DemNox Chomsky Interview part I+II
The French city of Strasbourg is under security lockdown, with 25,000 police on patrol following a day of clashes between protesters and riot police. Three hundred people were arrested, and a German press photographer was hospitalized after being hit in the stomach by a police rubber bullet. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have descended on Strasbourg and the German towns of Kehl and Baden Baden to protest the summit. France has temporarily reinstated border controls with Germany to restrict access to protesters.
The focus of the summit will be Afghanistan, where 70,000 troops, mostly under NATO command, are at war. President Obama will use the talks to enlist support for his escalation of the war. Obama has sent 21,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, is considering deploying 10,000 more.
Meanwhile, Taliban militants in Pakistan marked the start of the two-day summit by destroying a fleet of nine parked NATO vehicles in transit for Afghanistan.
Last week, President Obama defended his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al-Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act, not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends on it. And what.s at stake at this time is not just our own security; it.s the very idea that free nations can come together on behalf of our common security.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk about Afghanistan, NATO and the state of US economic and military power in the world today, we.re joined by one of the world.s most astute thinkers and most important intellectuals of our time: linguist, philosopher, social critic, political dissident, Noam Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky is a prolific author and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, just down the road from here, where he taught for over half a century. Among his many dozens of books are Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs; The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo; Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians; Manufacturing Consent; Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies; and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. There.s a great collection of his work, just out now, edited by Anthony Arnove, called The Essential Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky, welcome to Democracy Now!
NOAM CHOMSKY: Very glad to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: It.s great to be with you here in Massachusetts in the studio, instead of talking to you on the phone at home.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let.s start with what.s happening with this NATO summit celebrating sixty years, France rejoining after more than four decades. Your analysis?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the obvious question is why bother celebrating NATO at all? In fact, why does it exist? It.s twenty years now, almost, since the Berlin Wall fell. NATO was constructed on the.with the reason, whether one believes it or not, that it was going to defend Western Europe from Russian assault. Once the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, that reason was gone. So, first question: why does NATO exist?
Well, in fact, the answers are interesting. Mikhail Gorbachev made an.agreed, made a remarkable concession at that time to the United States. NATO.s essentially run by the United States. He offered to allow a reunited Germany to join NATO, a hostile military alliance.
AMY GOODMAN: I.m going to interrupt you for a minute, Noam, because there.s a lot of static on your mike, and we want to fix that. So we.re going to go to a music break, and then we.re going to come back to you. We.re talking to Noam Chomsky. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: But as, Noam, you were just saying, at MIT they have these technological problems, too, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Right, the leading technological institute in the world. At commencement, the PA system almost inevitably breaks down. So this is familiar.
AMY GOODMAN: Briefly summarize what you were just saying, if people were having trouble hearing you through the static.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Alright. Well, I think the first question to ask about NATO is why it exists. We.re now approaching the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, unification of Germany, first steps in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, the alleged reason for NATO.s existence was to protect the West against a Russian assault. You can believe what you like about the reason, but that was the reason. By 1989, that reason was gone. So, why is there NATO?
Well, that question did arise. Mikhail Gorbachev offered at that time to the United States, which runs NATO, that he would permit a unified Germany to join NATO, a hostile military alliance aimed at the Soviet Union. Now, that.s a remarkable concession. If you look back at the history of the twentieth century, Germany alone had practically destroyed Russia several times. And now he was offering to let a reunited militarized Germany join a hostile military alliance, backed by the most awesome military power in history.
Well, there was a quid pro quo. George Bush, the first, was then president; James Baker, Secretary of State. And they agreed, in their words, that NATO would not expand one inch to the east, which would at least give Russia some breathing room. Now, Gorbachev also proposed a nuclear weapons-free zone from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, which would have again given some protection and, in fact, security for peace. Well, that was just rejected. I don.t even think it was answered. Well, that.s where things stood in 1989, .90.
Then Bill Clinton was elected. One of his first acts was to break the promise and expand NATO to the east, which, of course, is a threat to Russian security. Now, the pretext given, for example, by his.Strobe Talbott, who was the Under Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, is that that was necessary to bring the former satellites into the European Union. But that can.t be. There are states inside the European Union that are not part of NATO: Austria, you know, Finland, Sweden. So that.s irrelevant. But it was a threat, and Russia, of course, reacted to the hostile threat. It increased tension.
Well, going up to the present, President Obama.s national security adviser, James Jones, has been a strong advocate of the view that NATO should expand further to the east and to the south and that, in fact, it should.to the east and to the south means to control the energy-producing regions. The head of NATO, Dutch, the Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer, has proposed, advocates that NATO should take the responsibility for protecting energy supplies to the West.pipelines, sea lanes, and so on.
Well, now we.re getting to Afghanistan, which is right in the.has always been of great geostrategic importance because of its location, now more than ever because of its location relative to the energy-producing regions in the Gulf region and in Central Asia. So, yes, that.s what we.re seeing.
Actually, there.s more to say about NATO, about why it exists. So we might look back, say, ten years to the fiftieth anniversary. Well, the fiftieth anniversary of NATO was a gloomy affair that was.right at that time, NATO was bombing Serbia.illegally, as everyone admitted.claiming it was necessary for humanitarian reasons. At the NATO summit, there was much agonizing about how we cannot tolerate atrocities so near Europe.
Well, that was an interesting comment, since at that time NATO was supporting atrocities right inside NATO. Turkey, for example, was carrying out, with massive US aid, huge atrocities against its Kurdish population, far worse than anything reported in Kosovo. Right at that time, in East Timor.you.re not going to praise yourself, so if you don.t mind, I will.at the time of the Dili massacre, which you and Allan [Nairn] heroically exposed, atrocities continued. And in fact, in early 1999, they were picking up again, with strong US support.again, far beyond anything reported in Kosovo. That.s the US and Britain, you know, the core of NATO.
Right at the same time, in fact, Dennis Blair, President Obama.inside President Obama.s national security circle, he was sent to Indonesia, theoretically to try to get the Indonesian army to stop carrying out the mounting atrocities. But he supported them. He met with the top Indonesian General, General Wiranto, and essentially said, you know, .Go ahead.. And they did.
And in fact, those atrocities could have been stopped at any moment. That was demonstrated in September 1999, when Bill Clinton, under very extensive domestic and international pressure, finally decided to call it off. He didn.t have to bomb Jakarta. He didn.t have to impose an embargo. He just told the Indonesian generals the game.s over, and they immediately withdrew. That goes down in history as a great humanitarian intervention. It.s not exactly the right story. Right up until then, the United States was continuing to support the atrocities. Britain, under its new ethical foreign policy, didn.t quite get in on time, and they kept supporting them even after the Australian-led UN peacekeeping force entered. Well, that.s NATO ten years ago.
That.s even putting aside the claims about Serbia, which maybe a word about those are worthwhile. We know what happened in Serbia. There.s a massive.in Kosovo. There.s massive documentation from the State Department from NATO, European Union observers on the ground. There was a level of atrocity sort of distributed between the guerrillas and the Serbs. But it was expected that the NATO bombing would radically increase the atrocities, which it did, if you look back at the Milosevic indictment in the middle of the bombing, almost entirely, that atrocity.except for one exception, about atrocities, after the NATO bombing. That.s what they anticipated. General Clark, commanding general, had informed Washington weeks early, yes, that would be the consequence. He informed the press of that as the bombing started. That was the humanitarian intervention, while NATO was supporting even worse atrocities right within NATO, in East Timor, and go on in other cases. Well, that.s NATO ten years ago.
And it begins to tell us what NATO is for. Is it for defending Europe from attack? In fact, there is such a pretense now. So when President Bush put.started installing missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, the claim was, well, this is to defend Europe from attack against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles. The fact that it doesn.t have any doesn.t matter. And the fact that if it had any, it would be total insanity for them to even arm one, because the country would be vaporized in thirty seconds. So, it.s a threat to Russia again, just like Clinton.s expansion of NATO to the east.
AMY GOODMAN: France joining?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon?
AMY GOODMAN: France joining, now rejoining?
NOAM CHOMSKY: France joining is quite interesting. I mean, France had a policy, initiated by General de Gaulle, of trying to turn Europe into what was then called a .third force,. independent of the two superpowers, so Europe should pursue an independent course. It was.he spoke of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. That was a great fear of the United States since the Second World War, that Europe would strike out on its own after reconstructing, which it could. The economy is on the scale of the United States. There.s no reason.except in military force, it.s comparable to the United States. So it could have been a move towards a peaceful Europe independent of the superpowers. In fact, a large part of the purpose of NATO was to prevent that from happening, to ensure that Europe would stay within the US umbrella under US control.
Well, France has now abandoned that position and has rejoined what is now just an intervention force, an international intervention force, exactly as James Jones and de Hoop Scheffer and others portray it. It.s an international intervention force under US command. Why should it exist?
In fact, if you go back to 1989 and 1990, it.s extremely interesting to see how the United States reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union. So, right after the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, which signaled the end of the Soviet Union, clearly, the Bush administration, Bush I, immediately released a national security strategy, a military budget, and so on, which are very interesting reading. What they say, in effect, is everything is going to go on exactly as before, but with new pretexts. So now we have to have a huge military establishment and military budget, and not to protect ourselves from the Russians, who are collapsing, but because.literally, because of the technological sophistication of third world powers. Now, that was promulgated without ridicule. You know, if someone was watching from Mars, they.d collapse in laughter. So, because of the technological sophistication of third world powers, we have to keep this huge military budget, and we have to keep intervention forces aimed at the Middle East, the main target of intervention. Why? Not because of the Russians, as had been claimed. What it said was we have to direct the intervention forces to the Middle East, where our problems could not be laid at the Kremlin.s door. And so, in other words, we.ve been lying to you for fifty years, but now the clouds have lifted. So we just have to have intervention forces aimed at the Middle East, because we have to control it. We have to maintain what they called the Defense Industrial Base. That.s a euphemism for high-technology industry. Now that.s why you have things like computers and the internet and so on. So that.s the massive state sector of the high-tech economy. We have to maintain that, again because of, you know, the threat of the third world and so on. In other words, everything remains the same; the pretexts change. Now, that passed without a whisper.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I want to get to Afghanistan. It.s the main topic of NATO. It.s a debate around the issue of the expansion of war in Afghanistan. President Obama.s initiative is not the main topic of debate in the United States, meaning whether or not we should be doing this. What do you think?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it.s interesting. It is the topic of discussion in the United States right in the middle of the establishment. So, Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal, had an interesting article probably six months ago, or roughly, by two of the leading specialists on Afghanistan: Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid. And their basic point was that the United States should give up the idea that military victory is the answer to everything.
They said that the United States should reorient its policy so that there would be a regional solution in which the interested.the concerned countries, that includes, crucially, Iran, but also India, Russia, China, would themselves work out a regional settlement and that the Afghans should work something out among themselves. He pointed.they pointed out, correctly, that the regional countries are not happy about having a NATO military center based in Afghanistan. It.s obviously a threat to them. Now, this past.this is not what.s being done. There.s some gestures towards, you know, maybe some under secretary will say hello to an Iranian representative or something, but that.s not the core of the policy that.s being pursued.
Now that.side-by-side with that is something else that.s been happening. There is a significant peace movement in Afghanistan. Exactly its scale, we don.t know. But it.s enough so that Pamela Constable of the Washington Post, in a recent article in Afghanistan, argued that when the new American troops come, they.re going to face two enemies: the Taliban and public opinion, meaning the peace movement, whose slogan is .Put down the weapons. And we don.t mind if you.re here, but for aid and development. We don.t want any more fighting..
In fact, we know from Western-run polls that about 75 percent of Afghans are in favor of negotiations among Afghans. Now, that includes the Taliban, who are Afghans. In fact, it even includes the ones in Pakistan. There.s the difference.the really troubled areas, now, are Pashtun areas, which are split by a British-imposed line, artificial line, called the Durand Line, which was imposed by the British to protect British India, expand it, and they.ve never accepted it. It just cuts their territory in half. Afghanistan, when it was a functioning state, never accepted it, right through the 1970s. But certainly, the Afghan Taliban are Afghans. And President Karzai, formerly our man, no longer, because he.s getting out of control.
AMY GOODMAN: How? How is he getting out of control?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, interesting ways. When President Obama was elected, Afghan President Karzai sent him a message, which, as far as I know, was unanswered, in which he pleaded with President Obama to stop killing Afghans. He also addressed a UN delegation and told them he wanted a timetable for the removal of foreign forces. Well, his popularity quickly plummeted. He used to be very much praised for his nice clothes and great demeanor and very much admired by the media and commentators. Now he.s sunk very low. He.s suddenly corrupt and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean in the Western world, the Western press?
NOAM CHOMSKY: In the Western world, primarily in the United States, but in the West altogether. And it directly followed these expressions of opinion, which are very likely those of maybe a majority of Afghans, maybe even more.
In fact, he went even further. He said that he would invite Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, to Afghanistan to try to work out a solution. And he added, .The United States isn.t going to like this, but they have two choices: they can either accept it, or they can throw me out,. you know. In fact, that.s what they.re doing. There are now plans to replace President Karzai, to sort of push him upstairs and leave him in a.it.s assumed that he.ll win the next election, so put him in a symbolic position and impose, basically, a US-appointed surrogate who will essentially run the country, because that can.t be tolerated.
In any event, there are alternative proposals.they.re discussed here, they.re widely discussed in Afghanistan at the highest level and apparently among the population.to just move towards a peaceful settlement among Afghans and a regional settlement, which would take into consideration the concerns of the region.s neighboring powers.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think Obama is expanding this war? And do you call it .Obama.s war. now?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, this goes way back. I mean, the United States has sort of a comparative advantage in world affairs, namely, military might, not economic power, you know, not Treasury reserves. I mean, it.s a very powerful state, but, you know, it.s one of several. It.s comparable to Europe. It.s comparable to rising East Asia in, say, economic power. But in military power, it is supreme. The United States spends approximately as much as the rest of the world in military force. It.s far more technologically advanced. And when you have a comparative advantage, you tend to use it. So, policy decisions tend to drift towards where you.re strong. And where you.re strong is military force. It.s, you know, the old joke: if you have a hammer, everything you see is a nail. You know. And I think that.s very much of a driving force.
And there.s also a longstanding imperial mentality, which says we have to control and dominate. And in particular, we have to dominate energy resources. That goes way back. You know, after the Second World War, it.s been maybe the prime factor in US [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: And the energy resources in Afghanistan?
NOAM CHOMSKY: No, they.re not in Afghanistan. They.re in.mostly in the Gulf, secondarily in Central Asia. But Afghanistan is right in the middle of this system. I mean, there is a pipeline question. How powerful it is, you can speculate. But there have been longstanding plans for a pipeline from Turkmenistan in Central Asia to India, which would go.TAPI, it.s called: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India.
Now, that.s of significance to the United States for a number of reasons. For one thing, if it.it would run right through Afghanistan and through Kandahar province, one of the most conflicted areas. If it was established, it would, for one thing, reduce the reliance of the Central Asian states on Russia. So it would weaken their role. But more significant, it would bypass Iran. I mean, India needs energy, and the natural source is Iran. And, in fact, they.re discussing an Iran-to-India pipeline. But if you could get natural gas flowing from Central Asia to India, avoiding Iran, that would support the US policy, which is now very clear.in Obama.s case, it.s been made more concrete.of forming an alliance of regional states to oppose Iran.
In fact, that.s.John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently made an important speech about that with regard to Israel-Palestine. He said we have to reconceptualize the issue so it.s not an Israel-Palestine problem, but rather, we.ll sort of put that to the side, and what we have to do is create an alliance of Israel and what are called the moderate Arab states. And .moderate. is a technical term, means they do what we say. And so, the moderate Arab states include the brutal Egyptian dictatorship, the radical fundamentalist dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, and so on. They are the moderates, and they have to join with Israel and us in an anti-Iranian alliance. And we have to, of course, break ongoing connections between Iran and India to the extent that we can and elsewhere. And that puts the Israel-Palestine problem.issue to the side.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get to Israel-Palestine, but we have to break. And before we do, just a quick question. Do you think Obama should pull the troops out of Afghanistan immediately?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, you know, I think the Afghans should make that decision.
AMY GOODMAN: How?
NOAM CHOMSKY: They have ways. For example, what the peace movement calls for is their traditional way of making decisions: a loya jirga, major meeting of, you know, elders, other figures and so on, who will try to arrive at consensus on this with all the Afghans. And it should be their decision. I mean, we have no right to be there.
AMY GOODMAN: We.re talking to Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, author of more than a hundred books on US foreign and domestic policy. We.ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We.re on the road in Boston with Professor Noam Chomsky. We.re talking about, well, US global policy, from NATO to Afghanistan to the new government in Israel. Can you talk about Benjamin Netanyahu and what you see coming up?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Benjamin Netanyahu is on the.you can.t say on the far right anymore, because the country has moved so far to the right that he.s almost centrist. To the far right is his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who has made his first pronouncement yesterday. He said that Israel has no responsibilities for any previous commitments, not the Annapolis commitment to eventually form some sort of Palestinian state, unclear what, only to the road map. Now, that.s what was reported yesterday in the press.
Now, what.s Israel.s commitment to the road map? He knows very well. The road map is the famous decision of the Quartet.US, Europe, Russia and the United Nations. A couple years ago, it sort of laid out vague plans for what ought to be done. It.s worth looking at them. But put that aside, because really it doesn.t matter, because as soon as the road map came out, Israel formally accepted it and instantly added fourteen reservations, which completely eviscerated it. One of the contributions of Jimmy Carter.s book on Israel-Palestine was that he was the first, I think, to give public attention to the Israeli reservations. They.re in an appendix to his book, bitterly condemned book, but nobody ever mentioned the one major contribution.
In effect, Israel said, .We.ll sign the road map, but we.re not going to observe it, because here.s the conditions.. So, for example, the condition.one condition is that nothing can happen until the Palestinians end, of course, all violence, but also all incitement, so anything critical of Israel. On the other hand, it added, nothing can stop Israel from carrying out violence and incitement. It was explicit, approximately those words. And so it continues. There can be no discussion of the existence of settlements, in fact, no discussion of anything that matters. That.s the road map. Now, the US supported that. That means both the US and Israel reject the road map. And Lieberman.s statement yesterday is, well, that.s our only commitment. You know, if we had a functioning media, those would be the headlines.
And there.s much more to this. You know, President Obama appointed a Middle East emissary, George Mitchell, who.s a reasonable choice if he.s allowed to do anything. So far, he.s only allowed to listen to almost everyone, not everyone. For example, he.s not allowed to listen to the elected government in Palestine, the Hamas-led government. Well, it would be hard to listen to them, because half of them are in Israeli prisons, but nevertheless, you know, they have voices. For example, they.ve supported the call for a two-state settlement that the United States and Israel have rejected. So they.ve joined the world on that.
But why are we not allowed to listen to Hamas? Well, because they don.t meet three conditions that were established. One is, they have to accept the road map, which we and Israel reject, but they have to accept it, otherwise we can.t allow them into the civilized world. The other is, they have to renounce violence. Well, we don.t have to discuss the question whether the United States and Israel renounce violence, so we can put that aside. Third, they have to recognize Israel, but, of course, we don.t have to recognize Palestine, nor does Israel. So they have to meet three conditions that we don.t meet and that Israel doesn.t meet. But again, that passes without comment.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think President Obama.s role should be right now? What do you think would be the most effective action he could take?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He should join the world. There has been an overwhelming international consensus for over thirty years. It was made explicit in January 1976, when the Arab states brought a resolution to the Security Council calling for the establishment of two states on the international border, which indeed the international border, up until then, was recognized by the United States. It means the pre-June .67 border. And official US terminology, when it was still part of the world in the late .60s, was .with minor and mutual modifications,. so maybe straighten out some curves. Almost the entire world agrees with this. It has been blocked by the United States. The United States vetoed that resolution. It vetoed a similar one in 1980. I won.t run through the record, but it.s essentially the same up .til now.
So what President Obama should do is, in fact, what President Clinton did in the last few weeks of his administration. It.s important to recognize what happened then. There were negotiations in Camp David in the summer of 2000, which collapsed. Clinton blamed Arafat, the head of the Palestinian delegation, for the breakdown, but he backed off of that pretty quickly. By December, he formerly recognized that the US-Israeli proposals at Camp David could not be accepted by any Palestinian, and he presented what he called his parameters, somewhat vague but more forthcoming. He then made a speech, an important speech, in which he said both sides have accepted the parameters, both sides have expressed reservations. Well, they met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001, both sides, to iron out the reservations, and they came very close to an agreement, which was very close to the international consensus.
AMY GOODMAN: We.re just wrapping up right now, but I want to ask if you support a one- or two-state solution there?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Nobody supports.I mean, you can talk about a one-state solution, if you want. I think a better solution is a no-state solution. But this is pie in the sky. If you.re really in favor of a one-state solution, which in fact I.ve been all my life.accept a bi-national state, not one state.you have to give a path to get from here to there. Otherwise, it.s just talk. Now, the only path anyone has ever proposed.
AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.
NOAM CHOMSKY: .is through two states as the first stage.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Noam Chomsky, our guest. Part two of our conversation, which we.ll play next week, will be on the global economic meltdown. Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We.re broadcasting from Boston.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, a conversation with one of the most important dissident intellectuals of our time, Noam Chomsky, on the global economic crisis, healthcare, the media, US foreign policy, the expanding wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and resistance to American empire. Noam Chomsky is a world-renowned linguist, philosopher, social critic, and Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Among his many books over the past few decades are Hegemony or Survival: America.s Quest for Global Dominance, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, and Human Rights and American Foreign Policy. There.s a great collection of his work, just out now, edited by Anthony Arnove, called The Essential Chomsky.
I spoke to Noam Chomsky earlier this month when we were on the road in Boston. This is Part II of our conversation. I began by asking him to talk about the current economic meltdown.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, let.s start with G20. If you look at the Financial Times, the world.s major business journal, the day before the G20 meeting, they had a section on it, and they pointed out, I think correctly, that the main purpose is to present a picture of harmony and agreement. It doesn.t matter what you do, but make it look as if we.re all together on this. Now, there are sharp splits about how to approach the issue, but you have to make it look as if we.re all together. That.s pretty much what happened.
Now, in the communiqué, which you read before, the crucial word was .voluntary.. So, the countries there are supposed to voluntarily choose to do x, y and z. Well, that means we couldn.t make an agreement. So we.ll call it voluntary agreement.
Now, there was one point on which they agreed: a sharp recapitalization of the International Monetary Fund; pour a lot of money into the IMF. That.s a pretty dubious move. I mean, the record of the IMF has.the IMF is more or less a branch of the US Treasury, even though it has a European director. Its past role has been extremely destructive. In fact, its American US executive director captured its role when she described it as .the credit community.s enforcer,. meaning if a third world dictator incurs a huge debt.people didn.t, but the dictator did; say, Suharto in Indonesia.and then the debt defaults, the lenders, who have made plenty of money because it was a risky loan so they get high interest and so on, they have to be protected, meaning not by the dictator, by the people of Indonesia, who are subjected to harsh structural adjustment programs so that they can pay back the debt, which they didn.t incur, so that we can be compensated, rich Westerners can be compensated. So that.s the IMF, the credit community.s enforcer, a very destructive role in the third world. Now it.s to be recapitalized.
Now, there.s discussion about this, and it.s interesting. You can read it in the financial pages. The supporters of the recapitalization say, .Well, the IMF has changed its spots. It.s going to be different from now on. We realize that it had this terrible role, but now it.s going to be different.. Well, is there any reason to believe it will be different? In fact, if you look today, it.s quite striking to see the advice that the Western powers are following, the programs that they.re following, and compare them to the instructions given to the third world.
So, say, take Indonesia again. Indonesia had a huge financial crisis about ten years ago, and the instructions were the standard ones: .Here is what you have to do. First, pay off your debts to us. Second, privatize, so that we can then pick up your assets on the cheap. Third, raise interest rates to slow down the economy and force the population to suffer, you know, to pay us back.. Those are the regular instructions the IMF is still giving them.
What do we do? Exactly the opposite. We forget about the debt, let it explode. We reduce interest rates to zero to stimulate the economy. We pour money into the economy to get even bigger debts. We don.t privatize; we nationalize, except we don.t call it nationalization. We give it some other name, like .bailout. or something. It.s essentially nationalization without control. So we pour money into the institutions. We lectured the third world that they must accept free trade, though we accept protectionism.
Take the .too big to fail. principle, which the House committee is discussing today. But what does .too big to fail. mean? .Too big to fail. is an insurance policy. It.s a government insurance policy. Government means the public pays, which says, .You can take huge risks and make plenty of profit, and if anything goes wrong, we.ll bail you out.. That.s .too big to fail.. Well, that.s extreme protectionism. It gives US corporations like Citigroup an enormous advantage over others, like any other kind of protection.
But we don.t allow the third world to do that. I mean, they.ve got to privatize, so that we can pick up their assets. Now, these are happening side by side. Now, here.s the instructions for you, the poor people; here.s the policies for us, the rich people. Exactly the opposite. Is there any reason to think the IMF is going to change it?
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Obama is any different than President Bush when it comes to the economy? And if you were in the Congress, would you have voted for the bailouts and the stimulus packages?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He.s different. I mean, first of all, there.s a rhetorical difference. But we have to distinguish the first and the second Bush terms. They were different. I mean, the first Bush term was so arrogant and abrasive and militaristic and dismissive of everyone that they offended, they antagonized even allies, close allies, and US prestige in the world plummeted to zero. Now, the second Bush administration was more.moved more toward the center in that respect, not entirely, but more, so some of the worst offenders, like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others, were thrown out. I mean, they couldn.t throw out Dick Cheney, because he was the administration, so they couldn.t get rid of him. He stayed, but the others, a lot of them, left. And they moved towards a somewhat more normal position.
And Obama is carrying that forward. He.s a centrist Democrat. He never really pretended to be anything else. And he.s moving towards a kind of a centrist position. He.s very popular in Europe, not so much because of him, but because he.s not Bush. So there is the kind of rhetoric that the European leaders and, in fact, the European population tend to accept. In fact, you know, even in the Middle East, where you.d think people would know better, they accept the illusions. And they are illusions, because there.s nothing to back them up. So, yes, he is different from Bush.
Same.on the economy, well, you know, the current Obama-Geithner plan is not very different from the Bush-Paulson plan. I mean, somewhat different, but circumstances have changed. So, of course, it.s somewhat different. But it.s still based on the principle that we have to.somehow, the taxpayer has to rescue the institutions intact. They have to remain intact, including the people who, you know, destroyed the economy. In fact, they are the ones who Obama picked to fix it up.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Like Larry Summers, for example, who is now his chief economic adviser. I mean, he was Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton. His great achievement was to prevent Congress from regulating derivatives, exotic financial instruments. Well, that.s one of the main factors that led to the crisis.
His kind of senior adviser, one of the first, was Robert Rubin, who was Secretary of Treasury right before Summers. His main achievement.many achievements, like what he did to Indonesia and the third world, but here, his main achievement was to lead the way to revoke the Glass-Steagall legislation from the New Deal, which protected commercial banks from risky investments. It broke down those barriers. Immediately after having done this, he left the government, joined Citigroup as a director, and they began to make huge profits, including him, from picking up insurance companies and so on and making very risky loans, relying on the .too big to fail. doctrine, meaning if we get in trouble, the taxpayer will bail us out, which is just what.s happening, taxpayers now pouring tens of billions of dollars into rescuing Citigroup.
Well, these are the advisers who were supposed to fix up the system. Tim Geithner was right in the middle of this. He was head of the New York Federal Reserve, so, yes, he was supervising these actions. Now, you know, you can argue about whether they.re doing the right thing or the wrong thing, but are these the people who should be fixing up the system?
Actually, the business press just had some interesting things to say about this. Bloomberg News, you know, main business press, had an article in which they reviewed the records of the people who Obama invited to his economic summit. I think it must have been last November or December. They just reviewed the record. I think there were a couple dozen of them. People on the.you know, people like, say, Stiglitz, Krugman, they were never even allowed close to it, let alone anyone from the left or labor and so on, given token representation. So they went through the records, and they concluded that these people should not be invited to fix up the economy. Most of them should be getting subpoenas because of their record of accounting fraud, malpractice and so on, and helping bring about the current crisis.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Noam Chomsky. We.ll continue the conversation in a minute. If you.d like a copy of today.s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return now to my conversation with Noam Chomsky about the economic crisis and how the Obama administration is handling it.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think Obama chose to surround himself?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Because those are his beliefs. I mean, his support comes from the.his constituency is basically the financial institutions. Just take a look at the funding for his campaign. I mean, the final figures haven.t come out, but we have preliminary figures, and it seems to be mostly financial institutions. I mean, the financial institutions preferred him to McCain. They are the main funders for both.you know, I mean, core funders for both parties, but considerably more to Obama than McCain.
You can learn a lot from campaign contributions. In fact, one of the best predictors of policy around is Thomas Ferguson.s investment theory of politics, as he calls it.very outstanding political economist.which essentially.I mean, to say it in a sentence, he describes elections as occasions in which groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state. And he takes a look at the formation of campaign contributors, and it gives you a surprisingly good prediction of what policies are going to be. It goes back a century, New Deal and so on. So, yeah, it can predict pretty well what Obama is going to do. There.s nothing surprising about this. It.s the norm in what.s called political democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you have let Citibank, would you have let Citigroup, would do have let the AIG fail?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there are other possibilities. So, the government could just take over the viable parts. And parts of them are functioning; parts are dysfunctional, like the toxic.what they call the toxic asset parts, you know, the financial manipulations.
Well, one thing you could do, which has been suggested by a number of economists like Dean Baker, just take over the good parts, essentially nationalize them, put them under public control. And .nationalize. means public control, at least if you have a democracy. Not here, but if you had a functioning democracy, it would mean let them be under public control, and the parts that are responsible for the huge losses, just let them go off by themselves. In fact, that would be the way of taking care of the AIG bonuses that everyone.s screaming about. In fact, as Baker pointed out, just spin off the parts that were involved in financial manipulations and caused the crisis, let them go bankrupt and let the executives try to get the bonuses from a bankrupt firm, OK, with no legislation necessary. That.s what should be done with Citigroup.
And in fact, it.s interesting, it.s kind of happening. You know, after the breakdown of Glass-Steagall, they did bring in.they made use of it, under Rubin.s direction, among others, to take.bring in insurance companies and other risky investors. Now they.re divesting them. And they.re going in the direction of becoming, you know, commercial bank.
Now, incidentally, this is not the first time this has happened. Paul Volcker is on the news today, you know, saying, .Let.s slow down,. and so on. Well, he.s the one who, under Reagan, who helped bail out Citigroup last time they crashed. At that time they were Citibank. They had followed World Bank and IMF instructions and lent huge amounts of money to Latin America and were assured by the World Bank that it.s all fine, you know, markets will take care of it, etc. Well, in a crash, Paul Volcker came in. He raised interest rates very sharply. Third world countries, whose payments are tied to US interest rates, couldn.t pay their debts. The IMF moved in, took care of it, and essentially recapitalized Citibank. That.s the way the system works: you make risky loans, you make a lot of money, and if you get into trouble, we.re here to bail you out, namely the taxpayer.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do the Republicans differ from the Democrats in this? What do you make of.do you see it as just a minor footnote that Republicans, or some of the governors like Palin, like Jindal.
NOAM CHOMSKY: There.s a difference.
AMY GOODMAN: .are saying they.re not going to take stimulus money?
NOAM CHOMSKY: There.s a difference. I mean, we basically are a kind of a one-party state. I think C. Wright Mills must have pointed this out fifty years ago. It.s a business party, but it has factions.Democrats and Republicans.and they.re different. They have somewhat different constituencies and different policies. And if you look over the years, the population has.the majority of the population has tended to make out better under Democrats than Republicans; the very wealthy have tended to make out better under Republicans than Democrats. So they.re business parties, but they.re somewhat different, and the differences can have an effect. However, fundamentally, they.re pretty much along the same lines.
So take, say, the current financial crisis. Actually, it began under Carter. The late Carter administration is the one that began.was pushing for financialization of the economy, you know, huge growth of speculative financial capital, deregulation, and so on. Reagan carried it much further, and Clinton continued it. And then, with Bush, it kind of went off the rails.
So there are differences, but differences within a pretty narrow spectrum. And anyone who.s a little off the spectrum, like Nobel laureates in economics who are a couple of millimeters off the spectrum, they.re basically on the outside. You can interview them, but they don.t show up at the economic summit.
AMY GOODMAN: How does the global economy and our own economy relate to the issue of war and US foreign policy?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, you had a pretty good interview with Joseph Stiglitz about that a couple of months ago, in which he discussed the relationship of.he was talking about the Iraq war. And as you.ll recall, he pointed out correctly that the Iraq war, which, first of all, is going to cost trillions of dollars, also had the effect of sharply increasing the price of oil, predictably. And as he pointed out, we could sort of paper that over for a while by a housing bubble, so there was a huge housing bubble which anyone with eyes open could see. I mean, for a century, housing prices had sort of tracked the economy, GDP; then, all of a sudden, they shot way beyond the trend line, which means there.s a bubble, and it.s going to burst, and you get into trouble. But the housing bubble, which was supervised by Alan Greenspan and with the Democrats.actually, it started under Clinton.it replaced the tech bubble under Clinton, and it gave an illusion of prosperity, which.so you didn.t see the effects of the rise in oil prices, which went very high. But if you trace all the connections, yes, there.s a clear connection, as he pointed out, between the war and the economic crisis.
And in fact, it.s deeper than that. The US is just in a class by itself in military expenses. It basically matches the rest of the world, and it.s far more advanced. Well, that.s drawn from somewhere. You know, that.s money that.s not being used to develop the economy.
Now, in fact, you have to add a footnote here, because part of the very high level of US violation of free trade principles is that the economy itself is based on military spending to a substantial extent. So the modern information revolution.computers, the internet, fancy software and so on.most of that comes straight out of the Pentagon. My own university, MIT, was one of the places where all of this was developed under Pentagon contracts in the 1950s and the 1960s.
In fact, that.s another critical part of the way the economy works. The public pays the costs and takes the risk of economic development, and if anything works, maybe decades later, it.s handed over to private enterprise to make the profits. And that.s a core element of the economy. Of course, we don.t permit the third world to do that. That.s considered a violation of free trade when they do it. But it.s the way our economy works. And it.s kind of complementary to the .too big to fail. doctrine of protectionism for financial institutions. But the general.we do not have a capitalist economy. We have kind of a state capitalist economy in which the public has a role: pay the costs, take the risks, bail out if they get into trouble. And the private sector has a role: make profit, and then turn to the public if you get into trouble.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you extend that to healthcare?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, healthcare is a dramatic case. I mean, for decades, the healthcare issue has been right at the top of domestic concerns, for very good reasons. The US has the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world, has about twice the per capita costs and some of the worst outcomes. It.s also the only privatized system. And if you look closely, those two things are related. And the privatized system is highly inefficient: a huge amount of administration, bureaucracy, supervision, you know, all kinds of things. It.s been studied pretty carefully.
Now, the public has had an opinion about this for decades. A considerable majority want a national healthcare system, like other industrial countries have. They usually say a Canadian-style system, not because Canada is the best, but at least you know that Canada exists. Nobody says an Australian-style system, which is much better, because who knows anything about that? But something like what.s sometimes called Medicare Plus, like extend Medicare to the population.
Well, up until.it.s interesting. Up until the year 2004, that idea was described, for example, by the New York Times as politically impossible and lacking political support. So, maybe the public wants it, but that.s not what counts as political support. The financial institutions are opposed, the pharmaceutical institutions are opposed, so it.s not.no political support. Well, in 2008, for the first time, the Democratic candidates.first Edwards, then the others.began to move in the direction of what the public has wanted, not there, but in that direction.
So what happened between 2004 and 2008? Well, public opinion didn.t change. It.s been this way for decades. What changed is that manufacturing industry, a big sector of the economy, has recognized that it.s being severely harmed by the highly inefficient privatized health system. So, General Motors said that it costs them over a thousand dollars more to produce a car in Detroit than across the border in Windsor, Canada. And, you know, when manufacturing industry becomes concerned, then things become politically possible, and they begin to have political support. So, yes, in 2008, there.s some discussion of it.
Now, you know, this is very revealing insight into how American democracy functions and what is meant by the term .political support. and .politically possible.. Again, this should be headlines. Will a proposal come that approaches what the public wants? Well, we.re already getting the backlash, strong backlash. And what private healthcare systems are claiming is that this is unfair. The government is so much more efficient that they.ll be driven.there.s no level playing field if the government gets into it, which is true.
AMY GOODMAN: If you had a public and a private plan.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: If it were like Medicare.
NOAM CHOMSKY: If you had them side by side.
AMY GOODMAN: Most people go for Medicare.
NOAM CHOMSKY: .they will.
AMY GOODMAN: .but if you wanted to go for a private plan, you could.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, if you could. But they.re not.they say, .Well, we can.t compete.. For good reasons. I mean, in every country except.industrial country except the United States, the government uses its massive purchasing power to negotiate drug prices. That.s one of the reasons prices are so much higher in the United States than in other countries. Well, they could.the Pentagon can use purchasing power to negotiate prices for, you know, paper clips or something, but, by law, the government is not permitted to do that in the case of healthcare. Well, if you had Medicare Plus, they would, and that would drive down drug prices, and the private industries can.t compete.
AMY GOODMAN: FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, did a study of the week leading up to the White House healthcare summit of the networks and how they were covering single payer, the issue of like Medicare Plus, and I think they found that absolutely.that almost.there was almost no representation in the media of a single-payer advocate.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: .and almost the only mention was someone blasting single payer.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, yeah. That.s because it has no political support; only the majority of the public. It.s the same as the media commentary in 2004. In fact, if you take a look back at the end of the last electoral campaign, Kerry-Bush campaign, in October 2004, right before the election, there was a debate on domestic issues. I think it was maybe October 28th or so. Just take a look.read the New York Times report of it the next day. It was very dramatic. It said Kerry never brought up the idea of any government involvement in healthcare, not, you know, Medicare Plus, but any government involvement, because it is not politically possible and lacks political support.just the population. Well, that.
AMY GOODMAN: What studies show you the population wants this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I mean, there.s been poll after poll, goes back, in fact.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think is going to break through?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it.s a problem of the general dysfunction of formal democracy. I mean, there.s a very substantial gap between public opinion and public policy on a host of major issues. And on many of these issues, both parties are well to the right of the public, international and domestic.
Incidentally, that.s one reason why elections are run the way they are. Elections are run as marketing extravaganzas, and that.s not kept secret. So the advertising industry gives an award every year for best marketing campaign of the year. For 2008, they gave it to Obama. He beat out, I think, Apple Computer. And if you look at the comments of financial.of advertising executives, PR executives, they were euphoric. In fact, they said.you can read it in the Financial Times, business press.they said, you know, .We.ve been marketing candidates like commodities ever since Reagan, but this is the best we.ve ever done. It.s going to change the atmosphere in corporate boardrooms. We have a new style of selling things, you know, the Obama style, you know, soaring rhetoric, hope and change, and so on.. Yeah, that.s true.
And if you look at the campaigns themselves, they.re designed essentially by the advertising industry to sell the commodity.it happens to be a candidate.and they.re pretty carefully designed so that you marginalize issues and you focus on what are called .qualities.. In Obama.s case, you know, soaring rhetoric and so on; in Bush.s case, a nice guy and like to have a beer with him and so on. That.s the kind of thing you focus on. Where do they stand on issues? Well, the public is mostly uninformed. I haven.t seen current polls on 2008, but the 2004 election, where there were polls shortly after, showed the public had almost no idea what Bush.s stand was. In fact, a majority of Bush voters thought that he supported the Kyoto Protocol, because they support it, and he.s a nice guy, so he must support it.
And elections are designed that way, and it makes good sense. I mean, the people who run the elections, they read the polls, and very carefully, in fact. In fact, they mostly the design them for their own interest. And they know that the parties are to the right of the public, so you better.on a large number of issues, including crucial ones like Iran and others.so you better keep issues off the table, which is what.s done. So what the.healthcare is a dramatic case of it, but it.s only one instance.
AMY GOODMAN: Renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, speaking to me in Boston last week. We will return to the last part of our conversation after this break. You can get a copy of the full two parts by going to democracynow.org. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the last part of my conversation with leading American intellectual and anti-imperialist critic Noam Chomsky.
AMY GOODMAN: The whole issue of populist rage, Noam Chomsky, actually, do you think that this rage is going to boil over as the unemployment figures rise?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It.s very hard to predict those things. I mean, it has a potentially positive side, like it could be like the activism of the 1930s or the 1960s, which ended up making it a more civilized society in many ways, or it could be like an unfortunate precedent that quickly comes to mind. I.ve written about it.
Take a look at Germany. In the 1920s, Germany was the absolute peak of Western civilization, in the arts and the sciences. It was regarded as a model of democracy and so on. I mean, ten years later, it was the depths of barbarism. That was a quick transition. .The descent into barbarism. it.s sometimes called in the scholarly literature.
Now, if you listen to early Nazi propaganda, you know, end of the Weimar Republic and so on, and you listen to talk radio in the United States, which I often do.it.s interesting.there.s a resemblance. And in both cases, you have a lot of demagogues appealing to people with real grievances.
Grievances aren.t invented. I mean, for the American population, the last thirty years have been some of the worst in economic history. It.s a rich country, but real wages have stagnated or declined, working hours have shot up, benefits have gone down, and people are in real trouble and now in very real trouble after the bubbles burst. And they.re angry. And they want to know, .What happened to me? You know, I.m a hard-working, white, God-fearing American. You know, how come this is happening to me?.
That.s pretty much the Nazi appeal. The grievances were real. And one of the possibilities is what Rush Limbaugh tells you: .Well, it.s happening to you because of those bad guys out there.. OK, in the Nazi case, it was the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Here, it.s the rich Democrats who run Wall Street and run the media and give everything away to illegal immigrants, and so on and so forth. It sort of peaked during the Sarah Palin period. And it.s kind of interesting. It.s been pointed out that of all the candidates, Sarah Palin is the only one who used the phrase .working class.. She was talking to the working people. And yeah, they.re the ones who are suffering. So, there are models that are not very attractive.
AMY GOODMAN: And she very much is being talked about as a leader, really, of the Republican Party.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, she was kind of a model. You know, the talk radio mob went crazy over her. And one shouldn.t demean it. You know, they describe themselves.it.s really worth listening to: .We.re fly-by country. You know, they don.t care about us, those rich Democrats on the East Coast and the West Coast who are all, you know, interested in gay rights and giving things away to illegal immigrants and so on. They don.t care about us, the hard-working, God-fearing people, so we.ve got to somehow rise up and take over and elect Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or someone like that..
As I say, the precedents are not attractive. Now, if.now even before the next presidential, if in the next congressional election the economy has not begun to recover, this kind of populist rage could boil over and could have very dangerous consequences. This country has a long history of being kind of ridden by fear. It.s a very frightened country. This goes back to colonial times.
I mean, we.re very lucky that we have never had an honest demagogue. I mean, the demagogues we.ve had are so corrupt that they never got anywhere.you know, Nixon, McCarthy, you know, Jimmy Swaggart and others. So they were kind of destroyed by their own corruption.
But suppose we had an honest demagogue, you know, a Hitler type, who was not corrupt. There.s probably.it could be unpleasant. There.s a background of concern and fear, tremendous fear, and searching for some answer, which they.re not getting from the establishment. .Who.s responsible for my plight?. You know, and that can be exploited. And unless there.s active, effective organizing and education, it.s dangerous.
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama so far?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Frankly, I never had any expectations. I wrote about it over a year ago. I thought then, and I think it.s been confirmed, that he.s essentially a centrist Democrat. He.s moving back.I mean, the Bush administration was kind of off the spectrum, especially the first term. So he.s moving things back toward the center with a kind of a public posture, which was recognized by the advertising industry. That.s why they gave him the award for best marketing campaign, which.but as far as policy is concerned, unless he.s under a lot of pressure from activist sectors, he.s not going to go beyond what he.s presented himself as in actual policy statements or cabinet choices and so on: a centrist Democrat, going to basically continue Bush.s policies, maybe in a more modulated way.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see Afghanistan becoming an ever-expanded war in the next decade or so? Do you.now we.re talking about doubling the US troops there.
NOAM CHOMSKY: No, that.s the way Obama and the Pentagon see it. In fact, they say so: this is going to be a long war, it.s going to be extended, the US is going to take over the military side, and it.s going to expand it, it.s going to expand into Pakistan. And, I mean, we.ll talk about development, but the focus will be on the military. Obama, right now, is trying to get NATO to cooperate, but recognizing that they.re not going to send military forces. The populations are opposed.
AMY GOODMAN: Canada is pulling out.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, Canada.s pulling out, and the others.maybe Holland has made a termination date, but we.ll at least ask them to come in and sort of help out on the civilian side. That.s their job. It.s the famous line of, I guess it was Robert Kagan: you know, .they.re Venus, we.re Mars.. So we.ll move in like Mars and take care of the military side. You know, we.re good at killing people. And they can come in and sort of put on the band-aids and make it look like something good is happening. It.s not the right direction.
AMY GOODMAN: The unmanned drones bombing Pakistan?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, drones. And that has effects. So a lot of the worst fighting recently has been in the Bajaur province, right on the border. It.s in Pakistan.s side. And militants in the area have reported to the press that part of the reason is that an American drone attack hit a madrasa, a school, and killed about eighty people. Well, you know, they.re .uncivilized barbarians.; they sort of don.t like that. So they reacted. And now, one of the militants has said, .OK, we.re going to bomb the White House,. which is considered totally outrageous. But, you know, if we kill as we like, there.s going to be a reaction.
AMY GOODMAN: Where do you see American empire in ten, twenty, thirty years?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Prediction in human affairs is a very low.has very little success, too many complications. The United States, I think, will come out of the economic crisis, very likely, as the dominant superpower. There.s a lot of talk about China and India, and it.s real, they.re changing, but they.re just not in the same league. I mean, both China and India have enormous internal problems that the West doesn.t face.
You get kind of a picture of this by looking at the Human Development Index of the United Nations. The last time I looked, India was about 125th or something. And I think China was about eightieth. And China would be worse, I think, if it wasn.t such a closed society. In India, you sort of get better data, so you can see what.s happening. China is kind of closed. You don.t see what.s going on in the peasant areas, which are in turmoil, you know. They have environmental problems. They have huge.hundreds of millions of people are kind of like at the edge of starvation.
We don.t have.you know, we have problems, but not those problems. And even the industrial growth, which is there.you know, for part of the population, there.s been improvement. But when you take, say, India, where we know more, in the areas where high-tech industries developed.and it.s pretty impressive. I.ve visited some of the labs in Hyderabad. You know, it.s as good or better than MIT. But right nearby, the rate of peasant suicides is going up, very sharply, in fact. And it.s the same source. It.s the neoliberal policies, which privilege a certain sector of the population and a certain.and let the rest take care of themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the rise of progressives in Latin America?
NOAM CHOMSKY: That.s important. I mean, Latin America, for the first time in 500 years, is moving towards a degree of independence and a kind of integration, which is a prerequisite for independence, and also at least is beginning to face some of its massive internal problems. I mean, Latin America has probably the worst inequality in the world. There.s a wealthy sector, small wealthy sector, which is extremely rich, but they have.their tradition is that they have no responsibility to the country, so they send their capital to Zurich. You know, they have their second homes in the Riviera, and their children study in Oxford or whatever. This is beginning to be faced in different ways, but it.s sort of happening all over the continent. And they are beginning to integrate. The United States obviously doesn.t like it. In fact, it.s barely reported most of the time.
So there was a very interesting case last September, when President Morales in Bolivia.Bolivia is, in my opinion at least, probably the most democratic country in the world. Nobody says that, but if you look at what happened in the last couple of years, there were huge, popular, mass organizations of the most repressed population in the hemisphere, the indigenous population, which for the first time ever has entered the political arena significantly and were able to elect a president from their own ranks and one who doesn.t give instructions to his army, but who.s following policies that were largely produced by the population. So he.s their representative, in a sense in which democracy is supposed to work.
And they know the issues. It.s not like our elections. They know the issues. They.re serious issues: control over resources, economic justice, cultural rights, and so on. You can say they.re right or wrong, but at least it.s functioning.
Now, the elites that have traditionally ruled the country, of course, don.t like it. And they.re threatening virtual secession. And, of course, the United States is backing them, as the media are. And it got to the point last summer, I suppose, where it led to real violence.
Well, there was a meeting of UNASUR, the Union of South American Republics.that.s all of South America.a meeting in Chile, Santiago, Chile. And it came out with a declaration, important declaration, in which it supported President Morales and opposed the.condemned the violence being led by the quasi-secessionist forces. And Morales responded, thanking them for their gesture of support, but also saying, correctly, that this is the first time in 500 years that South America is beginning to take its affairs in its own hands without the intervention of foreign powers, primarily the US.
Well, that was so important that I don.t think it was even reported here. I mean, the meeting was known, so you see vague references to it. But it.s an indication of developments that are taking place in various ways.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, you.ve just hit eighty. We just have a few minutes to go. And how does it feel?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I have a few years to go. I don.t think about it much.
AMY GOODMAN: But as you reflect, talking about these huge social movements, cataclysmic times in the world, your life experience, what gives you hope?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there.s both hope and fear. I mean, I.m old enough to have grown up in the Depression. And some of my memories.I didn.t understand that much at the time.childhood memories, are listening to Hitler.s speeches. I didn.t understand them, but I could sense the reaction of my parents, you know, and had a feeling of fear, you know, a tremendous fear. In fact, the first article I wrote was in 1939, when I was in fourth grade, and it was about the expansion of fascism over Europe, a kind of a dark cloud that may envelop everything. And as I mentioned before, I have some of those same concerns now.
On the other hand, there.s been tremendous progress. The country is far more civilized than it was, say, forty years ago, thanks to the activism of the .60s and its aftermath. And some of the most important developments were after the .60s, like, say, the feminist movement, which has probably had more of an impact on this society than any other. It.s mostly post-.60s. The solidarity movements, which are unique in the history of imperialism, there.s never been anything like them. That.s from the .80s. The global justice movements, what.s called anti-globalization.shouldn.t be.that.s, you know, the .90s and this century. These were all very positive developments.
They haven.t changed the institutions. In fact, the institutions have reacted by becoming harsher, not surprisingly. But they.ve changed the culture. I mean, take, say, the 2008 election. I mean, I didn.t like the candidates, as I.ve made clear. On the other hand, forty years ago, or maybe ten years ago, you couldn.t have imagined that the Democratic Party would have two candidates, an African American and a woman. OK, that.s a sign of the civilizing effect of the activism of the .60s and everything that followed.
Well, that can be mobilized. In fact, it.s already. If you count the number of activists in the country, it.s, I suspect, well beyond the .60s, except maybe for a very brief moment at the peak of the antiwar movement. OK, that can be a basis for proceeding onward. So, that.s a reason for hope.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, our condolences on the loss of Carol.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: Your life partner, someone you knew.well, you.re eighty.what, for seventy-seven years?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, actually. Not easy to face.
AMY GOODMAN: What gives you the strength to go on after Carol?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the kind of thing you do, for example. That makes a difference.
AMY GOODMAN: And you have a wonderful family.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So, our condolences to you.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: .and your kids. Noam Chomsky, thanks so much.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Thanks.Stumble It!