This is a first transcription.
The interview on Jan 2006, with BBC titled “The Biggest Challenges Facing human kind”
audio source http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/ondemand/rams/xwt51078___2006.ram
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.