Chomsky: 20 Years After Iraq War Vote, US Continues to Flout International Law

Noam Chomsky Interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou 

October 15, 2022. Truthout

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. congressional vote to authorize the deadly war on Iraq, which according to some estimates, killed between 800,000 and 1.3 million people. In the exclusive interview for Truthout that follows, Noam Chomsky shares his thoughts on the causes and ramifications of this appalling crime against humanity.

Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT and laureate professor of linguistics and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. One of the world’s most-cited scholars and a public intellectual regarded by millions of people as a national and international treasure, Chomsky has published more than 150 books in linguistics, political and social thought, political economy, media studies, U.S. foreign policy and world affairs. His latest books are The Secrets of Words (with Andrea Moro; MIT Press, 2022); The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power (with Vijay Prashad; The New Press, 2022); and The PrecipiceNeoliberalism, the Pandemic and the Urgent Need for Social Change (with C.J. Polychroniou; Haymarket Books, 2021).

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, 20 years ago, the U.S. Congress authorized the invasion of Iraq despite massive opposition to such an undertaking. Several leading Democratic senators ended up supporting the war authorization, including Joe Biden. For both historical and future purposes, what were the causes and ramifications of the Iraq war?

Noam Chomsky: There are many kinds of support, ranging from outright to tacit. The latter includes those who regard it as a mistake but no more than that — a “strategic blunder,” as in Obama’s retrospective judgment. There were Nazi generals who opposed Hitler’s major decisions as strategic blunders. We don’t regard them as opponents of Nazi aggression. The same with regard to Russian generals who opposed the invasion of Afghanistan as a mistake, as many did.

If we can ever rise to the level of applying to ourselves the standards we rightly apply to others, then we will recognize that there has been little principled opposition to the Iraq War in high places, including the government and the political class. Much as in the case of the Vietnam War and other major crimes.