Monday, October 09, 2006


Dear Charngchi Way,
Thank you very much for your comment. I'm so grateful. Your interview with Professor Chomsky was inspiring. I'm Japanese so I'm always interested in interviews of Prof. Chomsky with Asian interviewers. I hope you'll translate your transcripts into Chinese so that more people can read them. I hope and I believe you hope too, that more and more people will come to know his views so that we'll be able to think ourselves as "members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire."
Thank you.

On Just War Theory and the Invasion of Iraq. U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Q&A

The Q&A

Chomsky: Your chance to talk. Repeat that the questioners won’t be filmed. So you can feel free to talk.

Q: Sir, I was just wondering, if you believe the United States of America has a responsibility to intervene in cases where just war says that it is justified to intervene?

Chomsky: Do I think that there’s responsibility to intervene in cases where just war theory concludes that it is correct to intervene, is that the question?
Personally, I agree with the UN Charter and the high-level UN panel of December 2004 in UN World Summit, which I quoted. But I can’t really answer the question because as far as I can determine, you can tell me if I’m wrong, just war theory never tells you anything. It doesn’t tell you when it’s proper to intervene. What it tells you is “I think it is proper to intervene.” Well, you know, I may also think so but there’s a big gap between assertion and argument. Between surmise and evidence. So if you can tell me where just war theory entails that we ought to intervene, we can consider the question. But until it’s done, we can’t really consider the question.

Q: Sir, I was wondering, do you believe that it’d have been right to reassess Article 51 of the UN Charter, you’d believe that by not reassessing and not rewriting it, it loses its relevancy?

Chomsky: Sorry, I didn’t get it. By…? Say it again?

Q: By not reassessing it and not rewriting it..

Chomsky: Yeah.

Q: you believe that it loses its relevancy?

Chomsky: It has been reassessed, repeatedly. For example, by the high-level UN panel of December 2004--the issues were reported in 2004--with many distinguished participants. I mentioned Brent Scowcroft, but there were others. Yes, that’s exactly what they did: They reassessed the UN Charter. And their conclusion is what I read. The UN World Summit last September, again reassessed the UN Charter and that’s what it concluded. Maybe there should be further reassessment, fine, then let’s undertake it. Let’s consider their arguments. There are other arguments. But we can’t say it hasn’t been reassessed. We can say we haven’t paid any attention to it. Well, that’s possible, in fact it’s true. But certainly it has been reassessed by very respectable and leading figures.
And the conclusions in my opinion at least are pretty justified. However, to get back to the main topic, I don’t think just war theory tells you anything about that. When we judge these things, we’re judging them on other bases. On the bases of actual evidence about what happens in particular cases in terms of our fundamental moral principles with which we should try to explicate and apply, like the principle of universality. That’s the way we should reassess it. Also we should, I think seriously about the statement that I quoted of the December 2004 panel, that was directed to people like us. It was directed to intellectual opinion in the West. And you can read it again but what they said is the foundations of world order based on the principle of non-intervention, in the affairs of others not forced to threat and intervention is too important and too fragile to be destroyed. Or the consequences will be terrible because for one to act is to grant the authority to all. At least if we believe in elementary moral principles. That’s a heavy burden to bear. Maybe we can come up with a different conclusion in some cases. Actually personally I think we can, but it has to be argued.

Q: You said that it’s possible that Article 51 needs to be reassessed, but you mentioned earlier when you were referencing Walzer’s book that he said that Israeli preemptive strike was just…eh, he said Israeli preemptive strike was justified. You also stated that his arguments did not really have justification by his theory. However, in the case of the preemptive strike, he does say that there’re several criteria that are necessary for the Israeli attack to be justified. Specifically the fact that the Egyptian army was standing at a state of readiness that Israeli army was incapable of holding. So under Article 51, even though Egypt had not yet invaded Israel, they were not at war. However, what Egypt was doing tactically put Israel at a severe disadvantage, so under our modern definition of war, it seems to be that it ought to be…”it seems to me” (laughing), it seems logical that it ought to be called an act of war, what Egypt was doing, putting Israel in such a disadvantage. So doesn’t Article 51 definitely need some reassessment?

Chomsky: Article 51 clearly does not apply. I read the article, we can argue that if it was justified, but we can’t say that Article 51 justifies it. Not under Daniel Webster’s characterization or any other one’s that is accepted by the international community. We might argue and here’s where I think you could make an argument that if you consider the range of issues that rose at the time that the preemptive strike was justified. Maybe one can give such an argument. But the point is that no argument was given to that effect, none of the relevant facts were considered and this is regarded as one of the half dozen cases where just war theory entails that the use of military force was legitimate. Just war theory doesn’t entail that. It doesn’t entail anything. What it tells you is well, I, Michael Walzer, believes this was justified above without giving any reasons and without looking into background. If you look into the background, there’s a lot more complex than that.. a lot of literature and scholarship on it. That the US did not agree, there were all sorts of possibilities you could’ve taken, I mean I don’t wanna.. if you want to run through the background. But it’s quite intricate and complex. Going back to the question of a free passage for the strait of Tehran, whether that should be brought to the World court, which the US and Israel refused to do. And Egypt insisted on, and involves Israeli strikes against Syrian targets, all sorts of things. So, yes, there’s a complicated background, you can look at them, you could decide, maybe, that in the light of these complex.. these complex circumstances, perhaps Israel was entitled to make a preemptive strike, but that’s not what it’s claimed. What it’s claimed is that without looking any evidence, just war theory-- whatever it is, it’s not easy to determine--just theory entails that this is one of the half dozen cases in the last century in which the use of force was “no doubt” legitimate, and the only case in which the preemptive strike was legitimate. And we can also raise the question of universality. I mean I don’t believe and I’m sure you don’t believe that Iran has a right to, say, carry out terrorist acts in the United States right now. But undoubtedly it’s under a serous threat. And undoubtedly the threat is simply overwhelming as compared with Iran’s capacities. But it will be outrageous to suggest that, of course. If it’s outrageous to suggest that why is it legitimate in this case? I mean for one to act is to give the right to all. And we can give a whole lot of other examples. Let me give even more outrageous one, ok, not because I accept it of course, but just as an example. Nobody I know of who’s semi-sane goes out every December 7th and celebrates the Pearl Harbor Day. However, if we use these arguments, you can do it. Japan, on December 7th, attacked US military bases in -- to effectively to US colonies, territories claimed by the US, Hawaii and Philippines-- attacked military bases. And the Japanese are perfectly capable of reading what was being written in U.S. public journals. In fact the U.S intelligence which cracked the Japanese codes know that they knew about it. What was being written going all way up to the high military command, being reported by political commentaries and the New York Times was that the United States was that B17s were-- running off the--going assembly line, designed to be able to burn the--to the ground, what they called “the antiques” in which the Japanese lived, these wooden cities, burned to the ground under B17 attacks. Furthermore, B17 being re-shifted from the Atlantic when they were needed to the Pacific bases in preparation for such attacks. Well, you know, is that a threat? Yes, it’s a pretty serious threat. Does that justify Pearl Harbor? I mean not in ten million years. But if that doesn’t, why is this justified? (pause)
My birthday incidentally, so I have a special interest in that day.

Q: Sir, up here. I just wanna know if you thought our operations in war were preemptive or preventive, and..

Chomsky: Sorry I couldn’t hear the first part.

Q: Do you think our operations in Iraq preventive or preemptive, and do you think that our operation in Iraq is just or unjust?

Chomsky: Well, there’s interesting terminology in that. The administration presented that in fact the National Security Council described, they had that in mind…but more generally, as preemptive war, but certainly it isn’t preemptive war by any stretch of the imagination. More accurately you can call it a preventive war. OK, say you have to prevent a potential attack against us. Personally, I don’t see much justification for that, even if you accept that they believed all the reports that Collin Powell was giving at the UN Security Council and so on. Even if we accept all that we believed, it doesn’t seem to me the preventive war in such cases legitimate. And as you know the world didn’t think so either. There were international polls taken on this and outside the United States and less… to more limited extent to England. You could barely find a country in the world where support for it was above 10%. In fact, the only two exceptions in international polls taken were India and Israel. But both of them had something different in mind. What they had in mind was their own repression of the occupied territories. Kashmir and the occupied territories, now they liked the idea, preventive war by the powerful. But they weren’t talking about this. However, the rest of the world is almost nonexistent. You know, 10% or less. Again, we have the same question. If preventive war is legitimate under those circumstances, it is legitimate for everybody. OK, that means it’s legitimate for Iran today. I mean to take another case, it is simply undeniable, I mean I read it right in US official documents that the United States has been carrying out a terrorist war against Cuba since 1960. I mean at first it was direct participation. More recent years, it’s just with tolerance. But that it happened isn’t even questionable. It was J.F Kennedy assigned his brother Robert Kennedy the task of running the terrorist war. It was to be his highest priority Robert Kennedy’s official, you know, more or less official biographer, a historian, Arthur Schlesinger, who was a well-known historian, it was Kennedy, member of the Kennedy team Latin American advisor He writes that Robert Kennedy’s task was “bringing the terrors of the earth” to Cuba. If you look back at the record, it was no joke. And it continues, now still based on the US soil. The US harbors happily harbors the terrorists who were involved in it. Does that give to Cuba the right to carry out terrorist acts in the US? That this preventive, did they give him the right? Well, I don’t think so and I’m sure you don’t think so. Ah, but if preventive war is legitimate, why not? In fact, there are many other cases where, take say, Lebanon in 1982. When Israel was preparing the attack, and in fact trying desperately to conjure up an excuse for the attack, they were bombing Lebanon, hoping for some retaliation that can be as used the pretext. And that was a serious attack, killed probably maybe 20,000 people, you know, destroyed a large part of Southern Lebanon, the city of Beirut, much of it. Did that give Lebanon or the Palestinians in Lebanon the right to carry out terrorist acts in Israel? Prior to it, to prevent the war? I certainly don’t think so, I’m sure you don’t. But if preventive war is legitimate under such ambiguous cases as Iraq, why isn’t that legitimate? So, no, I don’t think it was just, I think it was an aggression.

Q: Sir, Walzer’s legal paradigm when he described, he also describes three provisions one of which being the human right provision saying that it is justified to intervene if human rights are being violated. Ah would you give any credence to the argument that Saddam Hussein was in fact a tyrant that did violate human rights? Even though there are other apt reasons given for such as WMD. Additionally aggressors, Walzer also describes, aggressors are also being just, to go against war, to go war against and on one hand, did he ever lose his status as an aggressor from the first Gulf War?

Chomsky: He lost his status as an aggressor when he was driven out of Kuwait just as Israel lost its status as an aggressor when after 22 years it pulled out of Lebanon. But I can give you plenty of other examples, of course close to home. But as to human rights violations they were horrendous. Here’s one of the cases where it really is important to look at facts before you go make decisions. We know the facts. They are not secret. So yes, Saddam Hussein carried out horrendous human rights violations. In fact he’s on trail for them right now. Well, have a look at the trail. Saddam Hussein is on trial for crimes that he committed in 1982, right? Killed, the charge of killing probably, accurately by killing 150, or signed the death warrant for 150 or so Shiites who were involved in an uprising. Yeah that’s a crime. 1982 happens to be an important year in the US-Iraqi relations. This should be headlines in a free press in my opinion. It was a very important year. 1982 was the year in which Ronald Reagan dropped Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so the US could start providing him with extensive aid including military aid, including means to develop biological and chemical weapons and missiles, and weapons of nuclear weapons, it was dropped …… Donald Rumsfeld shortly after went to firm up the agreement, the next charge against Saddam Hussein, once going to come along, it’s been announced much more serious crime, the atrocities against the Kurds in 1987, 1988, unfold the massacre of Halabja. They were terrible, probably killed 100,000 people. The US didn’t object. In fact the Reagan administration blocked efforts of Congress and even to protest against it. Furthermore the support for Saddam increased and continued.
In fact Saddam was given an extraordinary privilege. Remarkable. I mean he was allowed.. he got away with attacking a US naval vessel and killing 37 soldiers. I’ve seen it in 1987. That was pretty astonishing and nobody would get away with that. But we were supporting, the Reagan administration was so strongly on support of Saddam right through the worst atrocities, even he got away with that. I mean in 19..this continued to the end of war in Iran after the worst atrocities. In 1989, Iraqi nuclear engineers were invited to the United States to take part in conference, it was in Portland Oregon, in which they were trained in how to develop, how to make weapons of mass destruction, 1989. And furthermore George Bush No1 told us why it was being done. He said “We have to provide aid to Saddam because it’s our responsibility to help US exporters and because he contributes to stability in the region.” In fact that continued. Take, after the invasion of Kuwait, after he was driven out of Kuwait, you know, Iraq was practically bombed into the rubble, the US had a total control of the area. There was an uprising, April, March, April 1991, Shiite uprising in the south. Probably would’ve overthrown it. They were rebelling Iraqi generals. Good chance it would have been overthrown. The Bush administration determined that they would essentially to permit Saddam to crush it. The US military helicopters and other armed equipment, they didn’t have to do that. That led to a huge massacre. And it was described. You know, you can go back and read the New York Times. Right after that, they said, well, it’s regrettable but there’s a consensus among the US and its allies, meaning Saudi Arabia and Britain, there’s a consensus that --I’m virtually quoting--that “Saddam Hussein offers more hope for the stability of the region than those who were trying to overthrow him.” That’s 1991. You know, yeah, human rights violations were horrendous. Does it have anything to do with invasion? No. nothing. You know.

Robert Tully: Professor Chomsky, I’m most regretful that I have to interrupt the whole of your thoughts and your very interesting presentation. Unfortunately, we’re constrained by the military time to end up this time, but I’m happy to say that the occasion, your opportunity of those of you who did not have an opportunity to ask your question, yours may come out of (*inaudible) I certainly hope it will, there’s a reception immediately to follow, but first sir.

Cadet: (approaching Chomsky) Sir, on behalf of class of 2008 I’d like to present you this gift, this is a small token of appreciation for speaking with us tonight. Thank you, sir.

Chomsky: Thank you very much.

(He opened the gift and it was a framed picture of the campus) 

Saturday, September 30, 2006

On Just War Theory and the Invasion of Iraq. U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Postscript: The video of this lecture is available again on the website below.(January, 2007)

This lecture took place at U.S. Military Academy at West Point on April 20, 2006. It was aired on C-span TV in the United States.
The video clip was available on his official website for a couple of months after the coverage, but no longer so at this moment. Prior to posting, I asked Professor Chomsky about the copyright with regard to this lecture. He replied to my e-mail and introduced me to Mr. Arnove. Mr.Arnove said if I could send him my transcripts, he'd let me know which material can be posted on a case by case basis so I sent the transcripts. I have been waiting for his reply. I don't know who owns the copyright but I’d like to post this for the record because I think this is too important to disappear. Professor Chomsky said he assumed it was fine for me to post as long as it was identified properly and also he was glad I undertook this task. I’ll delete this as soon as I find any problem with the copyright owner and I'm responsible for the punctuation. Thanks to Professor Chomsky and Mr. Arnove for their answering to my emails.

(The Q&A part is to be continued. No questioners’ names will be included. The blanks are where I could not catch. )

On Just War Theory and the Invasion of Iraq. U.S. Military Academy at West Point. April 20, 2006 (deleted)

Professor Tully: …colleagues in the trenches who teach philosophy 201, and nearly five hundred cadets now taking this course. Good evening to all, and welcome. I’m Robert Tully, Professor philosophy at the Academy. Our guest speaker tonight, a man of extraordinary accomplishment is Noam Chomsky, the Institute Professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His reputation proceeds here by leaps and bounds. Just six months ago, the British journal on current affairs Prospect conducted a poll among its more than 20,000 readers to identify today’s leading global public intellectual. In a list of a hundred such figures, Professor Chomsky came first, drawing more than twice the votes received by the runner-up, Umberto Eco. In the eyes of this journal, Professor Chomsky belongs to the, as they said, the age of great oppositional thinker.

 Opposition has indeed been consistent feature of Professor Chomsky’s public life. Since the 1960s, he has been a determined and acerbic critic of American foreign policy. He has denounced politicians of both parties for hooplas and blindness and condemned American society for tolerating the grip of big business on politics, and pervasive influence of mass media. If he has been given more to condemnation than to praise, that may well be the world’s fault, not his. Professor Chomsky has launched his attacks on newspapers, journals and magazines, on radio and television and in public forums, pronouncing on the major issues of the day from Vietnam to Central America, the Middle East, the war on terror, and of course, Iraq.

His articles and essays on political topics alone numbered more than 200, that is at least where I gave up counting. In addition, there are more than fifty books on political matters, beginning in 1969 with “American Power and the New Mandarins” and continuing to the present with the recently published “Failed States.”

However, this amazing productivity constitutes only half the picture. Seemingly, two people fill the shoes of one Noam Chomsky. His protest and denunciations will eventually recede from public view(my note:did he really say this?) but the posterity will certainly always remember Noam Chomsky as a single thinker, the non-global, nonpublic intellectual who once revolutionized science of linguistics.
Chomsky’s work on linguistics burst upon the scene in the late 1950s and was steadily consolidated in a vast number of articles and more than 30 books. He gave linguistics a new starting point. Chomsky set out an answer of a fundamental question: What makes possible the endowment of human language itself? What lies beneath the enormous variety of spoken languages? He theorized that our familiar languages derive from underlying universal grammar and a set of operational rules in which native children already possess efficient skill to enable them unthinkingly to become speakers of their parents’ language in just a few years. Whether this underlying grammar is the functioning of mind or the brain was a secondary concern to Chomsky. 

As a linguist he entered into codifying and gave formal shapes to the rules by which a language learner naturally operates. This is science in abstract but profound sense, the new direction that Chomsky gave to linguistics made his project comparable to the work done by Whitehead and Russell, a half century earlier, who was inspired to base both formal logic and number theory on the set of the first principle. His achievement on behalf of linguistics was also in the spirit of two great European rationalists: The philosophers Descartes and Kant, who had sought in their own ways and for different purposes to find anchorage for our experience of the world in the workings of the objective human reason. Two selves then. The public controversialist and the academic scientist. Two voices, but one Noam Chomsky. 

To such diversion interests have foundation, is there underlying unity to the voices? I think the answer can be found in the same European tradition from which also comes the view that moral will is in the essential component of human reason. According to the rationalist, we recognize the rightness or wrongness of human actions just as we intuit the necessary truth of some propositions. Our ethical judgment has expressed the workings of the moral law, and sharpened insight compels us to take an ethical stand if we have the courage.
The rationalist with courage rejects the self-deception and dominance of feeling that chief concern is what is right to do, not with whether the consequences make the action right. Above all, the rationalist uphold the universal perspective that treats people as ends rather than as means. Actions contrary to this perspective deserve to be exposed and criticized all the more so if they are the actions of government that abused their nearly absolute power for the sake of self-interest.
Noam Chomsky is a passionate rationalist. Yet his endeavor has not been to advance a novel theory of ethics., the moral certainties that compel him to speak are not theoretical. They are the stuff of everyday moral intuitions. Simple and easily recognized but in need of a voice. How these certainties are applied is the stuff of the controversy, but the dust of political in social debate all too easily obscures the strong moral conviction that underlie them.
I do not apologize for these lengthy remarks about Professor Chomsky. It cannot be said that the person with such remarkable complexity needs no introduction to use worn phrase. He has come to speak to us tonight about some aspects on just war theory. After which he will want to engage the students and cadets of philosophy 201 in discussion and priority in the question and answer period will be given to the cadets. Let this discussion be what all philosophical debate aims to be: Objective, open, respectful, fair, well-argued. In one word, rational. Please join me now, and welcome in our guest, Professor Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky: Thanks. I think a useful place to start might be with a recent academic study by an oxford professor of "Traditions of War," which contrasts two leading paradigms in the study of just war: what the author calls the Grotian and republican interpretations. The first paradigm traces back to Hugo Grotius, a fame in the 17th century, a humanist who found the dominant framework of thinking on laws of war. Within this paradigm, law war is an act of states and just war proposals are a means to humanize and to introduce humanity and warfare. It’s one tradition. 

The contrasting republican paradigm traces back to Rousseau, and the uprising against monarchy in feudalism in the late 18th century including the American Revolution. This paradigm blends war with justice, with liberty, equality, individual community rights, whatever else may fall within our concept of justice. Well, these positions are of course idealizations, the real world is more complex. The former implementation of efforts to introduce humanity into warfare do not simply disregard questions of justice but they do put them to the margins. They’re not central to the codification of the principals of world order and practice with single exception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has a pretty tattered history. 

Well, despite real world complexities, the differences between these two approaches to just war, I think, deserve attention in considering both the issues that are addressed and those that are ignored. We might ask whether that itself is just. 

There are at least three major sources of insight into the concepts of just war. The first is the scholarly literature. The second is the underlined notions of human nature that underlie our moral judgments. The third is the international codifications. So I’d like to say a few words by each of these topics, I think it may help to indicate in advance where I’m heading, in brief, my own conclusions are that the literature merits careful attention, but is ultimately not very instructive about just war. 

Secondly, that the notions of human nature should be at the heart of the discussion although serious inquiry into this is still at its early stages. And the third that the codifications are, seem to me sensible, but actions in the real world all too often reinforce the famous maxim of Thucydides, “The strong do as they can while the weak do as they must.” So let’s start with some remarks on some of the current literature on just war.

One of the most recent studies is Michael Walzer’s book "Arguing About War," which merits particular attention not only because of the high praise it’s received but also because Walzer is responsible for the … largely responsible for the recent revival of just war theory. The strength-- I think the book reveals both the strengths and the weaknesses-- of just war theory. The strengths are that many of the conclusions seem plausible enough, at least to me, but particularly those conclusions that pretty much reiterate standard codifications. The weaknesses, that despite the book’s title “Arguing About War," it’s very hard to find an argument. You might try that as an experiment. 

More accurately, well, arguments are sometimes detectable, they rely crucially on such premises as “seems to me entirely justified” or “I believe” or “no doubt.” And there is almost no effort to bring in relevant background information and evidence. Walzer gives two paradigm examples which, in which case he simply asserts that wars are just, in fact so obviously just that arguments are unnecessary. The two examples are Afghanistan and Kosovo, he describes the invasion of Afghanistan as "a triumph of just war theory," which stands alongside the bombing of Serbia in 1999 as an uncontroversial case of just war. No argument is felt to be necessary though in either case it doesn’t take much effort to think of possible evidence that might bear on the pronouncement that these are triumphs of just war theory. These are considerations that would certainly be brought by, brought up by just war theorists if the responsibility for the military actions lay elsewhere. Well, for the lack of time I’ll skip the illustrations but can come back if you like.

To be clear on not asking whether the bombings of Afghanistan and Serbia were right or wrong, maybe they were, maybe they weren’t, I’m asking a different question, namely what does this just war theory have to say about it? And I think if you look closely you’ll find that the answer is that it has nothing to say about it. We’re left with assertions of the authors, that state violence was justified, and uncontroversially so. And any consequences, whether anticipated or not, are an “entirely no doubt” fault of the official enemy.

Another reason and also highly regarded inquiry into just war theory is by a moral political philosopher, Jean Bethke Elshtain. The paradigm of just war she writes is the bombing of Afghanistan. And she adds that nearly everyone with the exception of absolute pacifist or if you’re lunatics agree that the bombing of Afghanistan was clearly a just war. Argument ended. In reality, nearly everyone excludes substantial categories of people, the majority of world’s population for example, even in Europe, far more so in Latin America, and also leading Afghans who had been fighting the Taliban, including U.S favorites, and virtually all aid agencies working there. 

But what’s relevant is that this constitutes the sole argument, to establish that the war was just and in fact uncontroversially so. The facts are irrelevant, and no further argument is needed. Well, Elshtain does provide criteria for just war. So it at least has rudiments of the theory. Four criteria, I’ll read them.

“First criterion: the war must be openly declared or otherwise authorized by legitimate authority. Second: It must begin with the right intentions. Third: Forces justified if it protects the innocent from certain harm as one country has certain knowledge that genocide will commence on a certain date. Forth: It must be a last resort after other possibilities for the redress and defense of the values at stake have been explored.”

Well, the first two conditions, a vacuous declaration of war by an aggressor confers no support whatsoever for a claim of just war. And even the worst criminals claim right intentions. The third and forth conditions sound reasonable, but have no relevance at all, clearly to the case of Afghanistan. So, therefore Elshtain’s paradigm example collapses entirely under her own criteria. Let me add just one word on the classic, modern work, Michael Walzer’s “Just and Unjust Wars,” which I believe you’ve been reading, my personal judgment is that its conclusions are generally very reasonable, also pretty much in accord with conventional reading of the United Nations Charter. 

But what’s relevant here is that the conclusions just about unbearably rely crucially on the ubiquitous phrase, “it seems to me” and so on. Again, you might attest. So, just as illustrations take what it regards is “the hardest question” in his words. That is the British bombing of urban centers in Germany up to the end of the war. Walzer concludes that “such bombing,” quoting him, “after the immediate threat posed by Hitler’s early victory had passed was entirely indefensible.” Maybe so, but if you check you’ll find there’s no argument, a part from the statement, “That the policy seems cruel.” Well, I think it does, it seems cruel to me at least, but what does just war theory have to say where it is entered into the argument. Why are relevant facts disregarded. There are, after all, relevant facts.

The character of the theory is revealed further when we look at the examples that Walzer gives, he gives about half a dozen examples which I just listed, no argument or discussion, to show just war theory applies “leaving” in his words “no doubts”. The examples are mostly uncontentious although one might well ask why some of these examples are chosen but not others. For example, the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia is given as a case where there is “no doubt” but not given is the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which I suppose had about a hundred times as many as casualties, and many more during the 22 years of occupation of Southern Lebanon in defiance of the Security Council orders. So maybe there’s a reason, maybe there isn’t, but whatever it is, it’s not given. That’s all examples except one. The last example of a case where just war theory applies “leaving no doubt” is the Egyptian challenged Israel in 1967. That’s the sole example in a long period covered where just war theory allegedly demonstrates the preemptive strike was just “beyond all doubt.”

Maybe the selection of cases and the conclusions are correct, maybe they’re not, but what’s relevant here is that just war theory plays little if any role in the argument, which reduces pretty much to declarations of personal preference.

Well, I won’t go on but these are to my knowledge fairly representative selections from the most highly regarded literature and I think it’s fair to conclude more generally that we learn very little about just war from just war theory, although we do learn something about the prevailing intellectual moral climate in which the theory is presented and honored.

Well, let’s turn to the second source of potential insight. The second source of potential insight into just war theory, that is our intuitive moral judgments. Well, here, we’re turning to what was traditionally called moral philosophy. I think it’s more aptly described as moral psychology in modern terms, after the divorce of science and philosophy in the mid-19th century. A century before that, David Hume had done his classic work on what he called “the springs and origins of human nature.” Hume recognized that knowledge and belief are grounded in what he called “the species of natural instincts,” part of their inherent mental nature. He recognized also that something similar must be true in the domain of moral judgment. His reason was that our moral judgments are undaunted in scope, we’re constantly applying them in systematic ways to new circumstances in a manner that’s intelligible to others. Hence, they too must be founded on general principles that are part of our nature, although beyond what he called “our original instincts” meaning narrow instincts that we share with animals. 

Well, that insight which I think is accurate, should lead directly to efforts to develop something like a grammar of moral judgment. That’s an enterprise very much like the inquiry into the principles that are encoded somehow in our brains but permits us to do what you and I now are doing, and more broadly to produce and understand linguistic expressions over an unbounded range and use them in a way which is appropriate to circumstances and intelligible to others even though they’re maybe quite new and in our own history and our experiences in fact all our history. 

Well, as was recognized a century before Hume, these principles must be universal, hence grounded in our nature, on the basis for acquisition of any particular language. Today we would say that the principles of language and moral judgment are part of our genetic endowment, part of human biology, in both cases they are culturally specific and universal aspects, in both, the case of internal faculty of language in moral judgment. These things can be studied, they are part of science and in fact studied in rather similar ways. Inquiry into the moral faculty in these terms was undertaken by the leading American moral and political philosopher of the late 20th century, John Rawls, who relied explicitly on the analogy of two linguistic theories that were being developed in the 1960s at the time that he was writing his classic work “Theory of Justice.” Rawls in fact put this aspect of his work aside, under severe criticism by moral philosophers, turned to core issues for him. The criticisms were re-examined and I think adequately refuted in a doctoral dissertation a few years ago by John Mikhail, who is now a law professor at Georgetown, forthcoming book of his, based upon his dissertation developed this, also presents an empirical investigation of moral judgments in puzzling thought experiments that have been designed by moral philosophers. This experimental work reveals that intuitions in these quite puzzling cases are typically instantaneous and reflexive in adults and children, with systematic changes through early childhood development, as much as in other aspects of development. He then goes on to develop a theoretical explanation in terms of six principles that can be regarded as a development of Rawl’s “Theory of Justice,” in much earlier work of Hume in other classical writers are natural instincts.

There’s another book soon to come out by Harvard primatologist and cognitive scientist Marc Hauser carrying such inquiries further, includes comparative studies and more general ideas about what he calls “the moral organ” analogous to the language organ other subcomponents of the cognitive systems that are a core part of our biological nature. Well, in recent years, these topics have become a lively field of theoretical empirical inquiry from many points of view incidentally, these are study of principles that underlie intuitive conceptions of justice and rights and their cultural variety, their limited cultural variety and their universal properties. That could someday provide foundations for more substantive theory of just war. But it remains largely a task for the future though it’s underway in interesting ways.

Well, finally a couple of words on the codification of these intuitive judgments and the past century. I’ll keep it to the period after the World War two, though the earlier conventions have very clear and significant contemporary relevance, Hague Convention of 1907 for example. I can come back to that it if you like.

The post Second World War, codification of laws of war consists primarily of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles later adopted by the General Assembly. Well, as you know I’m sure, the Charter bars the threat or use of force except in two instances: If authorized by the Security Council of the United Nations or under Article 51 of the Charter in self-defense against armed attack until the Security Council acts. The phrase “armed attack” is conventionally interpreted in terms of Daniel Webster’s principle, which extends armed attack to cases where in his words “the necessity for action is urgent, is instant overwhelming, leaving no choices of means and no moment of deliberation.” Any other resort to force is a war crime, in fact “the supreme international crime encompassing all the evil that follows” in the words of the Nuremberg tribunal.

There was a high-level UN panel meeting, issues were reported in December, 2004, included among others, the former National Social Security advisor Brent Scowcfoft. It concluded that Article 51 needs neither extension nor restriction of its long-understood scope. It should be neither rewritten nor reinterpreted. Last September, UN World Summit reaffirmed quoting that “the relevant provisions of the Charter are sufficient to address the full-range of threats to international peace and security.” The summit further endorsed the responsibility to commit ourselves to helping states build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out. 

The summit granted no new right to intervention to individual states or regional alliances whether under humanitarian or other professed grounds, and it established no responsibility to protect, on the contrary to what was widely alleged in news reports and commentary.

The high-level panel of December 2004 had reached the same conclusion in words that were specifically directed at international intellectual opinion in state practice in the West in recent years. Its words were these: “For those impatient with declaring Article 51 to be appropriate as formulated, the answer must be that in a world full of perceived potential threats the risk to the global order and the norm of non-intervention on which it continuous to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all. Allowing one to so act is to allow all.” 

Here the panel is presupposing the principle of universality, namely that we apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others if not more stringent ones. That’s perhaps the most elementary of moral truisms and it's the foundation of just war theory if that theory is to be taken that all seriously.

The principle, however, is flatly rejected in the elite intellectual, moral and political culture of the most powerful states and it’s explicitly rejected by the official doctrine. That includes the expositors and advocates of just war theory, also includes substantial legal literature, it’s pretty easy to illustrate--there’s plenty of material in print about it--we can draw some conclusions from that. In this connection, in the end by saying, that it’s worth remembering some eloquent words on the principal of universality, foundations of just war theory and any serious moral theory, comments by Justice Robert Jackson, he was the chief for the council for the prosecution at Nuremberg.

He informed the tribunal that: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are the crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we’re not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants to a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

The supreme international crime for which the defendants were hanged at Nuremberg was defined clearly enough by Justice Jackson at Nuremberg. He proposed to the tribunal that an aggressor is the state that is the first to carry out invasion of its armed forces with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another state. Illustrations of that too, were easy enough to find and others are on the horizon. It’s again, noteworthy that these considerations are virtually excluded from the dominant, intellectual and moral culture in the West rather generally, although we have no difficulty at all in applying them to official enemies. 

Once again there’s nothing special about our own country in this respect, except that it’s more powerful than the others. Such evasions with regard to the acts of one’s own state are close to universal, they disfigure intellectual history as far back as you go to the maxims of Thucydides that I quoted. We may add an observation by the President John Adams, “Power always thinks it has a great sole and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak.” I think that’s another near universal, again all too easy to illustrate from the traditional practice of governments and the educated classes within them. 

Well, to return to the beginning, what can we learn from just war theory? My feeling is that from the literature on just war, we learn mostly about the prevailing moral and intellectual climate in which we live. Scientific inquiry into moral psychology and its roots in our nature may someday provide important insights, but practice cannot wait for that day, any more than engineering has waited for physics or medicine for biology for centuries in these cases, which are much simpler ones and much more accessible to inquiry than human nature. Thirdly, the codification of laws of war has overtime had a notable civilizing effect, but the gap between professed ideals and actual practice is much too large to be tolerated in my opinion. Thanks.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Dismantling Empire, Building Democracy

Corrected by Ms G, many thanks to her. I couldn’t have made it without her.

Dismantling Empire, Building Democracy

(Introduction by Diane Wittner )
(1:35)Diane: This week marks the third anniversary of the misguided and tragic US-led occupation of Iraq. With a burgeoning anti-war and progressive movement here at home, and exponentially growing hatred of the United States outside our border, there is a clear and urgent need for a new national security strategy and safeguards for democracy. We have asked Professor Chomsky to discuss with us how to definitively shut down the centuries-old project of empire-building in this country and instead help us create, to imagine creating a United States democratic republic for the 21st century. So, Professor Noam Chomsky, welcome to conversation for the cabinet.

Chomsky: Pleased to be with you.

Q: Now, speaking of dismantling empire, not too long ago, it seemed that the British Empire and the Soviet Empire were—the both empires were invincible. Ant yet, the both have declined, neither exists any more. What lessons are there in your view from the forces that brought them down, such as in the case of the Soviet Union, the Polish Solidarity Movement, and in the case of the former Czechoslovakia, the Velvet Revolution, partly in the case of Britain, centuries of rebellion and more than 50 years of former colonies breaking away?

Chomsky: Well, the lessons are pretty clear. It’s a combination of a resistance abroad and increase in the level of civilization and dedication at home. In the case of the Soviet Empire, a crucial part was played by dissident forces for whom Gorbachev became a kind of symbol and a spokesperson, which gradually eroded the power of the horrendous system from within. And a resistance within the satellites which are ...of the kind mentioned, which made it harder to sustain the domination abroad, and there was something pretty similar within. The British Empire was… there were different factors there including two world wars which reduced Britain to the level of what the British foreign office ruefully described as a Jr. partner to US power by the end of the Second World War.
But here, we don’t have any right to wait for others to dismantle the Empire, that’s our task from within. We can certainly do it. In fact, there are quite conservative ways proceeding. One way would be to pay some attention to public opinion. We happen to know a fair amount about it. It’s a very well studied society, so a considerable majority, a large majority of the public believe that the United States should respect the basic principles of international law which require that use of force is barred except in very specific circumstances, when authorized by the Security Council or in the case of defense against imminent attack: sudden, no time for deliberation until the Security Council has a chance to act. That happens to the position of the overwhelming majority of the population, which also believes and has believed for a long time that the United Nations, not the United States, should take the lead in international crises. In fact a small majority of the population even believes that the United States should give up the veto to the Security Council and follow who are-- they have “a decent respect for the Opinion of Mankind” as the Declaration of Independence put it, even if the political leaders don’t agree.
All those are conservative positions, they’d help make it a saner and safer world. And the US should proceed and we should, it’s our duty, too, compel the government to proceed to abandon the status of what’s sometimes called “an outlaw state” that would regard international law and treaty, obligation as irrelevant to itself, imposes them externally on others. And those are simple guidelines. They don’t answer every question, but they are quite a good beginning.

Q: Thank you very much. Now, you have just been chosen, Professor Chomsky, to be Secretary of State in a government whose elected officials have made a pledge to immediately dismantle the American Empire and we’re interested in an imaginative exercises here. What international treaties and resolutions would you have the United States support and what new international agreements would you then set up?

Chomsky: Well, there are quite sensible international treaties already in effect, to which the US irradically adheres. The basic one is the United Nations Charter, which just briefly outlines its basic principles that have to do with banning of use of force in international affairs except under the very narrow conditions that are mentioned. The US government simply rejects that flat out. In fact the National Security Strategy explicitly rejects it, calls for …grants the United States the right to use force at will in what is called “anticipatory self-defense” against imagined potential threats, that’s a direct rejection of the basic principles of UN Charter, as I mentioned the population is overwhelmingly opposed to that. That happens to be the official policy. Another treaty which is very much, it’s right on the front page today correctly, is the Non Proliferation Treaty signed in 1970, that has two core principles in it. One, Article 6, calls on the nuclear states to undertake good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. That is critical for the survival of the species.
50 years ago, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein issued a dramatic call pleading with the people of the world to make a choice that they described as “stark and inescapable” either we will destroy the human species or we will renounce war. They had a good reason to say that. And the threat of nuclear war is now very high and increasing. One of the reasons is that none of the nuclear states have abided by their commitment under the Non Proliferation Treaty but the US is far in the lead in rejecting it. It is alone in fact in explicitly formally announcing that it is not subject to Aticle 6, doesn’t have to abide by it. That incidentally is a binding legal commitment that was determined authoritatively by the World Court ten years ago. If that’s not accepted by the world, and chances of survival of the species are not very great.

There’s another Article paired with that. Article 4, which says that non-nuclear states, in return for their willingness not to develop nuclear weapon, will be granted access to fissile materials, to enrich uranium for the purpose of nuclear energy. Those are the core articles. That’s a significant treaty. Its failure to---it has a regular 5-year-review procedure. Last May was the last 5-year review ended in total catastrophe. The primary reason was that the US simply flatly rejected a whole series of binding commitments from earlier reviews and announced its exemption from Article 6, that is now proceeding to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons, just recently the Pentagon announced a plan for the next fiscal budget for development of weapons in space, including offensive military weapons which can be used to not only attack satellites but attack any spot on earth with almost instant destruction, thanks to sophisticated global surveillance. About 95% of military space expenditures are from the United States, other countries will sooner or later join in if US insists on pursuing this, they’ll utterly do it. Arms race in space remains a thin thread on which survival hangs, will become even more frayed than it is today. These are just two examples, there are others, of binding treaties, which we should adhere to, should others, are essential, in this case, literally for survival.

Q: This is Bill Moyer from Progressive on Backbone Campaign. Professor Chomsky, to what extent is the American exceptionalism rooted in puritan and reform-based Christianity of the American people? And to what extent does that make it difficult for us to find a new operative myth to put ourselves into a more balanced relationship with the rest of the planet?

Chomsky: Well, I think your word myth is quite appropriate . If you look over the history of great powers, you’ll find that virtually without exception, they claim the same exceptionalism. So Britain in its day in the sun was described by its leading intellectuals like a very … people with great integrity like John Stuart Mill, described that is an angelic nation, something new in history of the world, which is totally dedicated to the benefit of others, suffers condemnation because others can’t understand how magnificent it is, intervenes abroad only to bring benefits to the barbarians that pays the costs and shares the benefits with everyone and so on. The French, when they were violent and brutal empire as they still to some extent are, were pursuing a civilizing mission to uplift the barbarians.
Emperor Hirohito, Japan, in his surrender speech, assured the Japanese nation that Japan had never had any aggressive intention, its only great calls were peace and security and benefits for everyone. If you look at Japanese documents from 1930s when they were carrying out the Nanjing Massacre, all sorts of atrocities and they talked about how they bring the earthly paradise to the people of China, they have to protect them from the Chinese bandits who were interfering with Japan’s noble efforts and so on. It’s very hard to find exceptions to this. In fact I never found one. I suspect if we had records from Genghis Khan, we’d find the same thing. It’s true Hitler, Stalin, that the worst monsters, they all plead exceptionalism. So is the United States without about just as much as justice.

Q: Now, you’ve spoken to us in your writings about being part of a frightened country, and to what extent is American exceptionalism a defense against that fear?

Chomsky: Fear is an interesting phenomenon. It’s been pretty well studied, there is an undercurrent of fear that runs through American popular culture, mass popular culture, from the colonial days. Actually, it’s very well studied and a book by Bruce Franklin, a very good critic and an analyst. When he points out, there’s this constant theme that runs through it: The United States is just about to be destroyed by some ferocious enemy when at the last minute we’re saved by a super hero or super weapon or something like that. And typically, the enemy that’s going to destroy us turns out to be someone that we’re crushing under our boots: a native population, Chinese immigrants and so on. And that fear is cynically stimulated by political leaders to attain their goals. When the Bush administration decided, announced publicly pretty much that it was going to invade Iraq-- that was in September 2002, a virtual announcement-- that was accompanied by a massive government media propaganda campaign. Ah, recall Condoleezza Rice saying the next time we hear from Saddam Hussein, there’d be mushroom cloud over New York and so on. And within a month or so, that drove the American population just off the international spectrum.
Saddam was bitterly hated almost everywhere, but he was feared only in the United States. And that’s reiterating the constant theme. This current administration happens to be continuingly Reagan years essentially. During the Reagan years, every couple of years there was in a new hysteria stimulated. There was a National Emergency Call. Reagan called a National Emergency in 1985 declared it, because we were under threat of attack by Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Army was only 2 days from Harlingen, Texas. Reagan made speeches about recalling Churchill. He was not going to be frightened by this, he was not going to give up in the face of this tremendous threat, he’s going to stand tall and so on. It is a way of mobilizing the population. It’s not pleasant to think about the president that exists is familiar with them. And it works to some extent, in a society that does have a lingering underlining level of fear. Domestic as well, the fear of blacks, of crime, of drugs, all of these are problems. Drugs and crimes are certainly problems, the same problems that exist in Europe to about the same extent. But it’s just here, that is tremendous fear, stimulated by propaganda, by cynical political figures for their own ends. But there’s a groundwork, we should…it’s a serious problem, it has to be overcome within the United States.

Q: Do you think there’s an ultimate methodology besides exceptionalism that we could, as movement, propose to the American people as a replacement for fear and isolation?

Chomsky: Yeah. We can turn to the ideals that are professed, that are actually believed correctly by most of the population. I don’t think you have to… it seems to me if you look at the public attitudes, they’re pretty sane. I think they’re progressive. So I mentioned a few examples of the public, by overwhelming majority, is in favor of following and allowing the United Nations to take the lead in international crises, of keeping to a very conservative interpretation of the UN Charter, the right to use force. It says public's strongly in favor of sharp decreases in military expenditures and sharp increases in social expenditures, almost the mirror image of what budget is and so on, a host of issues. The idea of serving as a deacon of democracy and freedom throughout the world, that’s a fine ideal. We should uphold that it’s traditional rhetoric and among the public, it is properly taken seriously. And those are the things that the progressive movement should also take seriously. It’s a pretty sharp opposition to state practice, but it’s state practice that is off the spectrum. Not the ideals.

Q: What do you think then it’s holding people out of the street at this moment when the blatant disregard for that methodology that most of us grew up with, that many of us associated with what values are differentiated us from the Soviet Union, now we’re adopting many of the tactics we saw in old Soviet Union? What do you think is keeping people on their couches watching TV and not in streets?

Chomsky: First of all, we’re not just copying the old Soviet Union. These are unfortunately a large part of the American history as well and history of other great powers too, we’re not unusual in that respect. What’s keeping people off the street, I think, is a combination of factors: one of them is a sense of helplessness and atomization. It’s very important to bear in mind that there has been a serious decline in the United States in recent decades, a decline in the functioning of substantive democracy. We have democratic forms, they were won and through centuries of struggle, they were significant but they are being eroded, there’re still there but they’re not functioning. Take the last election, for example. November, 2004 election. By international standard there was barely an election. Most of …maybe 10% of the voters weren’t even aware of the stands of the candidates on issues. Just to give one illustration, you read constantly that the United States led-- was the leading power opposing the Kyoto Protocols, that’s another issue, which has to do with survival, it’s not trivial. That’s only true if you exclude the population. The population was very strongly in favor of signing them, so strongly in favor, in fact that the majority of Bush voters, Bush voters, the majority of them thought he was in favor of it. This extends over a whole array of issues that the population was simply unaware of the stands of the candidates, not because people are mentally retarded or lack interest, but because elections are designed that way. They are run by the public relations industry, the same people who …in their regular lives sell tooth paste and life-style drugs on TV, and when they sell candidates, they sell them the same way. Not by giving information. You don’t expect to get information when you look at TV ad, what you’re exposed to is deceit, delusion, imagery and so on, we all know that. That’s exactly the way that campaign was run. They ended up being pretty much the statistical tie with most of the population unaware of what the issues were.
Well, people understand that at some level, there’s a sense of helplessness, inability to do things. People are very separated from one another. It’s been…you should remember that it’s been a very unusual period of American economic history. We’re supposed to laud saint Allen Greenspan for the magnificent economies presided over. Yeah, it has been magnificent for people in the upper end in the income distribution. But not for most of the population. We’ve been through about 25 years, in which real wages for the majority have pretty much stagnated. 25 years ago, the US had the highest wages and the lowest work hours as close to it in the industrial world as you’d except in the richest country in the world. Now it’s reversed, as close to the lowest wages and the highest work hours. Benefits which were never very great by standard industrial powers have significantly declined. People are deeply in debt, particularly towards the lower end of the income distribution.
Those are…those have disciplinary effects. That means that people are frightened and rightly. Furthermore, the future looks dangerous to them and rightly. Now trade deficits and budget deficits are costs imposed on future generations and not very far in the future. There is a fiscal train wreck developing, from the exploding medical costs, based on the fact that the privatized medical system is the most inefficient in the industrial world, about twice of per capita cost of other comparable countries and some of the lowest, poorest outcomes in the industrial world. That’s going way up. Well, that’s a serious burden on people, a large percentage of the population simply defer, even if they are insured, they defer medical treatment. They can’t pay for that. All of these conditions make people not apathetic but feeling incapable of doing anything. Those that means that the country really ought to be sort of an organizer’s paradise. People are ready, they have to be mobilized, already morally sanctioned but we call it progressive principle, mobilize and do something about it.

Q: Professor, this is Dal LaMagna. I’m the founder of the Progressive Government. We’re very frustrated by this trap ( ) being by Republican versus Democrat. I’m contemplating establishing a third political party, with sole intention of taking over the operation, taking the administration to federal government. We wouldn’t want any candidates to congress and local offices but we’ll do recruit the top 100 people or so who would agree and they’d advance that they’d serve in this administration and work to campaign. They’d pick candidates for the president and the vice president, we think internet makes it possible to recruit and organize to get some of the ballot of the State but feel daunting task is organizing people who would agree to actually serve. And my question, do you think this is a na├»ve idea, and if this is not, would you yourself serve as a secretary of state, or some other high level position in such a party?

Chomsky: Well, I don’t frankly have much confidence in my own tactical judgment. It’s an interesting idea but my own personal feeling is that it’s of greater importance to develop local organizations to, maybe a third political party is appropriate, maybe the Democrats would be turned into an offending political party but you could debate, but in either way, I think you should involve everything from local party, caucuses, town meetings, state representatives, Congressional representatives, governors. And functioning on-going organizations, which don’t just show up every couple of years to push levers, but are working all the time to try to advance the kinds of programs that the population really needs and mostly supports. That’s not a job for quadrennial extravaganzas.

Q: Professor Chomsky, thank you very much for your time. We promised we’d only hold you for half an hour. We are going to continue our discussions but we thank for making time for us today.

Chomsky: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk with you.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm on Top of the World!

I never expected Mr.Cameron Reilley, who interviewed Professor Noam Chomsky would give me a warm response!
Thank you so much, Mr.Reilley, for your great encouragement.
Now I feel I can stay happy for the rest of my life!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Basic View of the World

Post Script: A friend of mine did a great job for me. She checked the second transcription thoroughly and pointed out 61 mistakes in it. Thank you, Ms. G, I can't thank you more. In fact she's a linguist who introduced me to Chomsky's views. I've realized that many of my mistakes come from my insufficient knowledge in grammar on which I'm going to focus from now on. Thank you.

My second transcription. I find it extremely difficult to punctuate his talks. Wrong punctuation can lead to misinterpretation, so I'll do the best as I can. Highlighted are where I cannot be sure. I've realized I have a big problem in catching prepositions. I suppose I'll be coming back to do a lot of correction, but I'm exhausted right now..this thing sure requires a tremendous amount of concentration.

Audio source
G’day world podcast “Basic view of the world” interviewed by Cameron Reilly on October 25, 2005

(0:44)Cameron Reilly: Good day world, Cameron Reilly here with the most exciting interview that I’ve done in the last 12 months since we started this Good day world show. If you don’t know who Noam Chomsky is, hopefully by the end of the show you’ll have an insight into his political activism of the last 50, 60,70 years and my goal with this show is that some of you will be motivated to go out, buy some of his books, get your head on what he’s talking about, investigate the subjects for yourself, and hopefully get involved in some form of political activism. Let me read you a short biography of Professor Chomsky, this is from Wikipedia.
(reading from Wikipedia) Avram Noam Chomsky ph.D born in December 7, 1928, is the institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, often considered to be the most significant contribution to the field of theoretical linguistics in the 20th century. He also helped spark the cognitive revolution in psychology through his review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, which challenged the behaviorist approach to the study of mind and language dominant in the 1950s. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has also impacted the philosophy of language and mind. He is also credited with the establishment of the so-called Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power.
Chomsky is also widely known for his political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments. Chomsky describes himself as a libertarian socialist and a sympathizer of anarcho-syndicalism .
What does all that mean, I have no idea, but I hope that over the course of next half an hour in my chat with professor Chomsky, you’ll get a little of an insight into where he’s coming from, in terms of political activism we don’t touch on linguistics. And if I have one goal with this show is that access to introduction for people who aren't familiar with his work, perhaps they’ll then go out and maybe buy a book, maybe start to investigate some of his issues on their own behalf and decide for themselves, what’s going on in the world, maybe some of you will then get involved in some form of political activism, get involved in political process in your country. So, without wasting any more time? I’ll bring you my interview with professor Noam Chomsky. Hello?

Chomsky: Hello.

Q: Hello, professor Chomsky?

Chomsky: Yes, speaking.

Q: Cameron Reilly from the podcast network in Australia, how are you?

Chomsky: Sorry to keep you waiting, everything behind all this.
Q: That’s OK, I appreciate your taking some time to share with us.
Chomsky: Tell me what we are doing.
Q: Well, this is a recording for a podcast that we’ll put out in the next couple of days to global audience. What I’m hoping to do with the time we have with you today is just …almost a basic primer on Noam Chomsky’s view of the world if we can.

Chomsky: Well, it’s simple.

Q: Are you up for that?

Chomsky: Sure. Why not?

Q: Excellent.

Chomsky: Not on the universe? Just the world?

Q: Just on the world.

Chomsky: OK, I’ll keep it simple.

Q: OK. So, professor Chomsky, recent poll voted you’re a world’s leading thinker. I've read that only Shakespeare and Bible have been cited as scholarly publications more often than you, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve sort of been telling friends and colleagues about this upcoming interview with you, and I discovered that many of my peers either aren't familiar at all with your work, and if they haven’t studied humanities, they were not political activists, or if they have heard of you, but they haven’t read your books, they have this impression that you’re some kind of left-wing conspiracy nut. So, for my peers who don’t know who or what Noam Chomsky is and obviously leaving aside your work on linguistics now cause I’m sure that's over most of our heads anyway. Can you summarize for us your political views, I know I’m probably asking a lot of after 30, 40 years of political activism, but can you summarize for us as an entry point perhaps your view on what’s happening particularly, obviously with US politics and US foreign policy.

Chomsky: Well, that’s a ……I’ve written extensively on it. The US policy let’s just keep to the post Second World War period, just set a time frame. At the time of the Second World War, the Unites States for the first time, became a major actor in world affairs generally. Prior to the Second World War, the Unites States had…first of all, conquered the national territory, meant eliminating the indigenous population, it had conquered a half of Mexico, it had extended its power over the Caribbean region that is taken, they had kicked the British out of Venezuela, big oil producer, then it moved on to Hawaii and Philippines, and was engaged in joining with other European powers and undermining China, but it was not a leader in world affairs. In fact Britain was much more so. But after the Second World War, that changed totally. And it was understood. I mean there were planning sessions
of high state department officials and council, and foreign relations, I mean so-called private, input foreign affairs. They were having study groups from 1939 through 1945, in which they recognized clearly that the US would emerge from the Second World War as the world dominant power. And they made extensive plans about how they should use that power. And if you look at the years that followed, when many of the same people were in government, in corporations, in planning and decision making positions in various ways they implemented similar plans, and it continues pretty much to the present. Of course plans always change, circumstances change, you need different tactics, there were different pretexts and so on, but the basic themes remained pretty much the way they were articulated in the war-time study groups of which we have documents, you can read them, they’re not terribly surprising, they are the basic idea that the US should create a system of global order, extending as far as possible, which would operate for the benefit of privileged sectors of power within the Unites States and their counterparts elsewhere. That means primarily the corporate sector which pretty much dominates American society and is closely linked to similar sectors in other societies.
And that means world of that kind of liberal internationalism in which countries are compelled in one way or another, to subordinate themselves to the economic and political and social arrangements that are supportive of US power interests. And that means opportunities to invest in exploitations of populations, access to resources in markets that controls the central resources like energy as understood-- clearly in the Second World War and before--that the control of energy resources of the world is a major instrument of global power. The Middle East oil producing regions were described in mid 1940s as "stupendous sources of strategic power," and one of the great material prizes in world history, the most strategically important part of the world, of course the US is going to take control of that, that's a lot of contemporary developments are about, that’s a major theme that runs through the whole period. Europe and Japan had to be reconstructed in certain ways, in ways which undermine labor movements in the left, restored the traditional societies pretty much, with regard to the third world, it simply had to be kept under control. So if moves towards developing, intended development took place, they had to be stopped and if it looks as if they might be successful, and influence others, they might be what the planners call a "virus" might infect others. Then they have to be really destroyed, so we have a brutal history of intervention and violence to try to ensure that the South will subordinate itself to the interests of the major sectors of power in rich developed countries, and the Unites States is foremost among them. I mean those are basic themes of policy. They don’t explain everything happens, but policy rarely departs very far from those major themes and they can be implemented in different ways. So if the Clinton administration and the Bush administration are not identical, they are somewhat different in fact the ways they proceed, but the basic dominating themes have not changed very much. I mean to call it a conspiracy theory is utterly insane. I mean it’s like saying that governments and corporations and other institutions are engaged in conspiracies when they do planning. I mean it’s like saying that General Motors is involved in conspiracy when they try to sell cars. That’s just a word, is just a way of trying to sort of prevent rational analysis. There’s no conspiracy, I mean if US planners and Australian planners and others try to develop international or domestic programs, that’ll serve interests of their constituency which are usually the wealthy and the privileged. There’s no conspiracy any more than there’s conspiracy when General Motors tries try to sell cars.

Q: I guess the challenge for most people, when they first pick up one of your books, is that they’re gonna be confronted with an image of the west which doesn’t correspond with the image they probably have today, the commonly held view. They’re gonna be confronted with an image of the west of engineers of large scale terrorism, and being directly and indirectly responsible for terrible humanitarian crimes over the last, say, fifty years in particular.

Chomsky: You can go back long before that. I just started with the Second World War.

Q: Yeah, this obviously isn’t the picture that most people in the west have of country they live in, it can be an extremely confronting exercise for them to come to terms with that change in perception. Do you have any suggestions to help people reconcile that perspective with that more commonly held view?

Chomsky: Yeah, very simple suggestion. Look into the facts. This isn’t quantum physics. I mean the evidence is pretty much easily available if you want to look at it. Actually it’s one of the hardest things to do, whether in personal life or in thinking about international affairs. One of the hardest things to do is just look into the mirror. We all know this in personal life. It’s too much more convenient to have illusions about yourself than to look into the mirror and see yourself honestly. Anyone who doesn’t know that is just lying to themselves. We all know it. We create our image and pictures of ourselves in which it fits our need to believe that what we’re doing is basically benign, helpful, forthcoming, sympathetic, sometimes it’s true but often it isn’t. When it isn’t, we typically find ways of explaining it away, but if we’re honest, we’ll look into the mirror and see what the truth is and do something about it. The same is true when you look at international affairs, now but there’s a difference in this case. When it’s a matter of just yourself, I mean it’s a matter of how you deal with, when you try to look honestly at your own society, its history, its actions and so on, you are facing a massive deluge of propaganda and indoctrination. That’s trying to create a delusionary picture. So power systems are naturally, not conspiratorial, naturally they’re going to dedicate enormous efforts to try to get the population to view the exercise of power in the hierarchy and authority as if it’s benign…full of benign intentions. I don’t know any exception to that in history, if you read the pronouncements of even the worst monsters, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Hirohito's all full of the most eloquent rhetoric about their noble intentions, how they’re sacrificing themselves for the benefit of the people, so on and so forth. Yes, major institutions are developed to try to promulgate those ideas. In fact, it’s true in most countries people believe them. So for example, in Nazi Germany, until it began suffering serous military defeats, in Nazi Germany, Hitler was very popular, maybe the most popular leader in German history. His conceptions of the nobility of their engagement in world and domestically was widely accepted. The same in fascist Japan, the same in Stalinist Russia. Yeah, that happens, and also it happens in more free societies, and furthermore there’s nothing novel about it. I mean centuries ago, David Hume had an important work on political philosophy, what he called foundations of theory of government. As the first principle of foundations of government, he pointed out that power is actually, in any society he said, power is in the hands of those who are governed. They don’t know it, but power is actually in their hands. Therefore, to maintain authority, it is necessary to impose consent, it is necessary to compel the general population to consent to the authority of the masters. He said that’s true in every society from the most free, to the most despotic. That’s basically correct. Anyone with any degree of authority knows it. Whether it's in a family or school or corporation or government, you know, or bank. Yeah, you know that. You have to compel consent somehow and to do that, we now have massive institutions, huge institutions, media, educational systems, huge public relation industries, which are to a large extent developed…devoted to this. If you want to look at, so if you want to discover the truth about your own society, its history its working and so on, you do have to overcome barriers, barriers which are erected to prevent such understanding. But it’s not very difficult. Again, it’s not quantum physics.

Q: So you obviously see a relationship between the large commercial mainstream media organizations and these interests that hold power?

Chomsky: How can anyone doubt it? I mean what are the mainstream media organizations, take, say the United States, OK? I mean mainstream media organizations are major corporations, the parts of even larger conglomerates, they, as economic institutions, they sell, they produce something, you know namely TV and the newspapers. But that’s not what they’re selling. What they’re selling is audiences. They’re selling audiences to advertisers. The advertisers are their market. All the advertisers are just other major corporations. Yeah, but not in a local town, maybe local drugstores but in the national media, the major media, what you have is major corporations selling audiences to other major corporations. If you look at the elite media, one of the ones more or the less set agenda for others, resources and so on, say, the New York Times, the product they’re selling is the privileged audiences who read the New York Times. So you have this……I mean major corporation selling privileged audiences to other major corporations. Or someone from Mars was looking at this, some rational scientist, what would he predict the nature of the news product would be? Well, something that suits the interests of the sellers, the buyers and the product. And there’s a very substantial tendency for that to be true. It’s not 100% true, there’s other factors, there’s professional integrity, there’s honest journalism, there’s popular protest, many other factors, the world is complicated. But the basic institutional structures are so transparent, you have to purposefully blind yourself not to see it. And the general intellectual world works the same way. I mean if you want to write an article, say, denouncing a dissent, say, denouncing me, let’s say, oh it’s trivial. You could produce any kind of lies you like, any sort of hysteria, you don’t need any evidence, you’d get a major journal to publish it. On the other hand, if you try to do that, with picking as a target, anyone who is in the …somewhere within the system of respectability and power, pretty subordinate to power, you’d never get away with it for a minute. Those factors also enter, plenty of very corrupted intellectuals are willing to do that in every society. We tend, if you look at Soviet Union, the people we respect under the old Soviet Union, are the dissidents. But they were a tiny minority. The mainstream intellectuals are the ones who are writing denunciations and diatribes of the alleged crimes of the dissidents. They are the ones who were respected. Sure. Very much like our society. (20’35”)

Q: Which brings me to, I guess the thing that I’m most interested in chatting with you today is your personal motivation behind political activism for the last 30, 40 years, what is it that drives you?

Chomsky: Same as it did 60 years ago, 70 years ago. In fact, there are poor and suffering people in the world. They need help and we’re in the position to give them help, because we’re very privileged. We have a legacy of freedom and privilege which has been won by hard struggle, hasn’t been given by from above, it’s been won but we have it. We can use that to help people who are suffering seriously, if you try. Furthermore, by now, as distinct from 70 years ago, there are major issues having to do with the survival of species. Two major issues at least. One is the threat of nuclear war, which is very high, maybe as high as it’s ever been and that means, .. could mean total destruction. The other is the threat of environmental catastrophe, which is coming, and will come unless we do something to avert it. All those two major issues, quite apart from the constant suffering, oppression violence all over the world in our own societies as well, which has many causes, but if you look carefully you’ll find that our own role is usually quite significant, sometimes decisive, and therefore we can do something about it.

Q: There seems to be a general acceptance I find, post 2003 the US led invasion of Iraq, there seems to be this very interesting general acceptance to even people that I talked to, friends in the US and certainly in Australia that the motivation for invasion was mostly around oil and a general show of power. If I think back to the early 90s during the first Gulf conflict that didn’t seem to be a very popular well accepted opinion. Do you think it’s…changed, do you think people are more aware than they were a decade ago?

Chomsky: Well, they’re a lot more aware now but it was a popular opinion then, I mean it wasn’t concealed. I mean did the United States…I mean Iraq invaded Kuwait and it was correct to force Iraq out of Kuwait, probably could’ve been done without a war, they’d argue that one way or another, it was a right policy to force Iraq out of Kuwait. If those hadn’t been huge oil producers, would anyone have cared? I mean look, you’re in Australia. When Indonesia invaded East Timor, did Australia force, try to force Indonesia out of East Timor? No, in fact Australia was the first country to give de jure recognition to the conquest even though it was much worse than the invasion in Kuwait. I mean killed a quarter of population, but nothing much was at stake for Australian power of interest, so why stop? Kuwait is quite different. Kuwait is a major oil producer. The British economy for example as relied extensively on its quasi-colony in Kuwait, it’s very closely tied to US interests, in fact if you go back to 1958, when the first … 1958 is an important year, that was the first break in the Anglo-American condominium over Middle East energy production. The US, Britain, pretty much ran at it until 1958. In 1958, there was a military coup in Iraq, which overthrew the British-run client state and moved towards independence, in fact towards independent development and even towards democracy, and the US and Britain were terrified. We’re free and open society so we have the documents, we know what they said to each other, we knew it in 1991, the press kept quiet, in 1958 the British foreign minister flew to Washington and Selwyn Lloyd had a long discussion with John Foster Dulles. They tried to decide how to react to the fact that Iraq had broken free of Anglo-American control, and they conclude, the following, which had direct bearing on 1991. They said the British colony of Kuwait should be given nominal independence, not real independence, but nominal independence. Let them run their own post office and that might prevent the tide of nationalism from spreading to Kuwait but if anything went wrong with this arrangement from inside or outside, then Britain would, now I’m quoting, “ruthlessly intervene to prevent it.” And the United States took the same stand with the regard to the bigger oil producers: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, anything went wrong, the US would ruthlessly intervene with force to prevent it. Any move towards independence or anything else, that was a plan in 1958. That’s exactly what was implemented in 1991. I mean any honest newspaper in country or commentator would have been citing all of this. That’s the background for the war. No one did, actually not no one, there were two or three people who did, I was one of them but virtually none, because you don’t want people to understand what’s happening, on the other hand even with suppression that pretty much anybody with their eyes open knew that crucial issue in the first war was that in fact these major oil producers. It didn’t happen when Indonesian invaded East Timor, when Israel invaded Lebanon, case after case.

Q: So, I guess I know you gotta go shortly. Let me ask you people living in the west are concerned by sorts of measures that are being passed by the governments in the US, UK, Australia over the last couple of years. What’s your recommendation, what should they be doing, people who aren’t experienced political activism, what can they do to change the course of events that they are unfolding at the moment?

Chomsky: If there were any magic key, somebody would have told us a long time ago. The ways to do it, everyone knows, they’re hard, they’re slow, overtime they’ll work. I mean it requires efforts, patience, education which includes self-education, organization, try to develop and take part in popular organizations which are committed to these efforts, and then undertaking activism of the kind that happens to be appropriate circumstances. There’s no formula for that. That’s how the progress was made, that’s how we got rid of slavery, that’s how we have woman’s rights, to some degree, civil rights. That’s why oppositions’ aggression has grown so enormously over the years. That’s why we have freedom of speech. Every one of the benefits we enjoy in our current legacy was achieved this way, not by going to demonstration that didn’t work, someone going home quitting, but by working at it day after day. In electoral system, no use coming every couple of years saying vote for me, if you want a political alternative you got to work on it everyday, locally, regionally, setting up the bases for it, getting people engaged and involved in it. Then maybe you’ll have something to offer when a major election comes along. The same with everything else. The same with trade agreements, for example. Australia just agreed to an outrageous, trade agreement with the US, which may end up in seriously harming the quite efficient Australian health system, Australia didn’t have to agree to that. But if there was enough protest, it wouldn’t have. And so goes with every other issue.
Q Rosa Parks, recently passed away almost exactly 50 years after she refused to give a seat on an Alabama bus to a white man. I guess in her life time, she saw a lot of change, progress is possible.
Chomsky: Yes, it is. And remember that Rosa Parks was a marvelous and important person, but the story is falsified. Rosa Parks didn’t come out of nowhere. She came out of the organized community.
Chomsky: That was a planning action like that and had a support system set up. And she was the person who did it. As history was written, it’s made to be personalized, as if some great person suddenly did everything. That’s an effort to disempower people to make them fail to understand what’s involved. What’s involved was just what I described before as was the Rosa Parks case. And intensive educational programs, substantial organization and then this action, which was courageous and appropriate, and made a difference.
Q Professor Chomsky, I’ll let you go, you’ve got a very busy schedule today, thank you so much for your time and thank you for your work over the last 40, 50 years, we appreciate it.
Chomsky: OK, thank you.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Biggest Challenges Facing human kind

This is a first transcription.

The interview on Jan 2006, with BBC titled “The Biggest Challenges Facing human kind”
audio source

Chomsky: Well I think there are two major challenges which are actually so serious that they literally endanger survival of the species. The worst of them, which is unfortunately rarely discussed, is the threat of nuclear war which has been high for a long time and is now increasing. It’s not alarmist when someone like Robert McNamara writes an article called “Apocalypse soon,” or when leading strategic analysts in the most conservative journals talk of the “appreciable risk of ultimate doom.” Primarily driven by what’s called the transformation of military in the Unites States, the vast increase in offensive military capacity, including steps towards militarization of space which every analyst understands, is leading potential adversaries to increase their own offensive military capacities. The Russians have done so very substantially since the Bush administration came in, the Chinese are now doing it.
And all of these systems are increasingly being placed on automated response system, hair-trigger alert, that’s called “Accidents waiting to happen” in strategic analysis literature.
We know in our owns, systems fail constantly and are averted by human intervention which has only a few minutes of time, and the systems of the adversaries are much less sophisticated, much more likely to cause an accidental missile strike. Those dangers are going up very high and talk about ultimate doom and apocalypse is now not alarmist. In fact at a lower level, US intelligence analysts estimate the probability of a dirty nuclear bomb attack in the US in the next ten years is about 50%. That’s not a massive nuclear attack but enough to change the course of history dramatically, maybe end up in nuclear war. These are the things are right at the edge. Instead of doing something about them, we’re going in the opposite direction.

Q: How do you square your fears about potential nuclear annihilation when you’re a very strong opposition to the invasion of Iraq because whatever turned out to be the case with intelligence, there isn’t really any doubt is there that Bush followed by Blair did launch the invasion of Iraq because of the fear that Saddam Hussein might be getting his hands on weapons of mass destruction?

Chomsky: Well that’s what they claimed, yes, and within a few months it was determined that the claims had to be abandoned. But it was predicted in advance and it is now understood that the invasion of Iraq would increase the threat of nuclear proliferation as well as the threat of terror, in fact those happened. The far as the nuclear proliferation is concerned, the invasion simply taught a lesson: to any potential adversary, you had better develop a nuclear deterrent otherwise the Unites States and Britain will attack you if they think you’re defenseless. And the lesson was learned.

Q : Do you think that there is no circumstances in which military means are justified to prevent a ruthless psychopath getting his hands on nuclear weapon?

Chomsky: Yeah, plenty. In fact you could say that about all nuclear states, whether military means are necessary to eliminate nuclear weapon. But your question presupposes that the goal of invasion was to prevent a ruthless psychopath from getting his hands on weapons of mass destruction. There was never any evidence for that in the first place, to speak of. And we know that it was totally false. So this was a ruthless military invasion for quite different purposes. Bush and Blair went to war on the basis of what they called a single question reiterated over and over, “Will Saddam give up his weapons of mass destruction program ?” The answer to that was given within a few months: there weren’t any. And then suddenly, dramatically, the picture changed, the dogma changed. It wasn’t weapons of mass destruction. We entered Iraq because of what the press calls Bush’s "messianic mission," to bring democracy to Iraq and to the Middle East. Well OK, that’s now the mantra in the West, but not elsewhere. So for example, shortly after Bush made a dramatic pronouncement in Washington about the messianic mission to great acclaim, there was a poll taken in Baghdad, where people were asked why the US had invaded Iraq.
1% said that it was to bring democracy. 5% said that it was to help Iraqis. The rest said something we’re not allowed to say…where it is called conspiracy theory, everybody who has a brain functioning knows: yes, the US and Britain invaded to take control Iraq’s enormous energy resources and to fortify their position of domination of the world's major energy resources.

Q: Could you just elaborate on that because it is being said many times before, as you pointed out many Iraqis believe that that’s the case. How does it actually improve the US dominance of welled oil, Iraqis not pumping any more than they did under Saddam Hussein, Saddam’s quite happy to sell oil to the Americans? How has America benefited from it, intervening Iraq, in term of Iraq’s dominating world oil market?

Chomsky: First of all that’s misunderstanding which confuses access and control. The US has long been concerned to control energy resources, not the access. So the first 30 years after the Second World War, the US was the North America’s major oil producer that didn’t use Middle East oil resources. Nevertheless, it was dedicated to control them. I mean very well even from internal records and from the policy. The same is true now. Intelligence projections are that the US will itself rely on Atlantic basin of resources, more stable ones, western hemisphere and west Africa, but will control Middle East resources because they give critical leverage over US competitors, Europe and Asia. Now your point about not succeeding in that is correct. This was one of the most astonishing military failures in history. Nobody can think of anything like it. I mean it should have been the easiest invasion in history. And the incompetence and arrogance of the Pentagon planners turned it into a total catastrophe. So yes, it hasn’t worked out the way they wanted, but that had nothing to do with their plans 6:41 no (   ) saying that Hitler didn’t intend to conquer the world because he failed. It turned into military catastrophe or they actually succeeded in creating an insurgency which didn’t exist; there was no basis for it and it had no outside support.
In fact the United States and Britain were compelled to allow elections. The elections in Iraq are triumph of mass popular non-violent resistance. Washington and London tried in every way they could to evade elections. You go back through 2003, there was one after another scheme proposed to try to avoid elections. But they couldn’t do it. There was mass demonstration partially led by Ayatollah Sistani, finally they had to back down, and allow elections. Now they are trying every way to subvert them. But yes, they have not yet accomplished the goals doesn’t change the fact those were the goals.

Q: So you accept, do you, that some goods has come out of Iraqi invasion whether they intended or not, the situation we have now with, as you say, successful election, all communities in Iraq participating. Is that a better place for Iraq to be than it was under Saddam Hussein?

Chomsky: We have to disentangle ourselves from a rigid western doctrine in order to talk about it sensibly. Iraq was suffering under two brutal regimes, two, before invasion. One of them we are allowed to talk about: Saddam’s tyranny. The second brutal regime was the US/UK sanctions regime, which had killed hundreds of thousands of people, devastated the society, strengthened the tyrant. It compelled the population to rely on survival. Otherwise, Saddam probably would have gone array of other equally murderous and brutal tyrants supported by the US and Britain like Ceausescu, Suharto, Mobutu, Marcus, a long list of others to which some new names are being added. But the society was devastated. And that sanctions regime was indeed ended by the invasion. So that’s a step forward. Also Saddam was eliminated, a step forward. The US has been compelled to allow elections. That’s a step forward. But does that justify the aggression? I mean that’s outlandish. Take Japan’s invasion of Asia namely. That had beneficial effects, drove the white men out of Asia that independence in the Asian colony probably saved tens of millions of lives in India alone. Once British were driven out, there weren’t at least any huge famine taking place. Does that justify Japan’s aggression? Obviously not.

Q: You equated a bit earlier what the Bush administration has been doing or trying to do with Hitler. Do you..

Chomsky: No, I didn’t.

Q: ...believe the US, especially under the current administration, is particularly or uniquely amoral? Or it that just a matter of which other country wielded the power ..will perform in that kind of way?

Chomsky: First of all, I did not equate the United States with Hitler in any respect whatsoever. I said we don’t justify atrocities on the basis of effect, something comes out, good effects, giving an example of Japan, that’s not an equation. Is this administration radically different from others? Not so much. The political spectrum happend to be pretty narrow. What this administration does happens to be at an extreme end of it. That’s why there has been such forceful criticism on their actions, from the beginning right in the mainstream. I mean take the invasion of Iraq. The plans to invade Iraq were bitterly criticized right in the leading establishment journals: Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and so on. That’s unusual. They rarely criticize the administration policy that sharply.

Q: Do you think that mess the Bush administration has got itself into in Iraq has reduced its enthusiasm for the neo-con policy of full spectrum dominance?

Chomsky: First of all, that’s not a neo-con policy. Clinton had the same policy. Just read the 1995 Strategic Command document centered on the cold war deterrence. That’s Clinton. That’s as extreme as anything the Bush people have said. These are long standing policies. The catastrophe they created in Iraq has reduced substantially their capacity to carry out military intervention in the world. And what’s more they don’t know how to get out of it. I mean there’s a lot of talk about withdrawal from Iraq but it is mostly meaningless until we free ourselves from Western doctrine. We are supposed to believe that the United States and Britain would have invaded Iraq even if the major oil resources of the world were in central Africa and Iraq was producing lettuce and pickles. Well, that’s the doctrine, a religious doctrine we were supposed to worship. As soon as we get out of that, we’ll see there’s good reason why the US is quite unwilling to withdraw from Iraq. Just suppose sovereign independent relatively democratic Iraq emerged. Just consider its policies, likely policies. The first thing you’d do or start doing is create the Shiite majority. You’ll create close links with Iran. That’s what they are already doing. A large majority of the clerics come from there. The Badar Brigate, which is militia pretty much running in the south, they were trained in Iran. They much prefer close relation with their large Shiite neighbors to hostile ones. Furthermore, the Shiite population in Saudi Arabia right across the border, moves towards independence in Iraq will stimulate them. They have been under very harsh repression by the US-backed fundamentalist tyranny. Of course they’re moving towards more…they want more freedom. Independent Iraq would increase it. That happens to be where most Saudi Arabian oil is. So you can imagine that must be ultimate nightmare in Washington. An Independent, loose, Shiite alliance, independent from Washington, controlling both of world’s oil probably turning to east--towards the Asian Security Energy Grid which is based in China and Russia but is bringing India and others. The US is hard to imagine the US tolerating it. But those are likely consequences of sovereign, democratic Iraq. That’s why the US and Britain are so desperately seeking to prevent it.

Q: What about the effects on the United States itself, we’ve just seen another instance of, civil liberties being eroded with the electronics surveillance, citizens without court authorization. How dangerous to freedom of Americans is Mr. Bush’s sacred war on terror?

Chomsky: It’s dangerous, but we should not underestimate the achievements that have been won in the United States, protecting civil liberties and freedom of speech and general civil rights. This respect the United States has I think is alone in the world. It has the highest standard of protection of freedom of speech than any other country that I know, well beyond Britain for example. Those achievements are the results of centuries of struggle. They were not in Bill of Rights. They were not granted from above. So the highest standard of freedom of speech was established by the Supreme court, in the course of civil right movement.
That’s pretty deeply ingrained in people’s consciousness. So when the Bush administration tried to gain FBI access to libraries around the country-- these are pretty conservative places, small libraries in Midwest--they simply refused. Many of them just destroyed the records, rather than to have FBI look at them.