Mark Thomas(?) interviews
(is it THAT Mark Thomas, the smug git from TV?)
Mark Thomas: If we can start with US foreign policy
in relation to Iraq and the War on Terror, what do you think is going
on at the moment?
Chomsky: First of all I think we ought to be very cautious about using
the phrase’War on Terror'. There can't be a War on Terror. It's
a logical impossibility. The US is one of the leading terrorist states
in the world. The guys who are in charge right now were all condemned
for terrorism by the World Court. They would have been condemned by
the U.N. Security Council except they vetoed the resolution, with Britain
abstaining of course. These guys can't be conducting a war on terror.
It's just out of the question. They declared a war on terror 20 years
ago and we know what they did. They destroyed Central America. They
killed a million and a half people in southern Africa. We can go on
through the list. So there's no’War on Terror’. There was
a terrorist act, September 11th, very unusual, a real historic event,
the first time in history that the west received the kind of attack
that it carries out routinely in the rest of the world. September 11th
did change policy undoubtedly, not just for the US, but across the board.
Every government in the world saw it as an opportunity to intensify
their own repression and atrocities, from Russia and Chechnya, to the
West imposing more discipline on their populations. This had big effects
- for example take Iraq. Prior to September 11th, there was a longstanding
concern of the US toward Iraq - that is it has the second largest oil
reserves in the world. So one way or another the US was going to do
something to get it, that's clear. September 11th gave the pretext.
There’s a change in the rhetoric concerning Iraq after September
11th -’We now have an excuse to go ahead with what we're planning.'
It kinda stayed like that up to September of this year when Iraq suddenly
shifted... to ’An imminent threat to our existence.' Condoleeza
Rice [US National Security Advisor] came out with her warning that the
next evidence of a nuclear weapon would be a mushroom cloud over New
York. There was a big media campaign with political figures - we needed
to destroy Saddam this winter or we'd all be dead. You've got to kind
of admire the intellectual classes not to notice that the only people
in the world who are afraid of Saddam Hussien are Americans. Everybody
hates him and Iraqis are undoubtedly afraid of him, but outside of Iraq
and the United States, no one's afraid of him. Not Kuwait, not Iran,
not Israel, not Europe. They hate him, but they're not afraid of him.
In the United States people are very much afraid, there's no question
about it. The support you see in US polls for the war is very thin,
but it's based on fear. It's an old story in the United States.
When my kids were in elementary school 40 years ago they were taught
to hide under desks in case of an atom bomb attack. I'm not kidding.
The country is always in fear of everything. Crime for example: Crime
in the United States is roughly comparable with other industrial societies,
towards the high end of the spectrum. On the other hand, fear of crime
is way beyond other industrial societies... It's very consciously engendered.
These guys now in office, remember they're almost entirely from the
1980s. They've been through it already and they know exactly how to
play the game. Right through the 1980s they periodically had campaigns
to terrify the population. To create fear is not that hard, but this
time the timing was so obviously for the Congressional campaign that
even political commentators got the message. The presidential campaign
is going to be starting in the middle of next year. They've got to have
a victory under their belt. And on to the next adventure. Otherwise,
the population's going to pay attention to what's happening to them,
which is a big assault, a major assault on the population, just as in
the 1980s. They're replaying the record almost exactly. First thing
they did in the 1980s, in 1981, was drive the country into a big deficit.
This time they did it with a tax cut for the rich and the biggest increase
in federal spending in 20 years. This happens to be an unusually corrupt
administration, kind of like an Enron administration, so there's a tremendous
amount of profit going into the hands of an unusually corrupt group
of gangsters. You can't really have all this stuff on the front pages,
so you have to push it off the front pages. You have to keep people
from thinking about it. And there's only one way that anybody ever figured
out to frighten people and they're good at it. So there's domestic political
factors that have to do with timing. September 11th gave the pretext
and there's a long term, serious interest [in Iraq]. So they've gotta
go to war... my speculation would be that they would like to have it
over with before the presidential campaign. The problem is that when
you're in a war, you don't know what's going to happen. The chances
are it'll be a pushover, it ought to be, there's no Iraqi army, the
country will probably collapse in two minutes, but you can't be sure
of that. If you take the CIA warnings seriously, they're pretty straight
about it. They're saying that if there's a war, Iraq may respond with
terrorist acts. US adventurism is just driving countries into developing
weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent - they don't have any other
deterrent. Conventional forces don't work obviously, there's no external
deterrent. The only way anyone can defend themselves is with terror
and weapons of mass destruction. So it's plausible to assume that they're
doing it. I suppose that's the basis for the CIA analysis and I suppose
the British intelligence are saying the same thing. But you don't want
to have that happen in the middle of a presidential campaign... There
is the problem about what to do with the effects of the war, but that's
easy. You count on journalists and intellectuals not to talk about it.
How many people are talking about Afghanistan? Afghanistan's back where
it was, run by warlords and gangsters and who's writing about it? Almost
nobody. If it goes back to what it was no one cares, everyone's forgotten
about it. If Iraq turns into people slaughtering each other, I could
write the articles right now.’Backward people, we tried to save
them but they want to murder each other because they're dirty Arabs.'
By then, I presume, I'm just guessing, they [the US] will be onto the
next war, which will probably be either Syria or Iran. The fact is that
war with Iran is probably underway. It's known that about 12% of the
Israeli airforce is in south eastern Turkey. They're there because they're
preparing for the war against Iran. They don't care about Iraq. Iraq
they figure's a pushover, but Iran has always been a problem for Israel.
It's the one country in the region that they can't handle and they'
ve been after the US to take it on for years. According to one report,
the Israeli airforce is now flying at the Iranian border for intelligence,
provocation and so on. And it's not a small airforce. It's bigger than
the British airforce, bigger than any NATO power other than the US.
So it's probably underway. There are claims that there are efforts to
stir up Asseri separatism, which makes some sense. It's what the Russians
tried to do in 1946, and that would separate Iran, or what's left of
Iran, from the Caspian oil producing centres. Then you could partition
it. That will probably be underway at the time and then there'll be
a story about how Iran's going to kill us tomorrow, so we need to get
rid of them today. At least that's been the pattern. Campaign Against
Arms Trade: How far do you see the vast military production machine
that is America requiring war as an advertisement for their equipment?
Chomsky: You have to remember that what's called military industry is
just hi-tech industry. The military is a kind of cover for the state
sector in the economy. At MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
where I am, everybody knows this except the economists. Everybody else
knows it because it pays their salaries. The money comes into places
like MIT under military contract to produce the next generation of the
hi-tech economy. If you take a look at what's called the new economy
- computers, internet - it comes straight out of places like MIT under
federal contracts for research and development under the cover of military
production. Then it gets handed to IBM when you can sell something.
At MIT the surrounding area used to have small electronics firms. Now
it has small biotech firms. The reason is that the next cutting edge
of the economy is going to be biology based. So funding from the government
for biology based research is vastly increasing. If you want to have
a small start-up company that will make you a huge amount of money when
somebody buys it someday, you do it in genetic engineering, biotechnology
and so on. This goes right through history. It's usually a dynamic state
sector that gets economies going. One of the reasons the US wants to
control the oil is because profits flow back, and they flow in a lot
of ways. Its not just oil profits, it's also military sales. The biggest
purchaser of US arms and probably British arms is either Saudi Arabia
or United Arab Emirates, one of the rich oil producers. They take most
of the arms and that's profits for hi-tech industry in the Unites States.
The money goes right back to the US treasury and treasury securities.
In various ways, this helps prop up primarily the US and British economies.
I don't know if you've looked at the records, but in 1958 when Iraq
broke the Anglo-American condominium on oil production, Britain went
totally crazy. The British at that time were still very reliant on Kuwaiti
profits. Britain needed the petrodollars for supporting the British
economy and it looked as if what happened in Iraq might spread to Kuwait.
So at that point Britain and the US decided to grant Kuwait nominal
autonomy, up to then it was just a colony. They said you can run your
own post office, pretend you have a flag, that sort of thing. The British
said that if anything goes wrong with this we will ruthlessly intervene
to ensure maintaining control and the US agreed to the same thing in
Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
CAAT: There's also the suggestion that it's a way of America controlling
Europe and the Pacific rim.
Chomsky: Absolutely. The smarter guys like George Kenneth were pointing
out that control over the energy resources of the middle east gives
the US what he called ’veto power' over other countries. He was
thinking particularly of Japan. Now the Japanese know this perfectly
well so they've been working very hard to try to gain independent access
to oil, that's one of the reasons they've tried hard, and succeeded
to an extent, to establish relations with Indonesia and Iran and others,
to get out of the West-controlled system. Actually one of the purposes
of the [post World War II] Marshall Plan, this great benevolent plan,
was to shift Europe and Japan from coal to oil. Europe and Japan both
had indigenous coal resources but they switched to oil in order to give
the US control. About £2bn out of the £13bn Marshall Plan
dollars went straight to the oil companies to help convert Europe and
Japan to oil based economies. For power, it's enormously significant
to control the resources and oil's expected to be the main resource
for the next couple of generations. The National Intelligence Council,
which is a collection of various intelligence agencies, published a
projection in 2000 called ’Global Trends 2015.' They make the
interesting prediction that terrorism is going to increase as a result
of globalisation. They really say it straight. They say that what they
call globalisation is going to lead to a widening economic divide, just
the opposite of what economic theory predicts, but they're realists,
and so they say that it's going to lead to increased disorder, tension
and hostility and violence, a lot of it directed against the United
States. They also predict that Persian Gulf oil will be increasingly
important for world energy and industrial systems but that the US won't
rely on it. But it’s got to control it. Controlling the oil resources
is more of an issue than access. Because control equals power.
MT: How do you think the current anti-war movement that's building up
compares with Vietnam? What do you think we can achieve as people involved
in direct action and protest? Do you think there's a possibility of
preventing a war from occurring?
NC: I think that's really hard because the timing is really short. You
can make it costly, which is important. Even if it doesn't stop, it's
important for the war to be costly to try to stop the next one. Compared
with the Vietnam War movement, this movement is just incomparably ahead
now. People talk about the Vietnam War movement, but they forget or
don't know what it was actually like. The war in Vietnam started in
1962, publicly, with a public attack on South Vietnam - air force, chemical
warfare, concentration camps, the whole business. No protest... the
protest that did build up four or five years later was mostly about
the bombing of the North, which was terrible but was a sideshow. The
main attack was against South Vietnam and there was never any serious
protest against that. This time there's protest before the war has even
got started. I can't think of an example in the entire history of Europe,
including the United States, when there was ever protest of any substantial
level before a war. Here you've got massive protest before war's even
started. It's a tremendous tribute to changes in popular culture that
have taken place in Western countries in the last 30 or 40 years. It's
SchNEWS: It sometimes seems that as soon as protest breaks out of quite
narrow confines, a march every six months maybe, you get attacked. People
protesting against the war recently in Brighton were pepper sprayed
and batoned for just sitting down in a street.
Chomsky: The more protest there is the more tightening there's going
to be, that's routine. When the Vietnam War protests really began to
build up, so did the repression. I was very close to a long jail sentence
myself and it was stopped by the Tet Offensive. After the Tet Offensive,
the establishment turned against the war and they called off the trials.
Right now a lot of people could end up in Guantanamo Bay and people
are aware of it. If there's protest in a country then there's going
to be repression. Can they get away with it? - it depends a lot on the
reaction. In the early 50s in the US, there was what was called Macarthyism
and the only reason it succeeded was that there was no resistance to
it. When they tried the same thing in the 60s it instantly collapsed
because people simply laughed at it so they couldn't do it. Even a dictatorship
can't do everything it wants. It’s got to have some degree of
popular support. And in a more democratic country, there's a very fragile
power system. There's nothing secret about this, it's history. The question
in all of these things is how much popular resistance there's going
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