The Abuse of Power and the Assault on
The New York Times calls him "arguably the most important intellectual
The Boston Globe calls him "America's most useful citizen"
He was recently voted the world's number one intellectual in a poll by
Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines.
We're talking about Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the foremost critics
of U.S. foreign policy. Professor Chomsky has just released a new book
titled "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on
It examines how the United States is beginning to resemble a failed
state that cannot protect its citizens from violence and has a
government that regards itself as beyond the reach of domestic or
In the book, Professor Noam Chomsky presents a series of solutions to
help rescue the nation from turning into a failed state.
They include: Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal
Court and the World Court; Sign the Kyoto protocols on global warming;
Let the United Nations take the lead in international crises; Rely on
diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in
confronting terror; and Sharply reduce military spending and sharply
increase social spending
In his first broadcast interview upon the publication of his book,
Professor Noam Chomsky joins us today from Boston for the hour.
We're talking about Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the foremost critics
of U.S. foreign policy. Professor Chomsky has just released a new book
titled "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on
In this first broadcast
publication of his book, Professor Noam Chomsky joins us today from
Boston for the hour. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Noam.
Glad to be with you again.
It's good to have you with
us. Failed States, what do you mean?
Well, over the years there
have been a series
of concepts developed to justify the use of force in international
affairs for a long period. It was possible to justify it on the
pretext, which usually turned out to have very little substance, that
the U.S. was defending itself against the communist menace. By the
1980s, that was wearing pretty thin. The Reagan administration
concocted a new category: terrorist states. They declared a war on
terror as soon as they entered office in the early 1980s, 1981. ‘We
have to defend ourselves from the plague of the modern age, return to
barbarism, the evil scourge of terrorism,’ and so on, and particularly
state-directed international terrorism.
A few years later — this is Clinton — Clinton devised the concept
of rogue states. ‘It’s 1994, we have to defend ourselves from rogue
states.’ Then, later on came the failed states, which either threaten
our security, like Iraq, or require our intervention in order to save
them, like Haiti, often devastating them in the process. In each case,
the terms have been pretty hard to sustain, because it's been difficult
to overlook the fact that under any, even the most conservative
characterization of these notions — let's say U.S. law — the United
States fits fairly well into the category, as has often been
recognized. By now, for example, the category — even in the Clinton
years, leading scholars, Samuel Huntington and others, observed that —
in the major journals, Foreign Affairs — that in most of the world,
much of the world, the United States is regarded as the leading rogue
state and the greatest threat to their existence.
By now, a couple of years later, Bush years, same journals’ leading
specialists don't even report international opinion. They just describe
it as a fact that the United States has become a leading rogue state.
Surely, it's a terrorist state under its own definition of
international terrorism, not only carrying out violent terrorist acts
and supporting them, but even radically violating the so-called "Bush
Doctrine," that a state that harbors terrorists is a terrorist state.
Undoubtedly, the U.S. harbors leading international terrorists, people
described by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department as leading
terrorists, like Orlando Bosch, now Posada Carriles, not to speak of
those who actually implement state terrorism.
And I think the same is true of the category “failed states.” The
U.S. increasingly has taken on the characteristics of what we describe
as failed states. In the respects that one mentioned, and also, another
critical respect, namely the — what is sometimes called a democratic
deficit, that is, a substantial gap between public policy and public
opinion. So those suggestions that you just read off, Amy, those are
actually not mine. Those are pretty conservative suggestions. They are
the opinion of the majority of the American population, in fact, an
overwhelming majority. And to propose those suggestions is to simply
take democracy seriously. It's interesting that on these examples that
you've read and many others, there is an enormous gap between public
policy and public opinion. The proposals, the general attitudes of the
public, which are pretty well studied, are — both political parties
are, on most of these issues, well to the right of the population.
Well, Professor Chomsky,
in the early parts
of the book, especially on the issue of the one characteristic of a
failed state, which is its increasing failure to protect its own
citizens, you lay out a pretty comprehensive look at what the,
especially in the Bush years, the war on terrorism has meant in terms
of protecting the American people. And you lay out clearly, especially
since the war, the invasion of Iraq, that terrorist, major terrorist
action and activity around the world has increased substantially. And
also, you talk about the dangers of a possible nuclear — nuclear
weapons being used against the United States. Could you expand on that
a little bit?
Well, there has been a
very serious threat of
nuclear war. It's not — unfortunately, it's not much discussed among
the public. But if you look at the literature of strategic analysts and
so on, they're extremely concerned. And they describe particularly the
Bush administration aggressive militarism as carrying an “appreciable
risk of ultimate doom,” to quote one, “apocalypse soon,” to quote
Robert McNamara and many others. And there's good reasons for it, I
mean, which could explain, and they explain. That's been expanded by
the Bush administration consciously, not because they want nuclear war,
but it's just not a high priority. So the rapid expansion of offensive
U.S. military capacity, including the militarization of space, which is
the U.S.'s pursuit alone. The world has been trying very hard to block
it. 95% of the expenditures now are from the U.S., and they're
All of these measures bring about a completely predictable reaction
on the part of the likely targets. They don't say, you know, ‘Thank
you. Here are our throats. Please cut them.’ They react in the ways
that they can. For some, it will mean responding with the threat or
maybe use of terror. For others, more powerful ones, it's going to mean
sharply increasing their own offensive military capacity. So Russian
military expenditures have sharply increased in response to Bush
programs. Chinese expansion of offensive military capacity is also
beginning to increase for the same reasons. All of that threatens —
raises the already severe threat of even — of just accidental nuclear
war. These systems are on computer-controlled alert. And we know that
our own systems have many errors, which are stopped by human
intervention. Their systems are far less secure; the Russian case,
deteriorated. These moves all sharply enhance the threat of nuclear
war. That's serious nuclear war that I'm talking about.
There's also the threat of dirty bombs, small nuclear explosions.
Small means not so small, but in comparison with a major attack, which
would pretty much exterminate civilized life. The U.S. intelligence
community regards the threat of a dirty bomb, say in New York, in the
next decade as being probably greater than 50%. And those threats
increase as the threat of terror increases.
And Bush administration policies have, again, consciously been
carried out in a way, which they know is likely to increase the threat
of terror. The most obvious example is the Iraq invasion. That was
undertaken with the anticipation that it would be very likely to
increase the threat of terror and also nuclear proliferation. And, in
fact, that's exactly what happened, according to the judgment of the
C.I.A., National Intelligence Council, foreign intelligence agencies,
independent specialists. They all point out that, yes, as anticipated,
it increased the threat of terror. In fact, it did so in ways well
beyond what was anticipated.
To mention just one, we commonly read that there were no weapons of
mass destruction found in Iraq. Well, it's not totally accurate. There
were means to develop weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and known to
be in Iraq. They were under guard by U.N. inspectors, who were
dismantling them. When Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest sent in their
troops, they neglected to instruct them to guard these sites. The U.N.
inspectors were expelled, the sites were left unguarded. The inspectors
continued their work by satellite and reported that over a hundred
sites had been looted, in fact, systematically looted, not just
somebody walking in, but careful looting. That included dangerous
biotoxins, means to hide precision equipment to be used to develop
nuclear weapons and missiles, means to develop chemical weapons and so
on. All of this has disappeared. One hates to imagine where it's
disappeared to, but it could end up in New York.
We're talking to Noam
Chomsky, and we're going
to come back with him. His new book, just published, is called Failed
States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. We'll be back
with Professor Chomsky in a minute.
We're talking to Professor
Noam Chomsky, upon
the release of his new book, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the
Assault on Democracy. Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I'm Amy Goodman, here with Juan
Professor Chomsky, in
your book you also talk
about how Iraq has become almost an incubator or a university now for
advanced training for terrorists, who then are leaving the country
there and going around the world, very much as what happened in the
1980s in Afghanistan. Could you talk about that somewhat?
Actually, that's —
actually, these are just
quotes from the C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence agencies and
analysts. Yes, they describe Iraq now as a training ground for highly
professionalized terrorists skilled in urban contact. They do compare
it to Afghanistan, but say that it's much more serious, because of the
high level of training and skill. These are almost entirely Iraqis.
There's a small number of foreign fighters drawn to Iraq. Estimates are
maybe 5% to 10%. And they are, as in the case of Afghanistan, are
expected to spread into throughout many parts of the world and to carry
out the kinds of terrorism that they're trained in, as a reaction to —
clearly reaction to the invasion. Iraq was, whatever you thought about
it, was free from connections to terror prior to the invasion. It's now
a major terror center.
It's not as President Bush says, that terrorists are being
concentrated in Iraq so that we can kill them. These are terrorists who
had no previous record of involvement in terrorism. The foreign
fighters who have come in, mostly from Saudi Arabia, have been
investigated extensively by Saudi and Israeli and U.S. intelligence,
and what they conclude is that they were mobilized by the Iraq war, no
involvement in terrorist actions in the past. And undoubtedly, just as
expected, the Iraq war has raised an enormous hostility throughout much
of the world, and particularly the Muslim world.
It was the most — probably the most unpopular war in history, and
even before it was fought. Virtually no support for it anywhere, except
the U.S. and Britain and a couple of other places. And since the war
itself was perhaps one of the most incredible military catastrophes in
history, has caused utter disaster in Iraq and has — and all of that
has since simply intensified the strong opposition to the war of the
kind that you heard from that Indonesian student of a few moments ago.
But that's why it spread, and that's a — it increases the reservoir of
potential support for the terrorists, who regard themselves as a
vanguard, attempting to elicit support from others, bring others to
join with them. And the Bush administration is their leading ally in
this. Again, not my words, the words of the leading U.S. specialists on
terror, Michael Scheuer in this case. And definitely, that's happened.
And it's not the only case. I mean, in case after case, the Bush
administration has simply downgraded the threat of terror. One example
is the report of the 9/11 Commission. Here in the United States, the
Bush administration didn't want the commission to be formed, tried to
block it, but it was finally formed. Bipartisan commission, gave many
recommendations. The recommendations, to a large extent, were not
carried out. The commission members, including the chair, were appalled
by this, set up their own private commission after their own tenure was
completed, and continued to report that the measures are simply not
being carried out.
There are many other examples. One of the most striking is the
Treasury Department has a branch, the Office of Financial Assets
Control, which is supposed to monitor suspicious funding transfers
around the world. Well, that's a core element of the so-called war on
terror. They've given reports to Congress. It turns out that they have
a few officials devoted to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, but about — I
think it was — six times that many devoted to whether there are any
evasions of the totally illegal U.S. embargo against Cuba.
There was an instance of that just a few months ago, when the U.S.
infuriated even energy corporations by ordering a Sheraton Hotel in
Mexico City to cancel a meeting between Cuban oil specialists and U.S.
oil companies, including some big ones, seeking to explore the
development of offshore Cuban oil resources. The government ordered —
this OFAC ordered the hotel, the U.S. hotel, to expel the Cubans and
terminate the meeting. Mexico wasn't terribly happy about this. It’s a
extraordinary arrogance. But it also reveals the hysterical fanaticism
of the goal of strangling Cuba.
And we know why. It's a free country. We have records going from
way back, and a rich source of them go back to the Kennedy-Johnson
administrations. They had to carry out a terrorist war against Cuba, as
they did, and try to strangle Cuba economically, because of Cuba's —
what they called Cuba's successful defiance of U.S. policies, going
back to the Monroe Doctrine. No Russians, but the Monroe Doctrine, 150
years back at that time. And the goal was, as was put very plainly by
the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, to make the people of Cuba
suffer. They are responsible for the fact that the government is in
place. We therefore have to make them suffer and starve, so that
they'll throw out the government. It's a policy, which is pretty
consistent. It’s being applied right now in Palestine. It was applied
under the Iraqi sanctions, plot in Chile, and so on. It’s savage.
We're talking to Noam
Chomsky, his new book,
after he wrote Hegemony or Survival, one of scores of books, if not a
hundred books that Professor Chomsky has written, his new one is called
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
You mention Israel, Palestine, and I wanted to ask you about this
new study that's come out. A dean at Harvard University and a professor
at the University of Chicago are coming under intense criticism for
publishing an academic critique of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
The paper charges that the United States has willingly set aside its
own security and that of many of its allies, in order to advance the
interests of Israel. In addition, the study accuses the pro-Israel
lobby, particularly AIPAC, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee,
of manipulating the U.S. media, policing academia and silencing critics
of Israel by labeling them as anti-Semitic. The study also examines the
role played by the pro-Israel neoconservatives in the lead-up to the
U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The authors are the Stephen Walt, a dean at Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government, and John Mearsheimer of the University of
Chicago. They, themselves, are now being accused of anti-Semitism. In
Washington, a Democratic congressman, Eliot Engle of New York,
described the professors as dishonest so-called intellectuals and
anti-Semites. The Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse, called for the paper
to be withdrawn. Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz,
described the study as trash that could have been written by neo-Nazi
David Duke. The New York Sun reported Harvard has received several
calls from pro-Israel donors, expressing concern about the paper, and
Harvard has already taken steps to distance itself from the report.
Last week, it removed the logo of the Kennedy School of Government from
the paper and added a new disclaimer to the study. The report is 81
pages. It was originally published on Harvard's website and an edited
version appeared in the London Review of Books.
The controversy comes less than a year after Harvard law professor
Alan Dershowitz attempted to block the publication of Norman
Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and
the Abuse of History. Now, this goes into a lot of issues: the content
of the study, what you think of it, the response to it and also the
whole critique. In this country, what happens to those who criticize
the policies of the state of Israel? Noam Chomsky.
Well, the answer to your
last question is well
described in Norman Finkelstein's quite outstanding book and also in
the record of Dershowitz’s attempts to prevent its publication. Some of
the documents were just published in the Journal of Palestine Studies.
Finkelstein's book gives an extensive detailed account, the best one we
have, of a frightening record of Israeli crimes and abuses, where he
relies on the most respectable sources, the major human rights
organizations, Israeli human rights organizations and others, and
demonstrates, just conclusively, that Alan Dershowitz's defense of
these atrocities, based on no evidence at all, is outrageous and
Nevertheless, Finkelstein comes under tremendous attack for being
anti-Semitic, and so on. Now that's pretty normal. It goes back, I
suppose, to the distinguished diplomat, Abba Eban — it must be thirty
years ago — wrote in an American Jewish journal that “the task of
Zionists,” he said, “is to show that all political anti-Zionism” – that
means criticism of the policies of the state of Israel – “is either
anti-Semitism or Jewish self-hatred.” Well, okay, that excludes all
possible criticism, by definition. As examples of neurotic Jewish
self-hatred, I should declare an interest. He mentioned two people. I
was one; the other was Izzy Stone.
Once you release the torrent of abuse, you don't need arguments and
evidence, you can just scream. And Professors Walt and Mearsheimer
deserve credit for publishing a study, which they knew was going to
elicit the usual streams of abuse and hysteria from supporters of
Israeli crimes and violence. However, we should recognize that this is
pretty uniform. Try to say a sane and uncontroversial word about any
other issue dear to the hearts of the intellectual elite that they've
turned into holy writ, you get the same reaction. So – and there's no
lobby, which does raise one of a few minor points that raises questions
about the validity of the critique.
It's a serious, careful piece of work. It deserves to be read. They
deserve credit for writing it. But it still it leaves open the question
of how valid the analysis is, and I notice that there's a pretty subtle
question involved. Everyone agrees, on all sides, that there are a
number of factors that enter into determining U.S. foreign policy. One
is strategic and economic interests of the major power centers within
the United States. In the case of the Middle East, that means the
energy corporations, arms producers, high-tech industry, financial
institutions and others. Now, these are not marginal institutions,
particularly in the Bush administration. So one question is to what
extent does policy reflect their interests. Another question is to what
extent is it influenced by domestic lobbies. And there are other
factors. But just these two alone, yes, they are – you find them in
most cases, and to try to sort out their influence is not so simple. In
particular, it's not simple when their interests tend to coincide, and
by and large, there's a high degree of conformity. If you look over the
record, what's called the national interest, meaning the special
interests of those with — in whose hands power is concentrated, the
national interest, in that sense, tends to conform to the interests of
the lobbies. So in those cases, it's pretty hard to disentangle them.
If the thesis of the book – the thesis of the book is that the
lobbies have overwhelming influence, and the so-called “national
interest” is harmed by what they do. If that were the case, it would
be, I would think, a very hopeful conclusion. It would mean that U.S.
policy could easily be reversed. It would simply be necessary to
explain to the major centers of power, like the energy corporations,
high-tech industry and arms producers and so on, just explain to them
that they've – that their interests are being harmed by this small
lobby that screams anti-Semitism and funds congressmen, and so on.
Surely those institutions can utterly overwhelm the lobby in political
influence, in finance, and so on, so that ought to reverse the policy.
Well, it doesn't happen, and there are a number of reasons for it.
For one thing, there's an underlying assumption that the so-called
national interest has been harmed by these policies. Well, you know,
you really have to demonstrate that. So who's been harmed? Have the
energy corporations been harmed by U.S. policy in the Middle East over
the last 60 years? I mean, they're making profits beyond the dream of
avarice, as the main government investigation of them reported. Even
more today – that was a couple years ago. Has the U.S. – the main
concern of the U.S. has been to control what the State Department 60
years ago called “a stupendous source of strategic power,” Middle East
oil. Yeah, they’ve controlled it. There have been – in fact, the
invasion of Iraq was an attempt to intensify that control. It may not
do it. It may have the opposite effect, but that's a separate question.
It was the intent, clearly.
There have been plenty of barriers. The major barrier is the one
that is the usual one throughout the world: independent nationalism.
It’s called “radical nationalism,” which was serious. It was symbolized
by Nasser, but also Kassem in Iraq, and others. Well, the U.S. did
succeed in overcoming that barrier. How? Israel destroyed Nasser. That
was a tremendous service to the United States, to U.S. power, that is,
to the energy corporations, to Saudi Arabia, to the main centers of
power here, and in fact, it's in – that was 1967, and it was after that
victory that the U.S.-Israeli relations really solidified, became
what's called a “strategic asset.”
It's also then that the lobby gained its force. It's also then,
incidentally, that the educated classes, the intellectual political
class entered into an astonishing love affair with Israel, after its
demonstration of tremendous power against a third-world enemy, and in
fact, that's a very critical component of what's called the lobby. Walt
and Mearsheimer mention it, but I think it should be emphasized. And
they are very influential. They determine, certainly influence, the
shaping of news and information in journals, media, scholarship, and so
on. My own feeling is they're probably the most influential part of the
lobby. Now, we sort of have to ask, what's the difference between the
lobby and the power centers of the country?
But the barriers were overcome. Israel has performed many other
services to the United States. You can run through the record. It's
also performed secondary services. So in the 1980s, particularly,
Congress was imposing barriers to the Reagan administration's support
for and carrying out major terrorist atrocities in Central America.
Israel helped evade congressional restrictions by carrying out
training, and so on, itself. The Congress blocked U.S. trade with South
Africa. Israel helped evade the embargo to all the – both the racist
regimes of Southern Africa, and there have been many other cases. By
now, Israel is virtually an offshore U.S. military base and high-tech
center in the Middle East.
Noam Chomsky, we have to
break for stations to
identify themselves, but we'll come back. Professor Noam Chomsky is our
guest for the hour. His latest book has just been published, and it’s
called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
Our guest today is
Professor Noam Chomsky. His
new book is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on
Democracy. Noam Chomsky, longtime professor at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, world-renowned linguist and political analyst. I'm Amy
Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. Juan?
Professor Chomsky, in
your book you have a
fascinating section, where you talk about the historical basis of the
Bush doctrine of preemptive war, and also its relationship to empire or
to the building of a U.S. empire. And you go back, you mention a
historian, John Lewis Gaddis, who the Bush administration loves,
because he's actually tried to find the historical rationalization for
this use, going back to John Quincy Adams and as Secretary of State in
the invasion by General Andrew Jackson of Florida in the Seminole Wars,
and how this actually is a record of the use of this idea to continue
the expansionist aims of the United States around the world.
Yeah, that's a very
actually. John Lewis Gaddis is not only the favorite historian of the
Reagan administration, but he's regarded as the dean of Cold War
scholarship, the leading figure in the American Cold War scholarship, a
professor at Yale. And he wrote the one, so far, book-length
investigation into the roots of the Bush Doctrine, which he generally
approves, the usual qualifications about style and so on. He traces it
is back, as you say, to his hero, the great grand strategist, John
Quincy Adams, who wrote a series of famous state papers back in 1818,
in which he gave post facto justification to Andrew Jackson's invasion
of Florida. And it's rather interesting.
Gaddis is a good historian. He knows the sources, cites all the
right sources. But he doesn't tell you what they say. So what I did in
the book is just add what they say, what he omitted. Well, what they
describe is a shocking record of atrocities and crimes carried out
against what were called runaways Negros and lawless Indians,
devastated the Seminoles. There was another major Seminole war later,
either exterminated them or drove them into the marshes, completely
unprovoked. There were fabricated pretexts. Gaddis talks about the
threat of England. There was no threat from England. England didn't do
a thing. In fact, even Adams didn't claim that. But it was what Gaddis
calls an — it established what Gaddis calls the thesis that expansion
is the best guarantee of security. So you want to be secure, just
expand, conquer more. Then you'll be secure.
And he says, yes, that goes right through all American
administrations — he's correct about that — and is the centerpiece of
the Bush Doctrine. So he says the Bush Doctrine isn't all that new.
Expansion is the key to security. So we just expand and expand, and
then we become more secure. Well, you know, he doesn't mention the
obvious precedents that come to mind, so I'll leave them out, but you
can think of them. And there's some truth to that, except for what he
ignores and, in fact, denies, namely the huge atrocities that are
recorded in the various sources, scholarly sources that he cites, which
also point out that Adams, by giving this justification for Jackson's
war — he was alone in the administration to do it, but he managed to
convince the President — he established the doctrine of executive wars
without congressional authorization, in violation of the Constitution.
Adams later recognized that and was sorry for it, and very sorry, but
that established it and, yes, that's been consistent ever since then:
executive wars without congressional authorization. We know of case
after case. It doesn't seem to bother the so-called originalists who
talk about original intent.
But that aside, he also — the scholarship that Gaddis cites but
doesn't quote also points out that Adams established other principles
that are consistent from then until now, namely massive lying to the
public, distortion, evoking hysterical fears, all kinds of deceitful
efforts to mobilize the population in support of atrocities. And yes,
that continues right up to the present, as well. So there's very
interesting historical record. What it shows is almost the opposite of
what Gaddis claims and what the Reagan — the Bush administration — I
think I said Reagan — the Bush administration likes. And it's right out
of the very sources that he refers to, the right sources, the right
scholarship. He simply ignores them. But, yes, the record is
Noam Chomsky, I wanted to
ask you a question.
As many people know, you're perhaps one of the most cited sources or
analysis in the world. And I thought this was an interesting reference
to these citations. This was earlier this month, program, Tim Russert,
Meet the Press, questioning the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
General Peter Pace.
Mr. Jaafari said that one
of his favorite
American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky, someone who has written
very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush
administration foreign policy. Does that concern you?
GEN. PETER PACE:
I hope he has more than
one book on his nightstand.
So it troubles you?
GEN. PETER PACE:
I would be concerned if
the only access to
foreign ideas that the Prime Minister had was that one author. If, in
fact, that's one of many, and he's digesting many different opinions,
that's probably healthy.
That's General Peter Pace,
head of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, being questioned by Tim Russert, talking about
Jaafari, who at this very moment is struggling to be — again, to hold
on to his position as prime minister of Iraq. Your response, Noam
Well, I, frankly, rather
doubt that General
Pace recognized my name or knew what he was referring to, but maybe he
did. The quote from Tim Russert, if I recall, was that this was a book
that was highly critical of the Iraq war. Well, that shouldn't surprise
a prime minister of Iraq. After all, according to U.S. polls, the
latest ones I've seen reported, Brookings Institution, 87%, 87% of
Iraqis want a timetable for withdrawal. That's an astonishing figure.
If it really is all Iraqis, as was asserted. That means virtually
everyone in Arab Iraq, the areas where the troops are deployed. I,
frankly, doubt that you could have found figures like that in Vichy,
France, or, you know, Poland under — when it was a Russian satellite.
What it means essentially is that virtually everyone wants a
timetable for withdrawal. So, would it be surprising that a prime
minister would read a book that's critical of the war and says the same
thing? It's interesting that Bush and Blair, who are constantly
preaching about their love of democracy, announce, declare that there
will be no timetable for withdrawal. Well, that part probably reflects
the contempt for democracy that both of them have continually
demonstrated, them and their colleagues, virtually without exception.
But there are deeper reasons, and we ought to think about them. If
we're talking about exit strategies from Iraq, we should bear in mind
that for the U.S. to leave Iraq without establishing a subordinate
client state would be a nightmare for Washington. All you have to do is
think of the policies that an independent Iraq would be likely to
pursue, if it was mildly democratic. It would almost surely strengthen
its already developed relations with Shiite Iran right next door. Any
degree of Iraqi autonomy stimulates autonomy pressures across the
border in Saudi Arabia, where there's a substantial Shiite population,
who have been bitterly repressed by the U.S.-backed tyranny but is now
calling for more autonomy. That happens to be where most of Saudi oil
is. So, what you can imagine — I'm sure Washington planners are having
nightmares about this — is a potential — pardon?
I would like to ask you,
in terms of this
whole issue of democracy, in your book you talk about the democracy
deficit. Obviously, the Bush administration is having all kinds of
problems with their — even their model of democracy around the world,
given the election results in the Palestinian territories, the
situation now in Iraq, where the President is trying to force out the
Prime Minister of the winning coalition there, in Venezuela, even in
Iran. Your concept of the democracy deficit, and why this
administration is able to hold on in the United States itself?
Well, there are two
aspects of that. One is,
the democracy deficit internal to the United States, that is, the
enormous and growing gap between public opinion and public policy.
Second is their so-called democracy-promotion mission elsewhere in the
world. The latter is just pure fraud. The only evidence that they're
interested in promoting democracy is that they say so. The evidence
against it is just overwhelming, including the cases you mentioned and
many others. I mean, the very fact that people are even willing to talk
about this shows that we're kind of insisting on being North Koreans:
if the Dear Leader has spoken, that establishes the truth; it doesn't
matter what the facts are. I go into that in some detail in the book.
The democracy deficit at home is another matter. How have — I mean,
they have an extremely narrow hold on political power. Their policies
are strongly opposed by most of the population. How do they carry this
off? Well, that's been through an intriguing mixture of deceit, lying,
fabrication, public relations. There's actually a pretty good study of
it by two good political scientists, Hacker and Pearson, who just run
through the tactics and how it works. And they have barely managed to
hold on to political power and are attempting to use it to dismantle
the institutional structure that has been built up over many years with
enormous popular support — the limited benefits system; they’re trying
to dismantle Social Security and are actually making progress on that;
to the tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the rich, are creating — are
purposely creating a future situation, first of all, a kind of fiscal
train wreck in the future, but also a situation in which it will be
virtually impossible to carry out the kinds of social policies that the
public overwhelmingly supports.
And to manage to carry this off has been an impressive feat of
manipulation, deceit, lying, and so on. No time to talk about it here,
but actually my book gives a pretty good account. I do discuss it in
the book. That's a democratic deficit at home and an extremely serious
one. The problems of nuclear war, environmental disaster, those are
issues of survival, the top issues and the highest priority for anyone
sensible. Third issue is that the U.S. government is enhancing those
threats. And a fourth issue is that the U.S. population is opposed, but
is excluded from the political system. That's a democratic deficit.
It's one we can deal with, too.
Noam Chomsky, we're going
to have to leave it
there for now. But part two of our interview will air next week.
Professor Noam Chomsky's new book, just published, is called Failed
States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.