AMY GOODMAN: Today, part two of our discussion with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. On Monday on Democracy Now!, Aaron Maté and I interviewed him about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran to Congress. Today, in part two, we look at blowback from the U.S. drone program, the legacy of slavery in the United States, the leaks of Edward Snowden, U.S. meddling in Venezuela and the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations. We began by asking Professor Chomsky how the U.S. should respond to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to think of anything serious that can be done. I mean, it should be settled diplomatically and peacefully to the extent that that’s possible. It’s not inconceivable. I mean, there are—ISIS, it’s a horrible manifestation of hideous actions. It’s a real danger to anyone nearby. But so are other forces. And we should be getting together with Iran, which has a huge stake in the matter and is the main force involved, and with the Iraqi government, which is calling for and applauding Iranian support and trying to work out with them some arrangement which will satisfy the legitimate demands of the Sunni population, which is what ISIS is protecting and defending and gaining their support from.
They’re not coming out of nowhere. I mean, they are—one of the effects, the main effects, of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—there are many horrible effects, but one of them was to incite sectarian conflicts, that had not been there before. If you take a look at Baghdad before the invasion, Sunni and Shia lived intermingled—same neighborhoods, they intermarried. Sometimes they say that they didn’t even know if their neighbor was a Sunni or a Shia. It was like knowing what Protestant sect your neighbor belongs to. There was pretty close—it wasn’t—I’m not claiming it was—it wasn’t utopia. There were conflicts. But there was no serious conflict, so much so that Iraqis at the time predicted there would never be a conflict. Well, within a couple of years, it had turned into a violent, brutal conflict. You look at Baghdad today, it’s segregated. What’s left of the Sunni communities are isolated. The people can’t talk to their neighbors. There’s war going on all over. The ISIS is murderous and brutal. The same is true of the Shia militias which confront it. And this is now spread all over the region. There’s now a major Sunni-Shia conflict rending the region apart, tearing it to shreds.
Now, this cannot be dealt with by bombs. This is much more serious than that. It’s got to be dealt with by steps towards recovering, remedying the massive damage that was initiated by the sledgehammer smashing Iraq and has now spread. And that does require diplomatic, peaceful means dealing with people who are pretty ugly—and we’re not very pretty, either, for that matter. But this just has to be done. Exactly what steps should be taken, it’s hard to say. There are people whose lives are at stake, like the Assyrian Christians, the Yazidi and so on. Apparently, the fighting that protected the—we don’t know a lot, but it looks as though the ground fighting that protected the Yazidi, largely, was carried out by PKK, the Turkish guerrilla group that’s fighting for the Kurds in Turkey but based in northern Iraq. And they’re on the U.S. terrorist list. We can’t hope to have a strategy that deals with ISIS while opposing and attacking the group that’s fighting them, just as it doesn’t make sense to try to have a strategy that excludes Iran, the major state that’s supporting Iraq in its battle with ISIS.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that so many of those who are joining ISIS now—and a lot has been made of the young people, young women and young men, who are going into Syria through Turkey. I mean, Turkey is a U.S. ally. There is a border there. They freely go back and forth.
NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s right. And it’s not just young people. One thing that’s pretty striking is that it includes people with—educated people, doctors, professionals and others. Whatever we—we may not like it, but ISIS is—the idea of the Islamic caliphate does have an appeal to large sectors of a brutalized global population, which is under severe attack everywhere, has been for a long time. And something has appeared which has an appeal to them. And that can’t be overlooked if we want to deal with the issue. We have to ask what’s the nature of the appeal, why is it there, how can we accommodate it and lead to some, if not at least amelioration of the murderous conflict, then maybe some kind of settlement. You can’t ignore these factors if you want to deal with the issue.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about more information that’s come out on the British man who is known as “Jihadi John,” who appears in the Islamic State beheading videos. Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as that man by British security. They say he’s a 26-year-old born in Kuwait who moved to the U.K. as a child and studied computer science at the University of Westminster. The British group CAGE said he faced at least four years of harassment, detention, deportations, threats and attempts to recruit him by British security agencies, which prevented him from leading a normal life. Emwazi approached CAGE in 2009 after he was detained and interrogated by the British intelligence agency MI5 on what he called a safari vacation in Tanzania. In 2010, after Emwazi was barred from returning to Kuwait, he wrote, quote, “I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started. But know [sic] I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.” In 2013, a week after he was barred from Kuwait for a third time, Emwazi left home and ended up in Syria. At a news conference, CAGE research director Asim Qureshi spoke about his recollections of Emwazi and compared his case to another British man, Michael Adebolajo, who hacked a soldier to death in London in 2013.
ASIM QURESHI: Sorry, it’s quite hard, because, you know, he’s such a—I’m really sorry, but he was such a beautiful young man, really. You know, it’s hard to imagine the trajectory, but it’s not a trajectory that’s unfamiliar with us, for us. We’ve seen Michael Adebolajo, once again, somebody that I met, you know, who came to me for help, looking to change his situation within the system. When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders, they will inevitably feel like outsiders, and they will look for belonging elsewhere?
AMY GOODMAN: That’s CAGE research director Asim Qureshi. Your response to this, Noam Chomsky?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He’s right. If you—the same if you take a look at those who perpetrated the crimes on Charlie Hebdo. They also have a history of oppression, violence. They come from Algerian background. The horrible French participation in the murderous war in the ’90s in Algeria is their immediate background. They live under—in these harshly repressed areas. And there’s much more than that. So, you mentioned that information is coming out about so-called Jihadi John. You read the British press, other information is coming out, which we don’t pay much attention to. For example, The Guardian had an article a couple of weeks ago about a Yemeni boy, I think who was about 14 or so, who was murdered in a drone strike. And shortly before, they had interviewed him about his history. His parents and family went through them, were murdered in drone strikes. He watched them burn to death. We get upset about beheadings. They get upset about seeing their father burn to death in a drone strike. He said they live in a situation of constant terror, not knowing when the person 10 feet away from you is suddenly going to be blown away. That’s their lives. People like those who live in the slums around Paris or, in this case, a relatively privileged man under harsh, pretty harsh repression in England, they also know about that. We may choose not to know about it, but they know. When we talk about beheadings, they know that in the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza, at the points where the attack was most fierce, like the Shejaiya neighborhood, people weren’t just beheaded. Their bodies were torn to shreds. People came later trying to put the pieces of the bodies together to find out who they were, you know. These things happen, too. And they have an impact—all of this has an impact, along with what was just described. And if we seriously want to deal with the question, we can’t ignore that. That’s part of the background of people who are reacting this way.
AARON MATÉ: You spoke before about how the U.S. invasion set off the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, and out of that came ISIS. I wonder if you see a parallel in Libya, where the U.S. and NATO had a mandate to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi, but then went much further than a no-fly zone and helped topple Gaddafi. And now, four years later, we have ISIS in Libya, and they’re beheading Coptic Christians, Egypt now bombing. And with the U.S. debating this expansive war measure, Libya could be next on the U.S. target list.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s a very important analogy. What happened is, as you say, there was a claim that there might be a massacre in Benghazi, and in response to that, there was a U.N. resolution, which had several elements. One, a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, which apparently Gaddafi accepted. Another was a no-fly zone, OK, to stop attacks on Benghazi. The three traditional imperial powers—Britain, France and the United States—immediately violated the resolution. No diplomacy, no ceasefire. They immediately became the air force of the rebel forces. And, in fact, the war itself had plenty of brutality—violent militias, attacks on Africans living in Libya, all sorts of things. The end result is just to tear Libya to shreds. By now, it’s torn between two major warring militias, many other small ones. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil. It’s just a disaster, total disaster. That’s what happens when you strike vulnerable systems, as I said, with a sledgehammer. All kind of horrible things can happen.
In the case of Iraq, it’s worth recalling that there had been an almost decade of sanctions, which were brutally destructive. We know about—we can, if we like, know about the sanctions. People prefer not to, but we can find out. There was a sort of humanitarian component of the sanctions, so-called. It was the oil-for-peace program, instituted when the reports of the sanctions were so horrendous—you know, hundreds of thousand of children dying and so on—that it was necessary for the U.S. and Britain to institute some humanitarian part. That was directed by prominent, respected international diplomats, Denis Halliday, who resigned, and Hans von Sponeck. Both Halliday and von Sponeck resigned because they called the humanitarian aspect genocidal. That’s their description. And von Sponeck published a detailed, important book on it called, I think, A Different Kind of War, or something like that, which I’ve never seen a review of or even a mention of it in the United States, which detailed, in great detail, exactly how these sanctions were devastating the civilian society, supporting Saddam, because the people had to simply huddle under the umbrella of power for survival, probably—they didn’t say this, but I’ll add it—probably saving Saddam from the fate of other dictators who the U.S. had supported and were overthrown by popular uprisings. And there’s a long list of them—Somoza, Marcos, Mobutu, Duvalier—you know, even Ceaușescu, U.S. was supporting. They were overthrown from within. Saddam wasn’t, because the civil society that might have carried that out was devastated. He had a pretty efficient rationing system people were living on for survival, but it severely harmed the civilian society. Then comes the war, you know, massive war, plenty of destruction, destruction of antiquities. There’s now, you know, properly, denunciation of ISIS for destroying antiquities. The U.S. invasion did the same thing. Millions of refugees, a horrible blow against the society.
These things have terrible consequences. Actually, there’s an interesting interview with Graham Fuller. He’s one of the leading Middle East analysts, long background in CIA, U.S. intelligence. In the interview, he says something like, “The U.S. created ISIS.” He hastens to add that he’s not joining with the conspiracy theories that are floating around the Middle East about how the U.S. is supporting ISIS. Of course, it’s not. But what he says is, the U.S. created ISIS in the sense that we established the background from which ISIS developed as a terrible offshoot. And we can’t overlook that.
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our conversation with Noam Chomsky, we turn now to Latin America. Democracy Now!’s Aaron Maté sat down with Noam Chomsky yesterday on Democracy Now!, the MIT professor emeritus. We asked him to talk about the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations and U.S. meddling in Cuba.
NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. has been at war with Cuba since late 1959. Cuba was—had been, essentially, a colony of the United States, a virtual colony. In January 1959, the Castro guerrilla forces took over. By late that year, around October, U.S. planes were already bombing Cuba from Florida. In, I think it was, March 1960, there was a formal decision internally to overthrow the government. John F. Kennedy came in shortly after, got the Bay of Pigs. After the Bay of Pigs, there was almost hysteria in Washington about how to punish the Cubans for this. Kennedy made some incredible speeches about how, you know, the future of the world is at stake in dealing with Cuba and so on. The U.S. launched a major terrorist war against Cuba. We kind of downplay it, and what you can get reported is CIA attempts, you know, to kill Castro—bad enough—but that was a very minor part of it. Major terrorist war is part of the background for the missile crisis, which almost led to a terminal nuclear war. Right after the crisis, the terrorist war picked up again.
Meanwhile, the sanctions have been very harsh sanctions against Cuba, right from the Eisenhower regime, picked up, extended by Kennedy, extended further under Clinton, who actually outflanked Bush from the right on extending the sanctions. The world has been totally opposed to this. The votes at the General Assembly—you can’t do it at the Security Council because the U.S. vetoes everything, but at the General Assembly, the votes are just overwhelming. I think the last one was 182 to two, you know, U.S. and Israel, and sometimes they pick up Papua or something like that. This has been going on year after year. The U.S. is utterly isolated, not just on this issue, many others.
Finally, notice that Obama didn’t end the sanctions. In fact, he didn’t even end the restrictions, many of the restrictions on travel and so on. They made a mild gesture towards moving towards normalization of relations. That’s presented here—the way it’s presented here is, we have to test Cuba to see if our long—as Obama put it, our efforts to improve the situation in Cuba have failed, right? Big efforts to improve the situation—terrorism, sanctions. The sanctions are really incredible. So, if, say, Sweden was sending medical equipment somewhere which had Cuban nickel in it, that had to be banned, you know, things like that.
AMY GOODMAN: And terrorism, you mean?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Terrorism just—it went on into the ’90s. The worst part was under Kennedy, then picked up again in the late ’70s and so on. Major terrorists are provided refuge in Florida. The late Bosch is one, Orlando Bosch. Posada is another. You remember there was something called the Bush Doctrine, Bush II: A country that harbors terrorists is the same as the terrorists themselves. That’s for others, not for us. We harbor them and also support their activities.
But we have to test Cuba to see if they’re making successful gestures, now that our old policy of bringing freedom and democracy didn’t work, so we have to try a new policy. I mean, the irony of this is almost indescribable. The fact that these words can be said is shocking. It’s a sign of, again, a failure to reach a minimal level of civilized awareness and behavior. But the steps—I mean, it’s good that there are small steps being taken. It’s interesting to see what the Cuban intellectual community—there is a dissident intellectual community in Cuba—how they’ve been reacting to it. Actually, there’s an interesting article about it by my daughter, Avi Chomsky, who’s a Cuba specialist. But we don’t look at that. We don’t hear what they’re saying.
AMY GOODMAN: What are they saying?
NOAM CHOMSKY: What they’re saying is approximately what I was just saying: You know, it’s a good step that the U.S. is beginning to move, but they’ve got to begin to face up to the reality of what’s been happening, which is that the U.S. has been attacking Cuba. And the reason for—the primary reason, probably, for Obama’s slight moves are that the U.S. was becoming completely isolated in the hemisphere. It’s not just that the world is opposed, the hemisphere is opposed. And that’s a remarkable development.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Latin America, overall, I wanted to turn to the latest that’s happening in Venezuela and with U.S.-Venezuelan relations. Venezuela has announced the arrest of an unspecified number of Americans on charges of espionage, at least some of whom have reportedly been released and left the country. Speaking at a rally, the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, said the suspects were trying to stoke anti-government political sentiment.
PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] We’ve detected activity, and we have captured some U.S. citizens in undercover activities, in hidden activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast, trying to win over people in some neighborhoods. In Táchira, we captured a pilot of a U.S. plane of Latin origin with all sorts of documentation.
AMY GOODMAN: President Maduro also announced new restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Venezuela and rule changes that will subject Americans to the same visa requirements Venezuelans face in the United States. President Maduro has also unveiled a list of American politicians barred from entering Venezuela in response to U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials last year. Maduro has repeatedly accused right-wing opponents of fomenting a coup with U.S. support. Now, the White House has denied the charges, but said last week it’s considering tools to, quote, “steer the Venezuelan government in the direction they should be headed,” unquote. Professor Noam Chomsky, your response? What’s happening?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one kind of question we should immediately ask ourselves is brought up by your observation that Venezuela is planning to impose on U.S. citizens the same restrictions that the United States imposes on Venezuelans. Why do we impose those restrictions? Suppose, say, that Iran was sending people to the United States to foment opposition to the government and call for change in the regime. How would we react to that? Unimaginable. But we consider it our right to do that elsewhere. Incidentally, this is not a justification of Venezuelan actions. The fact that we do it doesn’t make it justified. If others do it, no, it’s not justified. Venezuela has severe internal problems. There’s no doubt about that.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of Maduro and how he compares to President Chávez?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Maduro—Chávez had a charisma and popular support and appeal that Maduro doesn’t have. But there is a—there are difficult economic circumstances to face within Venezuela. The economy is in difficult shape. During the Chávez years, there were progress in many areas, but there was no success in moving Venezuela away from a strictly oil-based economy. There was very little in the way of diversification of the economy, a development of agriculture, development of industry and so on. And that’s a pretty weak reed for an economy to rest on. It’s not a successful development program. And that’s now showing up. There were inflation problems. They were never able to deal with the problem of internal violence. It’s not the most violent country in the hemisphere, but it’s pretty bad. And these are serious internal problems that are undoubtedly being exacerbated, to some extent by U.S. involvement. By rights, we should be trying to support Venezuela to overcome its internal problems, not trying to light fires that will make them worse.
AMY GOODMAN: How could the U.S. do that?
NOAM CHOMSKY: We could, for example, eliminate those restrictions that you’re talking about. We could be providing economic and technical assistance that could be used to overcome internal difficulties. These are things that could be done. Instead what we’re doing is maintaining a position of extreme hostility. This is not—there’s plenty of problems internally, and our actions are purposely making them worse. It’s not by accident. We want—the U.S. government wants to make them worse, because it wants the regime overthrown. Chávez’s own estimate—whether it’s accurate or not, I can’t judge, but what he’s—his position is that the United States was willing to tolerate his government, up to the point when he began to play a significant role in OPEC and convinced the OPEC countries, the oil-producing countries, to lower production in order to raise prices. And the U.S. was strongly opposed to that. And what he says is, that’s when the U.S. government turned against him. In fact, the U.S. backed, openly backed, the 2002 coup, which briefly overthrew the government, and has continued subversive activities. That’s his judgment.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re spending the hour with MIT professor, author and activist Noam Chomsky. We sat down with him Monday. I asked him about the significance of the leaks by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and whether he should be allowed to return to the United States without facing any charges.
NOAM CHOMSKY: He should be welcomed as a person who carried out the obligations of a citizen. He informed American citizens of what their government is doing to them. That’s exactly what a person who has real patriotism, not the flag-waving type, but real patriotism, would do. So he should be honored, not just allowed back. It’s the people in the government who should be on trial, not him.
AMY GOODMAN: I was talking to a friend who was saying, you know, when you talk about Edward Snowden, what about the issues of terrorism and having to spy on those who might want to hurt others?
NOAM CHOMSKY: If they want to—first of all, it’s—we can raise this question, but it’s academic, because they are not preventing terrorism. You’ll recall, when the Snowden revelations came out, the immediate reaction from the government, the highest level—Keith Alexander, others—was that these NSA programs had stopped, I think they said, 54 or so acts of terror. Gradually, when the press started asking questions, it was whittled down to about 12. Finally, it came down to one. And that act of terror was a man who had sent, I think, $8,500 to Somalia. That’s the yield of this massive program.
And it is not intended to stop terrorism. It’s intended to control the population. That’s quite different. You have to be very cautious in accepting claims by power systems. They have no reason to tell you the truth. And you have to look and ask, “Well, what is the truth?” And this system is not a system for protecting terrorism.
Actually, you can say the same about the drone assassination program. That’s a global assassination program, far and away the worst act of terror in the world. It’s also a terror-generating program. And they know it, from high places. You can find quotation after quotation where they know it. Take this one case that I mentioned before, this child who was murdered in a drone strike after having watched his family burn to death by drone strikes.
AMY GOODMAN: In Yemen.
NOAM CHOMSKY: What’s the effect of this on people? Well, it’s to create terror. The close analyses have shown that that’s exactly what happens. There’s a very important book by Akbar Ahmed, who’s an important anthropologist, who is a Pakistani, who studies tribal systems and worked in the North-West territories and so on, and it’s called The Thistle and the Drone. And he goes through, in some detail, the effect on tribal societies of simply murdering—from their point of view, just murdering people at random. The drone attacks, remember, are aimed at people who are suspected of maybe someday wanting to harm us. I mean, suppose, say, that Iran was killing people in the United States and Israel who they thought would—might someday want to harm them. They could find plenty of people. Would we consider that legitimate? It’s again, we have the right to carry out mass murder of suspects who we think might harm us someday. How does the world look at this? How do the people look at this in this village where this child was who said that they’re terrorized by constant drone strikes all over North-West Pakistan? That’s true. Now it’s over most of the world. The U.S. war—so-called war against terror has been a smashing success. There was a small group up in the tribal areas of mostly Pakistan and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, and we have succeeded in spreading it over the whole world. Now they’re all everywhere—you know, West Africa, Southeast Asia—simply generating more and more terror. And I think it’s—you know, it’s not that the U.S. is trying to generate terror. It’s simply that it doesn’t care.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Syriza in Greece, a movement that started as a grassroots movement. Now they have taken power, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. And then you have Spain right now. We recently spoke to Pablo Iglesias, the secretary general of the group called Podemos, that was founded, what—an anti-austerity party that has rapidly gained popularity. A month after establishing itself last year, they won five seats in the European Parliament, and some polls show they could take the next election, which would mean that Pablo Iglesias, the 36-year-old political science professor and longtime activist, could possibly become the prime minister of Europe’s fifth-largest economy. He came here to New York for just about 72 hours, and I asked him to talk about what austerity measures have meant in Spain.
PABLO IGLESIAS: Austerity means that people is expulsed of their homes. Austerity means that the social services don’t work anymore. Austerity means that public schools have not the elements, the means to develop their activity. Austerity means that the countries have not sovereignty anymore, and we became a colony of the financial powers and a colony of Germany. Austerity probably means the end of democracy. I think if we don’t have democratic control of economy, we don’t have democracy. It’s impossible to separate economy and democracy, in my opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Pablo Iglesias, the head of this new anti-austerity group in Spain called Podemos, which means in English “We can.” The significance of these movements?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very significant. But notice the reaction. The reaction to Syriza was extremely savage. They made a little bit of progress in their negotiations, but not much. The Germans came down very hard on them.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean in dealing with the debt.
NOAM CHOMSKY: In the dealing with them, and sort of forced them to back off from almost all their proposals. What’s going on with the austerity is really class war. As an economic program, austerity, under recession, makes no sense. It just makes the situation worse. So the Greek debt, relative to GDP, has actually gone up during the period of—which is—well, the policies that are supposed to overcome the debt. In the case of Spain, the debt was not a public debt, it was private debt. It was the actions of the banks. And that means also the German banks. Remember, when a bank makes a dangerous, a risky borrowing, somebody is making a risky lending. And the policies that are designed by the troika, you know, are basically paying off the banks, the perpetrators, much like here. The population is suffering. But one of the things that’s happening is that the—you know, the social democratic policies, so-called welfare state, is being eroded. That’s class war. It’s not an economic policy that makes any sense as to end a serious recession. And there is a reaction to it—Greece, Spain and some in Ireland, growing elsewhere, France. But it’s a very dangerous situation, could lead to a right-wing response, very right-wing. The alternative to Syriza might be Golden Dawn, neo-Nazi party.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you have in the United States a movement around accountability, overall. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Selma Bloody Sunday, March 7th, when John Lewis, now a congressman, and scores of others had their heads beaten in by Alabama state troopers. It’s 50 years later, and you have the Black Lives Matter movement. You have these stories repeatedly around the country of police officers killing young people and not-so-young people of color. What do you make of this movement? And do you see the anti-austerity movement in Europe, the accountability movement in the United States, the movement around climate change—do you see these coalescing in any way?
NOAM CHOMSKY: They should. But in actual fact, the degree of coalescence is not high. We should remember that—take Selma. If you listen to the rhetoric on Martin Luther King Day, it’s instructive. It typically ends with the “I Have a Dream” speech and the voting rights. And Martin Luther King didn’t stop there. He went on to condemning the war in Vietnam and to raising class issues. He began to raise class issues and turn to the North. At that point, he fell out of favor and disappeared. He was trying to—he was assassinated when he was trying to organize a poor people’s movement, and he was supporting a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis. There was supposed to be a march to Washington to establish a poor people’s movement, appeal to Congress to do something about class issues. Well, the march actually took place after his death, led by his widow, ended up in Washington. They set up a tent city, a resurrection city. This was the most liberal Congress in history probably, tolerated it briefly, then sent in the police in the middle of the night and drove them out of town. And that’s disappeared from the rhetoric on Martin Luther King Day. So it’s OK to condemn a racist sheriff in Alabama, but not us, please. Don’t touch our privilege and power. And that’s a large part of the background.
These issues are very real. There’s more issues here. Racism is a very serious problem in the United States. Take a look at the scholarly work on it, say, George Fredrickson’s study of the white supremacy, comparative study. He concludes, I think plausibly, that the white supremacy in the United States was even more extreme and savage than in South Africa. Just think of our own history. You know, our economy, our wealth, our privilege relies very heavily on a century of horrifying slave labor camps. The cotton—cotton production was not just the fuel of the Industrial Revolution, it was the basis for the financial system, the merchant system, commerce, England, as well. These were bitter, brutal slave labor camps. There’s a recent study by Edward Baptist which comes out with some startling information. It’s called—actually, the title is startling, something like The Half was Never Told [The Half Has Never Been Told], which is more or less true, was never told. But, for example, he shows, pretty convincingly, that in the slave labor camps—the “plantations,” we call them, politely—the productivity increased more rapidly than in industry, with no technological advance, just the bullwhip. Just by driving people harder and harder to the point of survival, they were able to increase productivity and profit. And it’s not just the—he also points out that the word “torture” is not used in discussion of this period. He introduces it should be used. I mean, these are camps that could have impressed the Nazis. And it is a large part of the basis for our wealth and privilege. Is there a slave museum in the United States? Actually, the first one is just being established now by private—some private donor. I mean, this is the core of our history, along with the extermination or expulsion of the native population, but it’s not part of our consciousness.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you’re headed off on a Latin America trip right now for a month. You’ll be in Brazil. You’ll be giving talks in Argentina. When you go to Brazil, you’re going to be meeting your new family.
NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: And I was wondering if you could talk a little about that?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we’ve been talking about a variety of things that range from unpleasant to horrific, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the world has some wonderful things in it, too. And I got an unexpected, wondrous gift from Brazil that fell into my arms not long ago. We’re now—Valeria—we’re now about to celebrate our first anniversary and off to Brazil to meet Valeria’s family.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is that like for you? You are seen around the world, by many, as—not only as a person who shares incredible political insight in the world, but really as a role model. And so, can you talk personally about your own life?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m a very private person. I’ve never talked about my own life much. But, you know, I’ve—personally, I’ve been very fortunate in my life, with—there have been tragedies. There have been wonderful things. And Valeria’s sudden appearance is one of those wonderful things.
AARON MATÉ: You said, after your first wife, Carol, died, that life without love is empty—something along those lines. Can you talk about that?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I could produce some clichés, which have the merit of being true. Life without love is a pretty empty affair.
AARON MATÉ: And your own tireless schedule, keeping up with your lectures, writing extensive articles, and still tirelessly answering the emails, from correspondence from people around the world—when I was in college, I remember I wrote you several times and got back these long, detailed answers on complex questions. And there’s people across the globe who could attest to a similar experience. Do you feel a certain obligation to respond to people? Because nobody would fault you, at the age of 86 now, if you took more time for yourself.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I don’t know if it’s an obligation exactly. It’s a privilege, really. These are the important people in the world. I remember a wonderful comment by Howard Zinn about the countless number of unknown people who are the driving force in history and in progress. And that’s people like—I didn’t know you, but people like you writing from college. These are people that deserve respect, encouragement. They’re the hope for the future. They’re an inspiration for me personally.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned your daughter Avi being an expert on Cuba, among others. You have three children that you and Carol raised, now broadening your family to Valeria, as well. Can you talk about your philosophy of child rearing in a very politically active family? You have said in the past that you thought, because of your opposition to the war in Vietnam, for example, you might spend years in jail.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Came very close, came close enough so that by 1967, ’68, when resistance activities were at their height—and I was an unindicted co-conspirator in one trial, and the prosecutor announced I’d be the leading person in the next trial, but—
AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon me?
AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?
NOAM CHOMSKY: These were the so-called trials of the resistance. The first was called the Spock-Coffin trial, although—a lot to say about that. The next ones were called off, mainly because of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which convinced the American business community that the war is going to drag on, and they—in a rather significant power play, they compelled Johnson to start backing off. And one of the things they did was end the trials. But it was serious enough so that my wife Carol went back to school after 16 years to get a—finish up with her doctoral degree, since we had three kids to take care of. But during those years, although I was extremely active—I mean, there were times when I was giving seven talks a day and going to demonstrations and so on, but I always managed—took care to spend as much time as I could, quality time, with the kids when they were growing up.
AMY GOODMAN: So what gives you hope?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Things like what you described, also the wonderful things in the world of the kind that I mentioned, like my wife.
AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, author, Noam Chomsky. To hear part one of our interview yesterday, when he talked about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today, you can go to our website. This is just a clip.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Basically, a joint effort by Netanyahu and mostly Republicans hawks from the United States to undermine any possibility of a negotiated settlement with Iran. Neither Israel nor U.S. hawks want to tolerate a deterrent in the region to their violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky. To hear both of our hours of interview with him, go to democracynow.org.