. Paul Wolfowitz, the visionary, the man who is supposed to be leading the crusade for democracy in the Middle East went so far as to berate the Turkish military because they didn’t intervene to prevent the government from following the will of ninety five per cent of the population. He ordered them to apologise and recognise that the duty of a democratic government is to help America.Now we’re getting to the democratic deficit. But what about the democratic deficit in the United States? John Dewey is the major social philosopher in the county’s history and is very mainstream. His main topic was democracy and what he said was correct, it’s clearly the case and you can see it every day. As I said, seventy per cent of the population wants the UN to take the lead in Iraq and the US to leave, but that’s not even on the agenda, no matter that seventy per cent of the population wants it. Let’s take the Israel – Palestine conflict. A large majority of the population is in favour of what’s now called the “Saudi Plan,” which is justa version of the consensus that has been on the table for thirty years and which the US has been blocking every step of the way and still does. A large majority of the population is in favour of it, which is kind of surprising since there’s no articulated support for it, but it doesn’t make any difference. Take domestic issues, same thing. It’s not a secret that the main domestic economic problem in the United States, there are many but the major one is exploding health costs, which are just out of control. Now the US has, among the industrial societies, the most inefficient health care system. The cost is way beyond the other countries and the results are relatively poor. What’s the problem? Well every one knows what the problem is. It’s privatised, so there’s layer after layer of bureaucracy, There are hours wasted filling out forms, insurance company bureaucrats are monitoring what doctors do. It all adds up to enormous expense. Furthermore this is the only industrial country where the government does not use its massive purchasing power to keep drug prices down. So drug prices in the United States range from maybe two to ten times as high as say in Australia. The Pentagon uses its purchasing power to keep the price of paperclips down but the government is not allowed to do it for drug prices. So of course they’re out of sight. Well, what do the population think about this? It’srarely asked in the polls, but it does happen. Well the latest one says that abouteighty per cent of the population would prefer to have a universal health care system of that every other industrial country has, even if taxes stay higher. Does it matter? Well this has been true for a long time and it’s occasionally mentioned in the press, but when it’s mentioned and I’m quoting the New York Times, it’s called “politically impossible,” which is true. The pharmaceutical companies won’t allow it. The insurance companies won’t allow it. Wall Street investors won’t allow it so it doesn’t matter if ninety five per cent of the population would turn out to be in favour of it, it’s politically impossible. Those are democratic deficits. We can run through a long series of them. Now the public is essentially out of the system. You can see it pretty clearly by looking at the elections. Who is running in the 2004 election? Two men, born to very wealthy families, with enormous political influence and connections, who went to the same university, Yale, joined the same secret society and where they were socialised into the manners of how to run the world. Both are able to run because they are financed by the same concentrations of private power, pretty much. Private power prefers the alternative which lavishes more gifts on them and that’s called politics. Let’s take a look at the poorest country in the hemisphere, Haiti. It’s supposed to be a failed state. Haiti had a free election in 1990. It turned out, much to everyone’s surprise, that despite the fact it is a very poor country that a lively civil society had been organised in the slums and the hills. They were able to elect their own President, a Populist President. The US was appalled and immediately moved to undermine the democratic government and supported a military Junta. Finally it allowed the President to return but on the condition, which is not mentioned here, that he accept the programme of the favouredUS candidate in the 1990 election who got 14 per cent of the vote. That programme was pretty muchthe same as the one that was dictated to Iraq and it goes back to the Eighteenth century: open up the society to the floodingof US agribusiness which produces rice with high subsidies and so on.Of course it was going to wipe out the country, which it did. Which is the failed State? Haiti or the United States? Well Haiti had the kind of democratic election we can only dream of but, of course, the US wouldn’t permit it and now Haiti is destroyed. These are very serious problems. This (democratic deficit ) would be a serious problem if it was happening in Luxembourg but when it’s happening in the most powerful country in the world, then it’s a problem for the world as well, not just for the United States.
Simon Mars: Do you think there’s any chance of having economic issues addressed properly in this election? So far you have had concern about “outsourcing” as a buzzword for the last month or so, but the actual reason why jobs are going abroad, or the stagnation in people’s wages, will this be addressed?
Noam Chomsky: The problem is the jobs aren’t being created here. It’s painful for the people whose jobs are going abroad but why is it a problem now rather than ten years ago? Because at that time the jobs going abroad were manufacturing jobs, jobs of the working people. Now the jobs that are going abroad belong to professionals. They have more clout. They have more influence and power, but the number of jobs going aboard are far lower and probably as many jobs are coming in. The problem is the way the economy and society are designed. For the last twenty years, for example, since the neo liberal programmes were instituted real incomes for about ninety per cent of the population have either stagnated or declined. For the top, if I remember correctly, 0.1 per cent of the population incomes, I think, have gone up by about 600 per cent. Well you know that kind of social planning does not happen by natural economic laws. Meanwhile the workload has considerably increased. One of the reasons for what’s called the high level of productivity in the United States, when measured per worker, is that American workers worka lot longer. They have by now the highest workload on the industrialised world. They have poor benefits, their real wages stagnate or decline while medical costs are out of sight. The pension system is under attack and this is done quite consciously. When Alan Greenspan, Saint Alan as they sometimes call him, when he reported to Congress on what he called the success of the economy he was presiding over during the Clinton years, in the so called boom, he explained it forthrightly. He said a very crucial part of what he called “growing worker insecurity.” There is an economic theory, the prevailing one, that says, that’s a good thing. If you have worker insecurity then workers are too frightened to ask for higher wages and benefits and that makes for a healthy economy because then profits are high and maybe companies will invest. In fact the theory behind the economy is really quite simple, you’ve got to keep rich people happy so maybe they’ll invest and something will trickle down. And you have to keep everybody else, meaning the great mass, insecure because then they won’t ask for a thing. There’s also another thing that follows, you have to keep them frightened because if they’re not frightened then they’re not going to accept it, so there’s a constant pressing of the panic button to keep the population frightened, so they won’t care if their wages are stagnating or their working hours are going up. They’re insecure they don’t know if they will have a job tomorrow. Outsourcing is a very marginal partof it. This is the way the economy has been designed. Take NAFTA,The North American Free Trade Agreement, no one seriously believed it was going to lead to a large number of jobs leaving, maybe a small but not significant number, but what was understood and what happened, is that it provided a weapon for employers to ensure that workers are insecure, to break up union organising, of course that’s illegal but the government winks at it. The number of illegal interventions by employers to break unionising has shot up since NAFTA because people are afraid. Employers cansay that if you are going to try and organise a Union then we’re going to go to Mexico. They have no intention of doing it and if the organising takes place then they usually don’t but it’s a weapon. There’s a whole series of weapons to keep the population insecure, to keep them frightened. Outsourcing is a very small part of this problem; the escalation of health care costs, that’s much more serious. Notice when you hear about this, when Bush or Greenspan give a speech about it, it’s always wrapped together with social security. (They say) Social Security and medical costs are exploding, that’s not true. Social Security is in quite good shape. This is part of an effort to dismantle the Social Security system. It is medical costs that are going up and that’s because they are privatised but you can’t say that, in fact what they are trying to do is privatise Social Security so it will go out of sight too. Well these are general maters of economic planning and we know who they are in the interest of. Take a look at who’s designing them and who’s gaining from them. It’s the top small sector of wealth and the corporate system. What are corporations? That’s a serious question. Corporations are state constructed tyrannies. The internal management of corporations is simply a tyrannical system, orders come from the top down, you transfer them below you and so on. About a century ago the courts gave corporations the rights of persons, which was a tremendous blow against classical liberalism. Classical liberalism maintains that rights inhere in people, like you and me, not in abstract tyrannies. But corporations were given the rights ofpersons, such as freedom of speech, freedom from search, so they’re unaccountable. And of course they’re immortal persons of enormous power. In fact the recent trade agreements give them rights way beyond persons. General Motors can go to Mexico and demand to be treated like a Mexican company, it’s one of the ways the Mexican economic system has been taken over by foreigners. Can a Mexican come to New York and demand it national treatment? Its inconceivable. Furthermore if you look at the core of Anglo American corporate law it requires that these corporate persons become what we would call pathological if they were human. If they were flesh and blood we would send them to mental institutions for treatment. But these corporations are required by law to act solely to maximise profit and power, anything beyond that is criminal. There is, though, one exception, they are allowed to be benevolent if it is hypocritical, so a pharmaceutical corporations are allowed to give free drugs to the poor people if the television cameras are on them; if it improves their image, that’s permitted. In fact there was an important court decision in 1969 which instructs corporations to act benevolently because otherwise an aroused public many recognise what is happening and take away their privileges, so they’d better pretend to be benevolent. That’s the core of the system. Massive tyrannies are unaccountable to the public except by very weak regulatory systems, compelled by law to be pathological, inter linked with one another since they don’t want too much competition, it cuts back profit and tied to very powerful states which sustain and support them. The US follows totally different rules to Iraq and Haiti and other countries. It’s not simply the subsidies to agribusiness and the protection, that’s a small part of it; the major part is that there is a dynamic state sector in the economy which is the core of economic innovation and development. Research and development takes place mainly in the state sector. Take the entire new economy, computers, telecommunications, the internet, now biotechnology and so on, the costs are largely socialised through various mechanisms such as the institution we’re now talking in (MIT ) which is part of the system. Costs are socialised, risks are socialised and if anything comes out decades later it’s handed over to private power. Computers and the internet are perfect examples. When I arrived at MIT fifty years ago computers were being developed here under the cover of air defence, which nobody believed in, but a computer in those days was big collection of rooms with vacuum tubes blowing up and paper flowing all over the place. Finally after ten or fifteen years they got them down to a scale where you could sell them as mainframes. So the project heads pulled out of the programme and started the first mainframe computer systems. Meanwhile IBM was learning how to switch from data processing machines to computers by using the technology and learning experiences and involvement which were being developedby federally funded programmes in places like here, they were using the MIT and Harvard computers which were government computers under Pentagon cover. The same is true even of the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has they highest profits of any industry, they claim that they need them because of research and development costs. Well by their own figures only about forty per cent of their research and development is in-house and even that’s misleading because a lot of that is waste, it’s copy cat drugs and things like that. There was one good economist who asked the obvious question, suppose we take the public funding of research and development and make it a hundred per cent and then we force the pharmaceutical industries out of the market, what would the savings be to consumers? Well it turns out the savings would be astronomical, much greater than was expected. But you can’t do that, it’s another one of those things that is politically impossible because they have too much power. This is the way in which rich societies became rich. The rules and measures that are being imposed on Iraq or Haiti, or much of the world by the World Trade Organisation, that’s the way those countries became the third world. And the correlation is just striking. If you take a look at the modern period, since the neo liberal rules were formalised, there has been development in places like East Asia, but that’s because these countries didn’t follow the rules, they basically disregarded them, they followed the same rules that the rich countries had used for themselves, controlling investment; targeting investment or technologytransfer, which is now called piracy. They entered the market on their own terms just as England, The United States, Germany and others had done before them. If you have economic sovereignty then you can enter international markets on your own terms, you have a chance to develop, If you’re forced to enter the market by outside pressure, then you don’t.
Simon Mars: You mentioned fear earlier. The American people do now face a physical threat, the World Trade Center did not collapse on its own, there is a threat out there. But how much is this fear being encouraged by the Bush administration in an attempt to control public opinion and influence the outcome of the next election?
Noam Chomsky: Karl Rove (Republican strategist and chief political advisor to President Bush), who is the most important man in Washington, has already informed us that the elections will turn on issues of national security, “the brave cowboy saving you from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction,” and that makes sense. In fact that comes straight out of the Reagan years too, they didn’t invent it, but it’s a very successful technique for controlling people. In the Reagan years there was major threat every year. In October2002, Congress passed authorisation for the President to use force against Iraq because of the threat to the security of the United States. Commentators were polite enough to point out that that was plagiarism since in 1985 Ronald Reagan, with pretty much the same administration, declared a national emergency in the United States because, and I’m quoting: “the unusualand extraordinary threat to the security of the United States posed by the government of Nicaragua.” I mean if someone was watching this from Mars they would collapse with laughter but Reagan went on to say that they only two days driving time from Texas. That was one of the cases. Another, Grenada, was considered such a great threat that we had to invade it. It has huge resources, it’s the nutmeg capital of the world, but it was going to have an air base that somehow the Russians were going to use to bomb us, that is if they could find Grenada on a map and it goes on, year after year.
Simon Mars: We had one of the architects of the neo conservative programme, Michael Ledeen on the programme and we asked him about his quote that: “every now and again the United States has to pick up a crappy little country and throw it against a wall just to prove we are serious.” So we are asked him are you serious? He admitted that, yes, he had said those words but that they had been taken out of context; but that in essence, yes, it was true, every now and again the United States has to prove to the rest of the World that it is a great power.
Noam Chomsky: Yes, that’s the conception that is built into the national security strategy that is the neo conservative thesis and it’s not original, it’s the way the Mafia is organised. If you are a Mafia Don, the chief Don, every once in a while you’ve got to send your goons to beat up some store keeper to make sure people understand that defiance is not allowed. It’s not just these people, take the Kennedy administration. Cuba has been under US attack for fifty five years, terrorists attacks, the illegal US economic embargo. I mean it so fanatical that American scientists are not permitted to edit magazine submissions from Cuban scientists because that would improve the Cuban economy. American scientists are not permitted to go to medical conferences in Cuba, which happens to have an unusually good international medical system, unless they go though complicated federal authorisation. I mean what is all this torture about? Is Cuba a threat to the United States? In fact we know what it is about, this is very free country, the most free in the world and there is plenty of access to government documents so we know what it is about. Go back to the early sixties ( and you find ) it was about the fact that, “the very existence of the Castro regime is a successful defiance of US policies going back one hundred and fifty years,” namely to the Monroe doctrine which declared that we are the hemisphere’s mafia don and that you don’t defy him. There was, furthermore, concern, as the Kennedy administration put it, that Castro’s idea of taking matters into your own hands might appeal to other people in the hemisphere who were suffering from similar problems; that they might want to do it too, well you can’t allow that and you can’t allow successful defiance. Ledeen is right in the historical tradition, which is essentially the tradition of the Mafia. The people in power now happen to be an extreme case and their position has come under unprecedented attack from the foreign policy elite, but if you look at that critique, they don’t say the doctrine is wrong, what they say is that the style and the implementation is wrong. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under Clinton, had an article in Foreign Affairs which was critical of the policy, as you might expect, but she went on to say that every President has had the policy of anticipatory self defence, which is a complicated way of saying aggression. So every President has this policy, but you keep it in your back pocket and you use it when you need it. You don’t smash people in the face with it and you don’t make it clear to them that we don’t care what you think, that we are just going to kick you out and run the world and you don’t carry out an invasion when you know perfectly well that the pretexts don’t amount to a hill of beans and that by invasion you’re just going to increase terror and resentment.
Simon Mars: Another constant in US policy is the special, the very special relationship, it has with Israel. What do you make of Ariel Sharon’s solution to the Palestinian problem in that he appears, in essence, to be building a wall around them and will then just leave them to rot. Will the US administration go along with something as brutal as this?
Noam Chomsky: That’s the wrong way to put it. Sharon wouldn’t do this unless he had tacit authorisation, along with diplomatic, economic and military support. Israel is a small country, by and large, so they can’t act without the authorisation of the Mafia Don and they’re getting it. Colin Powell will give then a slap on the wrist but is the US withdrawing funding? Is it cutting off military support? No, quite the contrary. Right now, The US is massively and consciously increasing threats and tension in The Middle East by sending Israel over a hundred of the advanced most jet bombers in the US arsenal. Israel already has by far the most powerful military force in the region, along with weapons of mass destruction and an air force which it claims to be larger and more advanced than any NATO power, aside from the US. But they’re getting a hundred new advanced jet bombers, Which have been very prominently advertised of being capable of flying to Iran and back. It is also advertised that they are advanced versions of the same US jets that the Israelis used to attack the Iraq’s Osirekreactor in 1981. Iranian intelligence does not have to be very bright to figure out the message. It’s claimed now that the bombing of the Osirek reactor inhibited Saddam Hussein’s nuclear development programme. But it was known right away that that was wrong. The head of Harvard’s physics department, who is a nuclear design specialist, went to inspect the reactor right after the bombing and said it could not produce nuclear weapons. Since then it’s been confirmed by defectors and others that the bombings initiated Saddam’s nuclear programme. There is also in the Hebrew press, they don’t put it in the English version, secret leaks which are always on purpose and which are intended for the ears for other intelligence agencies. These secret leaks reveal that the US is providing the Israeli air force with what they call “special weaponry,” nobody knows whatthat means but any intelligence agency is going to make the worst case analysis, that they are probably nuclear warheads or something. It looks as if they’re trying to increase tensions, maybe rattle the Iranian leadership into doing something which will be used as a pretext for an attack. Whatever it’s planning, it’s certainly increasing threats and tensions. As far as The Palestinians are concerned the US is not objecting to the wall. It’s called a security barrier but it takes one minutes thought to realize it’s not for security. If Israel wanted a security wall then they would build it one mile inside the international border and then you can make it as high as you like. No one would object. The problem is if you build a security wall then you will not take Palestinian lands. What is being taken is some of the most fertile land along with the crucial water resources, the wall encloses a very valuable aquifer. The Palestinians will end up caged in enclaves along with Israeli settlements, funded by the US taxpayer, protected by US power and authorised by the US government. You will be able to travel all over the West Bank without ever knowing there are Arabs living on these lands. Although you might see some of these exotic creatures on a hill somewhere.
Simon Mars: You’ve written that that one of the greatest threats Israel faces is from Palestinian moderates. Now this sounds counterintuitive, but when you’re dealing with Israel and the Palestinians, you’re through the looking glass…
Noam Chomsky: That’s always been true. It goes back to the nineteen twenties when Chaim Weissman and others were afraid that there might be Arab moderates who might negotiate. Remember the situation, what they were afraid of was that Britain, the mandatory power, might institute some form of representative democracy in which case they wouldn’t be able to proceed because the majority population was Palestinian. Let’s take the invasion of Lebanon, the biggest US-Israeli crime, there have been many, but lets take this one, the major one. The invasion was backed by the United States. The Reagan administration vetoed the UN Security Council resolution that prohibited giving them arms. Why did they invade Lebanon? It was completely open inside Israel, they were invading Lebanon as a political act because of Palestinian peace offers. The PLO offers of negotiation were becoming what one leading figure called” “a veritable catastrophe for Israel.” The highest military echelons said that this is war for the West Bank, that we have to undercut Palestinian offers of negotiation. In fact in the year prior to the attack there had been no terrorist attacks, nothing. Israel, however, had been attacking Lebanon, sinking fishing boats, bombing people, trying to elicit some action they could use as a basis for an invasion, so they could undercut the threat of Palestinian negotiations. They were also, however, trying to impose a client state in Lebanon. And it continues like this, moderation is a threat, terrorism is a minor problem, you can deal with it. The US feels the same way. When this administration invaded Iraq they were pretty sure they were going to increase terror. Every intelligence agency pointed this out. History shows it, independent specialists showed it. It just doesn’t matter very much. They don’t want terror, but it’s a small problem. There should be no surprise whatsoever about the revelations coming out of Washington from Richard Clarke and so on. Of course they preferred invading Iraq to worrying about terror. In fact they invaded Iraq assuming it would probably increase terror. But when compared to having a major base right in the heart of the oil producing regions for the first time then terror is a pretty small matter so if it increases it really isn’t a problem.
Simon Mars: It also provides further justification for their presence there.
Noam Chomsky: Now we have to be there. In fact that’s exactly what they are saying, Wolfowitz and others. We have to keep a military presence there for security reasons, no matter what the Iraqis want. Security reasons that they have created. Whatever you thought about Iraq, it wasn’t a terrorist state before, now it is. It’s interesting to see how the Iraqis react to this. It’s not easy to figure out the opinions of people under military occupation, but there is information but there are a lot of polls, western run polls. Right at the time President Bush made his dramatic address about his new vision of bringing democracy to the Middle East, which replaced the old pretext about weapons of mass destruction, the Washington Post actually published a poll from Baghdad where people were asked why they thought the United States invaded. One per cent said to bring democracy. Five per cent said to help the Iraqi people. Most of the rest said to take the resources and reorganise the region in US interests. That’s the one thing you’re not allowed to say in the United States, so you can take whatever other pretext you like, weapons of mass destruction, bad information, love of democracy, connections to Al Qaeda, one follows another. The one thing you’re not allowed to say is the one thing every person in Baghdad knows perfectly well. What other reason could there be?
Simon Mars: There was a recent poll done for the BBC though which seemed to suggest that the Iraqi people believed their lives were going to get better.
Noam Chomsky: I read that on the BBC, then I looked up the actual poll and it’s worth comparing. What was reported about the poll was trivialities such as the Iraqis are happy to get rid of Saddam Hussein, you don’t need a poll for that. They hope their life will get better, so does everybody. What the poll actually said however was quite interesting. Seventy per cent of Iraqis said that they wanted Iraqis to take control of security. I think seven per cent wanted American forces. Seventy per cent of Iraqis said they wanted real democracy under the control of Iraqis. The coalition authority had maybe five per cent, the Iraqi Governing Council six per cent. They literally found no detectable support, zero, for Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon’s favorite. They listed the six most popular political leaders, one of them was Saddam Hussein and it goes on like this. What the poll said and what the BBC didn’t report is that Iraqis want authentic democracy, they don’t want the British troops, they don’t want American troops, they want to run their own security. They don’t trust the Governing Council, they don’t trust the Iraqi parties, they want to run their own affairs.
Simon Mars: Do you think the Iraqi people might be able to get authentic democracy if they rise up against the occupation?
Noam Chomsky: That’s what’s happening. In my opinion at least the most serious problem the occupation is facing is not the killings, the bombings, the burning of humvees and so on; that is a problem, but it’s a military problem, so you can handle it. The real problem is the steadfast refusal of the population to accept purely nominal sovereignty. It shows in many ways and they are forcing the provisional authority to back down. Take Order 39 which opened up the economy to complete foreign takeover, they’ve already had to back off on that, there’s been too much resistance, not violent resistance but just a refusal to accept it. The standard dynamic of these things is that as the violence continues and as the repression continues it will lead to a cycle of greater repression, greater anger and greater violence.
Simon Mars: One final question. You wrote in your most recent book, “Hegemony or Survival,” that the question of hegemony or survival has rarely been so starkly posed. Are we really at this most calamitous moment in history because you also mention this Russian guy, who has been lost to history, who ought to be praised every day called Vasili Arkhidov who refused to fire nuclear missiles during the Cuban missile crisis.
Noam Chomsky: That’s why we are alive. He vetoed or countermanded an order to fire nuclear tipped torpedoes at the peak of the Cuban missile crisis when Russian submarines thought they were under attack. If he hadn’t it probably would have lead to a nuclear war, which if that happens, we’re finished. What’s happening now? When the National Security Strategy was announced for it to be taken seriously it had to be implemented. Mafia Don’s understand that too, you have to do something or people won’t take you seriously. Well the most visible and publicised implementation was the invasion of Iraq, but there was another one which was important and hasn’t been much discussed. The Bush administration immediately moved to expand offensive military capacity. They immediately moved to undermine international treaties. It terminated negotiations on an enforceable bio weapons treaty, undermined ratification of old bio-weapons treaties. The air force space command immediately announced plans to move from it called control of space to ownership of space, which is exactly consistent with the security strategy, that no one can challenge our total domination. What does ownership of space mean? Well that’s presented in leaked plans, you can find them. It means putting space platforms in orbit from which you can launch offensive weapons,highly destructive weapons, without warning and instantaneously with first strike authority. It was also just reported that the Pentagon is developing hyper sonic planes which will orbit in space, enter the atmosphere at the last minute so they can’t be detected and instantaneously drop highly destructive precision weaponry. The world is under very tight surveillance so you can detect if somebody is walking across the street in Ankara. Now others react to that threat, so Russian defence spending has predictably sharply increased since Bush came in, by American calculation it might have tripled. Just a couple of weeks ago the Russian had their first major military maneuvers in the last two decades. They very pointedly said this is in response to US escalation. The US is developing low yield nuclear weapons which is in violation of international treaties and the Russians understand, as do strategic analysts, that their purpose is to attack the command bunkers that control their retaliatory nuclear systems, so they’re going to react to it. The Bush administration just announced that it is going to employ a missile defence system. Everybody knows that a missile defence system is an offensive weapon, it’s a first strike weapon. There’s universal agreement on this by both sides. We know how the US reacted to this when the Russians made a slight move in that direction by placing, in 1968, a small ABM system around Moscow. The US reacted at once by targeting it with offensive nuclear weapons, targeting the rear outposts with nuclear weapons so they would overwhelm any possible defence. Do you think the Russians will react differently? No they’re saying straight out that they’ve adopted Bush’s first strike doctrine; that they’re deploying their offensive missiles, which they claim are much more sophisticated and are on computer controlled automated launch. American strategic analysts call that an accident waiting to happen. These things are going to misfire. The American systems which are much more sophisticated have a three minute period during which human intervention can prevent automated response, the Russian systems are worse. Computer errors are daily occurrences in the US computer system. Think what they’re going to be like in the Russian systems. You are asking for a disaster. The Chinese are surely going to respond to a so called missile defense system since it eliminates their strategic nuclear capacity, so instead of having twenty missiles targeting the United States they’ll build it up and probably have a submarine launched capacity. That sets off a new cycle. China increases its missile capacity, India responds. India increases it and Pakistan responds. You get a ripple effect. This is extraordinarily dangerous. Do we want Pakistan to increase its offensive nuclear capacity? Have a look at how their missiles are controlled. These moves are deliberately, consciously, raising the threat to survival. And its not that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and so on want the world destroyed, it just doesn’t matter much to them, those risks aren’t important as compared to what its important, dominating the world by force and dismantling the hated welfare state measures at home, that’s important. In comparison if you threaten to blow up the world, if you increase the threat of terror, well that’s OK, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I mean sooner or later terror and weapons of mass destruction are going to get together, it’s just a matter of time. This reflects an extremely broad consensus among analysts. There’s also a consensus on how to deal with terror, a strong consensus and it has two elements: there are the terrorists themselves and there isthe potential reservoir of support and sympathy which they’re trying to mobilise. They regard themselves as the vanguard trying to mobilize support. The reservoir of sympathy may be people who hate them and fear them and hate what they do but nevertheless recognise that there is some justice in their cause. So how do you deal with the two groups? Well the terrorists, you deal with them as with other criminal actions, through police actions, which turns out to be have been quite successful. There has been considerable success in finding leaders, in trying them and breaking up the financing networks. What about the potential reservoir? Well on that again there is strong agreement. What you have to do is ask them what their grievances are. They have grievances, many of them are quite legitimate, so you address those legitimate grievances. I mean that should be done apart from the threat of terror, but just focusing on terror, if you address the legitimate grievances that will reduce the ability of the vanguard to mobilize support because it’s based on grievances. On the other hand if you want to help the terrorist then just use violence because that will antagonise and infuriate the reservoir. It will increase recruitment to the terrorist groups, so we have a choice. Either can reduce the threat of terror or we can increase it. This administration and Blair are consciously acting to increase it. Blair is particularly interesting because the British have just been through this in Northern Ireland. As long as they reacted to IRA terror by increasing violence they stimulated it. As soon as they began, for the first time, to pay some attention to the grievances they were able to reduce it. In fact Belfast is not paradise but it is a lot better than it was ten years ago As far as I know, every former head of Israeli Military Intelligence and of the general security services has said the same thing: that is you want to fight terror with violence then you’re asking for an unwinnable war. If you give the people some respect and pay attention to their grievances then you can reach an accommodation, that’s been very generally true.
There’s only one way in which violence works and that’s through extermination, then it works. So take, say, the United States, the United States does not have a lot of internal conflicts and it has a single language over a huge territory and why? It exterminated the native population. If you do that you don’t have any problems, but anything that falls short of extermination or mass expulsion then it’s going to escalate a cycle of violence. It’s always terrible but by now it has become lethal to survivalbecause of our capacity for destruction.