Monday, August 10, 2009

CHOMSKY on Iran protests - Radio Farda

Noam Chomsky, the prominent American author, philosopher and political activist, who is known as the father of modern linguistics, has applauded the movement of Iranians. In his interview with the American-funded Persian language Radio Farda, he talked about the Iranian protests, Iran's history with repression, and uprisings in other parts of the world.

Mr. Chomsky, you have supported the civil movement of the Iranian protesters. In the first place, what makes you do that?

Chomsky: Well, I think they're right to protest the prosecution of political prisoners, violent repression, and other autocratic authoritarian procedures of the Iranian regime.

Iran has been among the headlines for years now, although this time seems to be hugely different. This is among the very few occasions that the people of Iran are making the news, and not the government. What was your personal impression, when you first saw the images, coming out of cell phones in Iran. Did you ever expect something like this to happen?

Chomsky: No, but I haven't predicted the other popular uprisings in Iran, either. I didn't anticipate the 1979 uprising, and I do not know anyone else who did. U.S intelligence certainly didn't. There have been many others as well. There have been major protests against the Shah; there have been protests against this regime. And that goes far back. Iran indeed has a tradition of popular protest against repression and so on.

That actually leads me to the next question; Iranian people have been under constant repression and abuse.as the critics put it.for decades. But how come they have staged this huge protest now? Not for the vivid abuses, or even for the stinging economic condition, but for a democratic value: their vote. What do you make of that, Professor Chomsky?

Chomsky: Well, you can ask the same question about the Shah. How come Iranians did not have a major protest, huge enough to force the army to back off, until 1979? You can't really know. I mean, popular protests are not predictable. How come the indigenous people of the Western hemisphere, the most repressed population of the people in the hemisphere, did not really have a major uprising at a scale that took over the country until 2000, 2005, in Bolivia? Why wasn't there a massive civil rights movement until 1960? You know, there were rights movements, but nothing like that scale. These things happen, and there are a lot of factors that contribute, not a single one. In Iran, for instance, there was much repression during the 1980's, under Mousavi, in fact, but Iran was at war during that time. It had been attacked by Iraq with the support of the United States and the other Western powers. Hundreds of thousands of people had been killed by chemical weapons and other crimes. That is not the time that you rise up against the regime.

Then, talking about the recent uprising, what impact do you think the meaning of "vote" and their democratic choice had on Iranians in terms of pushing the protests?

Chomsky: Sure, it had a lot to do with that. Well, you know there was no protest in 2005 [against the outcome of the previous election], maybe some, but nothing at this scale for sure. In this [current] period there, in part of a large part of the population, we don't know much about the internal structure, and you can debate exactly who or how, but there was an expectation that this election would somehow be different, and there would be opportunity for change, which certainly a substantial part of the population wants. But those hopes were dashed. The election results, both the manner in which they were presented and the numbers that came out, really lacked credibility, and many people thought they were inaccurate, so they rose in protest. But to predict such protests has never been possible; too many factors are involved. Nobody that I know predicted it in this case.

This one is not a new question, it has been repeated over and over throughout the history: People protest, they get clamped down and even shot, but yet again they're back on the streets. Is it still the vote.for instance in Iran's case.that matters so much, or does the motive transform itself into a kind of moral obligation at some point? What is the psychological explanation for that?

Chomsky: I don't think there is any generalization about that. Things are different, situations are different, and people react differently. Let me give you an example. Take Intifada in Palestine. Nobody predicted it. Israeli occupying forces had extensive, detailed information about the population under its occupation, but they had no idea that it was going to happen. The P.L.O. apparently had no idea it was going to happen. But then when it started, it just took off. And it lasted until violent repression was sufficient to destroy it. These things are not predictable or explainable. They start at some point, then other factors might get involved and demands might get larger. In some cases they succeed, too. Take Bolivia, which I mentioned earlier. There were major popular protests among the indigenous poor in 2000, and in that case it was pretty much focused on a particular issue: water rights. There was effort to privatize water, which would have priced it out of the reach of the population. It was a starting point, but that was just part of an accumulation of grievances. They happened to rise up at that point. And after that came more years of activism and organization, and it continued until finally in 2005 the indigenous majority, for the first time in 500 years, since the invasions entered the political arena, won an election.

Speaking of succeeding, Mr. Chomsky what do you think will happen if the current protests in Iran would not succeed? What is the psychological outcome of that for the protestors? Will they feel they have lost the game, or will the very essence of making their voice heard in Iran and around the globe keep them satisfied?

Chomsky: Well, you know, one striking fact about the commentaries since the protests is how much commentary there has been, which has an air of confidence from people who know almost nothing about Iran. In fact, the few people who really know something about Iran, most of them have been speaking with much less confidence, for good reasons. Now I am not going to add to the confident predictions by people who don't know much about Iranian society. Even in the society that I live in, the United States, were I have worked as an activist for all my life, I couldn't make confident predictions about questions like that. Too much is involved.

As the last point, Professor Chomsky, do you have anything in particular to say to the Iranians who are protesting? Do you have a message?

Chomsky: Well, protests against the nature of the regime. It's a clerical, military regime. Putting aside the details of the election, about which we do not know much, the whole structure of the regime is oppressive and authoritarian and undermines basic civil and other human rights; and protesting against it is not only honorable, but courageous, because it faces extreme violence. So, yes, I have to honor what they are doing. People have different motives, different goals, but the fundamental core of the protests against keeping political prisoners, against repression, against torture, against narrow clerical, military control, sure, that should be opposed. Actually I think we should oppose it in the United States, too. I mean, in the West, people talk rightly about Iran as a guided democracy. There are some democratic freedoms, but it.s under tight control. The Guardians Councils, for example, selects the candidates. But what happens in the West? In the United States, for example, it's obvious for anyone who studies the system, the candidates are selected by concentrations of private power. Elections are basically bought. So we also have a kind of guided democracy. Well, we should be protesting against that, too. I am not saying that the United States is Iran; of course it.s not. But there are repressive features in every society I know of, which should be protested.

........ original intro (blather)

Over the past two months, Iran, once again, has stolen headlines all over the world. But this time something fundamental seems to have changed; after decades of having the Islamic Republic in the spotlight, now it is the people of Iran who have become celebrities of the international media.

An unprecedented uprising of Iranian people protested what they saw as a fraudulent presidential election, keeping hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.

Hundreds of cell phone videos from the streets of Tehran spread across social networks, displaying anything from peaceful protests and massive waves of green-clothed supporters of reform to brutal crackdowns by the security forces and graphic images of civilians getting shot and killed.

Inside the country, amid this very crackdown and defiance, a line was crossed; the forbidden taboo of the supreme leader was broken. The protests were not just about the president anymore; slogans being chanted on the streets were now aimed directly at the absolute political and religious authority of the Islamic Republic and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Even the reform leaders, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, former Parliament Chairman Mehdi Karrubi, and former President Mohammad Khatami showed an unprecedented noncompliance with the leader.

Outside Iran, the wave of international support for Iranian people followed instantly, from politicians and civic organizations to artists and stars aligned with Iran's reform movement. Human rights organizations staged worldwide rallies, Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemned the brutality of the police, academic figures held lectures, U2 dipped its concert in green light, and Joan Baez and Jon Bon Jovi sang in Persian.

Professor Noam Chomsky traveled to New York for a three-day hunger strike in front of the U.N. in protest of human rights abuses against Iranian protestors.

===== MUST READ =====

last night, I was watching Channel 4 News. coverage of the return of the two US journalists to the US from North Korea and the carefully orchestrated .low key. PR event, managed no doubt by Obama.s Twittering, Myspaced, Facebookie posse. But how can anything be low-key when exposed to the News Corporation.s gaze?

The entire thing looked like the final night of the Big Brother house replete with copious tears, and profuse thanks to BC etc. Hey look, don.t get me wrong, I.m glad that they.ve returned safely (but really, what were the odds of two of the Empire.s finest doing twelve years hard labour?)

That said, the entire thing is a gigantic charade that takes place in an alternative universe which is where the Independent comes in because it.s .news.papers like the Independent that actually build the scenery and fill in the characters for this alternate universe that we.re all supposed to live in.

Under the head of .First North Korea. Now Iran?. and penned by Anne Penketh who hails from something called the British American Security Information Council, or BASIC for short (check out the funders). The short response is, what is it that Iran is expected to do after Clinton.s diplomatic .coup. with North Korea? We forget that the US can go and speak to North Korea any time they choose to and resolve all manner of issues.if they cared to that is. Clearly it.s part of a larger PR drive to give US imperialism a kinda, friendlier face.

But enough of that for now, I.d like to focus on how Penketh sets up Kim Jong-Il for us, the unsuspecting public. Now Penketh didn.t invent the character she presented to us, she merely fiddled with the details. She has to, after all the illusion has to be maintained that it.s a true representation of the .adversary., North Korea personified in the assumed .unpredictable. nature of Kim Jong-Il.

And this from Penketh.s first para, so the scene is set. After a lot of blather about getting to know .first hand. Kim Jong-Il.s .mental and medical condition. that led up to Clinton .eyeball[ing]. the .wizened and frail. North Korean leader, and here it.s Penketh speaking who asks, .What does North Korea want?.

There follows a bunch of possible things that North Korea might want, surmises Penketh but as usual, the final alleged reason fills in a bit more about what kind of world North Korea lives in, when she asks, .What is going on in the mind of the leader of the world.s most secretive state?.

What indeed? I.d have thought the man was desperate to normalize relations with the West, but every time he strikes a deal with the US, the US reneges on it and it.s back to square one.

You can guess what this is all leading up to can.t you? In Penketh.s words, .Governments around the world are preparing for the next major opportunity to turn the screws on Iran..

So what does Iran want? Apparently nothing, it.s all about what the West wants. I need only point out that in terms of killing and other mass barbarisms, it.s the West that should have the screws turned real tight, not Iran.

Penketh tells us that the .matter is urgent. that Iran not go down the road of making nuclear weapons (hence the threat of the screws) as according to Penketh, the UN nuclear watchdog says Iran .already have enough low-enriched uranium to switch to a military programme and produce a small bomb if they decided to break out of UN safeguards and follow North Korea down that road.. (my emph. Ed)

Penketh has no quote for this assertion about switching to a military programme (and she makes it sound like simply throwing a switch and making a bomb! How ludicrous). So I looked up low-enriched uranium and came up with the following:

.The problem is that term .90% fissionable uranium. which Ynet uses is simply another way of saying weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) . and Iran has never made HEU; In fact, rather than making HEU, Iran has offered to place legal limits on its enrichment program, subject to IAEA verification, to ensure that it would only make low-enriched uranium (LEU) which cannot be used to make bombs. So not only has Iran not made HEU, it has shown no interest in making HEU too, despite what Ynet asserts.. (my emph. Ed) . .Low-enriched v. Highly enriched Uranium: not very confusing!., Iran Affairs, 10 July, 2008

To set this entire thing in its real context, in other words in our world, the real one, later in the piece Penketh, no doubt reluctantly, mentions, and that.s all she does, Israel.

.The British government last month issued a .Roadmap to 2010. in which it called for Israel to join the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], something Israel has refused to do... . .First North Korea. Now Iran?., the Independent, 6 August, 2009

Oh, is that it? No screws for Israel then, So the only country in that part of the world which actually HAS nuclear weapons gets off with a sentence, never mind a full para. And no peering into Benjamin Netanyahu.s mind to see if he.s bit barmy?

You can see my problem can.t you? On the one side, Penketh writes half a page about North Korea and Iran, a country which has no nuclear weapons and pledged not to build any (it is a fully signed up member of the NPT which Israel is not) and on the other, Israel, armed to the teeth with a reported 200-plus nuclear weapons, gets twenty-five words and they don.t amount to much of anything, not even a footnote.

Not to be outdone, the Independent.s editorial continued in the same vein about Kim Jong-Il, telling us that .it can be safely assumed, that [he] does not do public cordiality..

And just in case we don.t get it, the editorial goes on, .But nor could Mr Clinton be seen looking cheerful with a leader [Kim Jong-Il] who is at loggerheads not just with the US but much of the rest of the world.. (my emph. Ed.)

It ends with a resounding call to action by the Independent, and it.s surely what remains of the Empire speaking here,

.If it is recognition that North Korea craves, Mr Clinton will surely have left its leader in no doubt what he must do next.. . Editorial, the Independent, 6 August, 2009

Sounds like the Independent wants North Korea to roll over and take it up the yazoo. Nearly sixty years ago the West, led by the US, pulverized North Korea killing literally millions and is still technically at war with North Korea and it has nuclear weapons based in South Korea and on its fleets of aircraft carriers and submarines that surround the unfortunate country. So why in hell should North Korea surrender its sovereign right to defend itself given its history?

But because North Korea is presented to us not as a country but as an unpredictable (inscrutable?) person in the form of Kim Jong-Il, mere details, agreements, history and all that junk can be dispensed with. Instead, in line with the racially-inspired ideology that powers much of the thinking in the West, he has to be dealt with as someone unstable and well, crazy, who might, in a fit of pique, decide to fire one at the United States. Well he might you know, he is after all inpenetrable to the Western gaze, who knows what.s going on behind that wizened face?

William Bowles

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posted by u2r2h at 2:28 AM

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