Thursday, March 31, 2011

Noam Chomsky: On Libya and the Unfolding Crises

Noam Chomsky: On Libya and the Unfolding Crises

Thursday, 31 March 2011

In recent weeks, for example, there was no reaction when the Saudi dictatorship used massive force to prevent any sign of protest.

An interview with Noam Chomsky by Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert

1. What are U.S. motives in international relations most broadly? That is, what are the over arching motives and themes one can pretty much always find informing U.S. policy choices, no matter where in the world we are discussing? What are the somewhat more specific but still over arching motives and themes for U.S. policy in Middle East and the Arab world? Finally, what do you think are the more proximate aims of U.S. policy in the current situation in Libya?

A useful way to approach the question is to ask what U.S. motives are NOT.  There are some good ways to find out.  One is to read the professional literature on international relations: quite commonly, its account of policy is what policy is not, an interesting topic that I won't pursue.

Another method, quite relevant now, is to listen to political leaders and commentators.  Suppose they say that the motive for a military action is humanitarian.  In itself, that carries no information: virtually every resort to force is justified in those terms, even by the worst monsters – who may, irrelevantly, even convince themselves of the truth of what they are saying.  Hitler, for example, may have believed that he was taking over parts of Czechoslovakia to end ethnic conflict and bring its people the benefits of an advanced civilization, and that he invaded Poland to end the "wild terror" of the Poles.  Japanese fascists rampaging in China probably did believe that they were selflessly laboring to create an "earthly paradise" and to protect the suffering population from "Chinese bandits." Even Obama may have believed what he said in his presidential address on March 28 about the humanitarian motives for the Libyan intervention.  Same holds of commentators.

There is, however, a very simple test to determine whether the professions of noble intent can be taken seriously: do the authors call for humanitarian intervention and "responsibility to protect" to defend the victims of their own crimes, or those of their clients?  Did Obama, for example, call for a no-fly zone during the murderous and destructive US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, with no credible pretext?  Or did he, rather, boast proudly during his presidential campaign that he had co-sponsored a Senate resolution supporting the invasion and calling for punishment of Iran and Syria for impeding it?  End of discussion.  In fact, virtually the entire literature of humanitarian intervention and right to protect, written and spoken, disappears under this simple and appropriate test.

In contrast, what motives actually ARE is rarely discussed, and one has to look at the documentary and historical record to unearth them, in the case of any state.

What then are U.S. motives?  At a very general level, the evidence seems to me to show that they have not changed much since the high-level planning studies undertaken during World War II.  Wartime planners took for granted that the US would emerge from the war in a position of overwhelming dominance, and called for the establishment of a Grand Area in which the US would maintain "unquestioned power," with "military and economic supremacy," while ensuring the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs.  The Grand Area was to include the Western hemisphere, the Far East, the British empire (which included the Middle East energy reserves), and as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its industrial and commercial center in Western Europe.  It is quite clear from the documentary record that "President Roosevelt was aiming at United States hegemony in the postwar world," to quote the accurate assessment of the (justly) respected British diplomatic historian Geoffrey Warner.  And more significant, the careful wartime plans were soon implemented, as we read in declassified documents of the following years, and observe in practice.  Circumstances of course have changed, and tactics adjusted accordingly, but basic principles are quite stable, to the present.

With regard to the Middle East THE most strategically important region of the world," in Eisenhower's phrase -- the primary concern has been, and remains, its incomparable energy reserves.  Control of these would yield "substantial control of the world," as observed early on by the influential liberal adviser A.A. Berle.  These concerns are rarely far in the background in affairs concerning this region.

In Iraq, for example, as the dimensions of the US defeat could no longer be concealed, pretty rhetoric was displaced by honest announcement of policy goals.  In November 2007 the White House issued a Declaration of Principles insisting that Iraq must grant US military forces indefinite access and must privilege American investors.  Two months later the president informed Congress that he would ignore legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of US Armed Forces in Iraq or "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" – demands that the US had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance, just as it had to abandon earlier goals.

While control over oil is not the sole factor in Middle East policy, it provides fairly good guidelines, right now as well.  In an oil-rich country, a reliable dictator is granted virtual free rein.  In recent weeks, for example, there was no reaction when the Saudi dictatorship used massive force to prevent any sign of protest.  Same in Kuwait, when small demonstrations were instantly crushed.  And in Bahrain, when Saudi-led forces intervened to protect the minority Sunni monarch from calls for reform on the part of the repressed Shiite population.  Government forces not only smashed the tent city in Pearl Square - Bahrain's Tahrir Square -- but even demolished the Pearl statue that was Bahrain's symbol, and had been appropriated by the protestors.  Bahrain is a particularly sensitive case because it hosts the US Fifth fleet, by far the most powerful military force in the region, and because eastern Saudi Arabia, right across the causeway, is also largely Shiite, and has most of the Kingdom's oil reserves.  By a curious accident of geography and history, the world's largest hydrocarbon concentrations surround the northern Persian Gulf, in mostly Shiite regions.  The possibility of a tacit Shiite alliance has been a nightmare for planners for a long time.

In states lacking major hydrocarbon reserves, tactics vary, typically keeping to a standard game plan when a favored dictator is in trouble: support him as long as possible, and when that cannot be done, issue ringing declarations of love of democracy and human rights -- and then try to salvage as much of the regime as possible.

The scenario is boringly familiar: Marcos, Duvalier, Chun, Ceasescu, Mobutu, Suharto, and many others.  And today, Tunisia and Egypt.  Syria is a tough nut to crack and there is no clear alternative to the dictatorship that would support U.S. goals.  Yemen is a morass where direct intervention would probably create even greater problems for Washington.  So there state violence elicits only pious declarations.

Libya is a different case.  Libya is rich in oil, and though the US and UK have often given quite remarkable support to its cruel dictator, right to the present, he is not reliable.  They would much prefer a more obedient client.  Furthermore, the vast territory of Libya is mostly unexplored, and oil specialists believe it may have rich untapped resources, which a more dependable government might open to Western exploitation.

When a non-violent uprising began, Qaddafi crushed it violently, and a rebellion broke out that liberated Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, and seemed about to move on to Qaddafi's stronghold in the West.  His forces, however, reversed the course of the conflict and were at the gates of Benghazi.  A slaughter in Benghazi was likely, and as Obama's Middle East adviser Dennis Ross pointed out, "everyone would blame us for it." That would be unacceptable, as would a Qaddafi military victory enhancing his power and independence.  The US then joined in UN Security Council resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone, to be implemented by France, the UK, and the US, with the US supposed to move to a supporting role.

There was no effort to limit action to instituting a no-fly zone, or even to keep within the broader mandate of resolution 1973.

The triumvirate at once interpreted the resolution as authorizing direct participation on the side of the rebels.  A ceasefire was imposed by force on Qaddafi's forces, but not on the rebels.  On the contrary, they were given military support as they advanced to the West, soon securing the major sources of Libya's oil production, and poised to move on.

The blatant disregard of UN 1973, from the start began to cause some difficulties for the press as it became too glaring to ignore.  In the NYT, for example, Karim Fahim and David Kirkpatrick (March 29) wondered "how the allies could justify airstrikes on Colonel Qaddafi's forces around [his tribal center] Surt if, as seems to be the case, they enjoy widespread support in the city and pose no threat to civilians." Another technical difficulty is that UNSC 1973 "called for an arms embargo that applies to the entire territory of Libya, which means that any outside supply of arms to the opposition would have to be covert" (but otherwise unproblematic).

Some argue that oil cannot be a motive because Western companies were granted access to the prize under Qaddafi.  That misconstrues US concerns.  The same could have been said about Iraq under Saddam, or Iran and Cuba for many years, still today.  What Washington seeks is what Bush announced: control, or at least dependable clients.  US and British internal documents stress that "the virus of nationalism" is their greatest fear, not just in the Middle East but everywhere.  Nationalist regimes might conduct illegitimate exercises of sovereignty, violating Grand Area principles.   And they might seek to direct resources to popular needs, as Nasser sometimes threatened.

It is worth noting that the three traditional imperial powers - France, UK, US - are almost isolated in carrying out these operations.  The two major states in the region, Turkey and Egypt, could probably have imposed a no-fly zone but are at most offering tepid support to the triumvirate military campaign. The Gulf dictatorships would be happy to see the erratic Libyan dictator disappear, but although loaded with advanced military hardware (poured in by the US and UK to recycle petrodollars and ensure obedience), they are willing to offer no more than token participation (by Qatar).

While supporting UNSC 1973, Africa -- apart from US ally Rwanda -- is generally opposed to the way it was instantly interpreted by the triumvirate, in some cases strongly so.  For review of policies of individual states, see Charles Onyango-Obbo in the Kenyan journal East African (

Beyond the region there is little support.  Like Russia and China, Brazil abstained from UNSC 1973, calling instead for a full cease-fire and dialogue.  India too abstained from the UN resolution on grounds that the proposed measures were likely to "exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya," and also called for political measures rather than use of force.  Even Germany abstained from the resolution.

Italy too was reluctant, in part presumably because it is highly dependent on its oil contracts with Qaddafi - and we may recall that the first post-World War I genocide was conducted by Italy, in Eastern Libya, now liberated, and perhaps retaining some memories.

2. Can an anti-interventionist who believes in self determination of nations and people ever legitimately support an intervention, either by the U.N. or particular countries?

There are two cases to consider: (1) UN intervention and (2) intervention without UN authorization.  Unless we believe that states are sacrosanct in the form that has been established in the modern world (typically by extreme violence), with rights that override all other imaginable considerations, then the answer is the same in both cases: Yes, in principle at least.  I see no point in discussing that belief, so will dismiss it.

With regard to the first case, the Charter and subsequent resolutions grant the Security Council considerable latitude for intervention, and it has been undertaken, with regard to South Africa, for example.  That of course does not entail that every Security Council decision should be approved by "an anti-interventionist who believes in self-determination"; other considerations enter in individual cases, but again, unless contemporary states are assigned the status of virtually holy entities, the principle is the same.

As for the second case - the one that arises with regard to the triumvirate interpretation of UN 1973, and many other examples - then the answer is again Yes, in principle at least, unless we take the global state system to be sacrosanct in the form established in the UN Charter and other treaties.

There is, of course, always a very heavy burden of proof that must be met to justify forceful intervention, or any use of force.  The burden is particularly high in case (2), in violation of the Charter, at least for states that profess to be law-abiding.  We should bear in mind, however, that the global hegemon rejects that stance, and is self-exempted from the UN and OAS Charters, and other international treaties.  In accepting ICJ jurisdiction when the Court was established (under US initiative) in 1946, Washington excluded itself from charges of violation of international treaties, and later ratified the Genocide Convention with similar reservations - all positions that have been upheld by international tribunals, since their procedures require acceptance of jurisdiction. More generally, US practice is to add crucial reservations to the international treaties it ratifies, effectively exempting itself.

Can the burden of proof be met?  There is little point in abstract discussion, but there are some real cases that might qualify.  In the post-World War II period, there are two cases of resort to force which - though not qualifying as humanitarian intervention - might legitimately be supported: India's invasion of East Pakistan in 1971, and Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, in both cases, ending massive atrocities.  These examples, however, do not enter the Western canon of "humanitarian intervention" because they suffer from the fallacy of wrong agency: they were not carried out by the West.  What is more, the US bitterly opposed them and severely punished the miscreants who ended the slaughters in today's Bangladesh and who drove Pol Pot out of Cambodia just as his atrocities were peaking.  Vietnam was not only bitterly condemned but also punished by a US-supported Chinese invasion, and by US-UK military and diplomatic support for the Khmer Rouge attacking Cambodia from Thai bases.

While the burden of proof might be met in these cases, it is not easy to think of others.  In the case of intervention by the triumvirate of imperial powers that are currently violating UN 1973 in Libya, the burden is particularly heavy, given their horrifying records.  Nonetheless, it would be too strong to hold that it can never be satisfied in principle - unless, of course, we regard nation-states in their current form as essentially holy.   Preventing a likely massacre in Benghazi is no small matter, whatever one thinks of the motives.

3. Can a person concerned that a country's dissidents not be massacred so they remain able to seek self determination ever legitimately oppose an intervention that is intended, whatever else it intends, to avert such a massacre?

Even accepting, for the sake of argument, that the intent is genuine, meeting the simple criterion I mentioned at the outset, I don't see how to answer at this level of abstraction: it depends on circumstances.  Intervention might be opposed, for example, if it is likely to lead to a much worse massacre.  Suppose, for example, that US leaders genuinely and honestly intended to avert a slaughter in Hungary in 1956 by bombing Moscow.  Or that the Kremlin genuinely and honestly intended to avert a slaughter in El Salvador in the 1980s by bombing the US.  Given the predictable consequences, we would all agree that those (inconceivable) actions could be legitimately opposed.

4. Many people see an analogy between the Kosovo intervention of 1999 and the current intervention in Libya. Can you explain both the significant similarities, first, and then the major differences, second?

Many people do indeed see such an analogy, a tribute to the incredible power of the Western propaganda systems.  The background for the Kosovo intervention happens to be unusually well documented.  That includes two detailed State Department compilations, extensive reports from the ground by Kosovo Verification Mission (western) monitors, rich sources from NATO and the UN, a British Parliamentary Inquiry, and much else.  The reports and studies coincide very closely on the facts.

In brief, there had been no substantial change on the ground in the months prior to the bombing.  Atrocities were committed both by Serbian forces and by the KLA guerrillas mostly attacking from neighboring Albania - primarily the latter during the relevant period, at least according to high British authorities (Britain was the most hawkish member of the alliance).  The major atrocities in Kosovo were not the cause of the NATO bombing of Serbia, but rather its consequence, and a fully anticipated consequence.  NATO commander General Wesley Clark had informed the White House weeks before the bombing that it would elicit a brutal response by Serbian forces on the ground, and as the bombing began, told the press that such a response was "predictable."

The first UN-registered refugees outside Kosovo were well after the bombing began.  The indictment of Milosevic during the bombing, based largely on US-UK intelligence, confined itself to crimes after the bombing, with one exception, which we know could not be taken seriously by US-UK leaders, who at the same moment were actively supporting even worse crimes.  Furthermore, there was good reason to believe that a diplomatic solution might have been in reach: in fact, the UN resolution imposed after 78 days of bombing was pretty much a compromise between the Serbian and NATO position as it began.

All of this, including these impeccable western sources, is reviewed in some detail in my book A New Generation Draws the Line.  Corroborating information has appeared since.  Thus Diana Johnstone reports a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on October 26, 2007 by Dietmar Hartwig, who had been head of the European mission in Kosovo before it was withdrawn on March 20 as the bombing was announced, and was in a very good position to know what was happening.  He wrote:

"Not a single report submitted in the period from late November 1998 up to the evacuation on the eve of the war mentioned that Serbs had committed any major or systematic crimes against Albanians, nor there was a single case referring to genocide or genocide-like incidents or crimes. Quite the opposite, in my reports I have repeatedly informed that, considering the increasingly more frequent KLA attacks against the Serbian executive, their law enforcement demonstrated remarkable restraint and discipline. The clear and often cited goal of the Serbian administration was to observe the Milosevic-Holbrooke Agreement [of October 1998] to the letter so not to provide any excuse to the international community to intervene. … There were huge 'discrepancies in perception' between what the missions in Kosovo have been reporting to their respective governments and capitals, and what the latter thereafter released to the media and the public. This discrepancy can only be viewed as input to long-term preparation for war against Yugoslavia. Until the time I left Kosovo, there never happened what the media and, with no less intensity the politicians, were relentlessly claiming. Accordingly, until 20 March 1999 there was no reason for military intervention, which renders illegitimate measures undertaken thereafter by the international community. The collective behavior of EU Member States prior to, and after the war broke out, gives rise to serious concerns, because the truth was killed, and the EU lost reliability."

History is not quantum physics, and there is always ample room for doubt.  But it is rare for conclusions to be so firmly backed as they are in this case.  Very revealingly, it is all totally irrelevant.  The prevailing doctrine is that NATO intervened to stop ethnic cleansing - though supporters of the bombing who tolerate at least a nod to the rich factual evidence qualify their support by saying the bombing was necessary to stop potential atrocities: we must therefore act to elicit large-scale atrocities to stop ones that might occur if we do not bomb.  And there are even more shocking justifications.

The reasons for this virtual unanimity and passion are fairly clear.  The bombing came after a virtual orgy of self-glorification and awe of power that might have impressed Kim il-Sung.  I've reviewed it elsewhere, and this remarkable moment of intellectual history should not be allowed to remain in the oblivion to which it has been consigned.  After this performance, there simply had to be a glorious denouement.  The noble Kosovo intervention provided it, and the fiction must be zealously guarded.

Returning to the question, there is an analogy between the self-serving depictions of Kosovo and Libya, both interventions animated by noble intent in the fictionalized version.  The unacceptable real world suggests rather different analogies.

5. Similarly, many people see an analogy between the on-going Iraq intervention and the current intervention in Libya. In this case too, can you explain both the similarities, and differences?

I don't see meaningful analogies here either, except that two of the same states are involved.  In the case of Iraq, the goals were those that were finally conceded.  In the case of Libya, it is likely that the goal is similar in at least one respect: the hope that a reliable client regime will reliably supported Western goals and provide Western investors with privileged access to Libya's rich oil wealth - which, as noted, may go well beyond what is currently known.

6. What do you expect, in coming weeks, to see happening in Libya and, in that context, what do you think ought to be the aims of an anti interventionist and anti war movement in the U.S. regarding U.S. policies?

It is of course uncertain, but the likely prospects now (March 29) are either a break-up of Libya into an oil-rich Eastern region heavily dependent on the Western imperial powers and an impoverished West under the control of a brutal tyrant with fading capacity, or a victory by the Western-backed forces.  In either case, so the triumvirate presumably hopes, a less troublesome and more dependent regime will be in place.  The likely outcome is described fairly accurately, I think by the London-based Arab journal al-Quds al-Arabi (March 28). While recognizing the uncertainty of prediction, it anticipates that the intervention may leave Libya with "two states, a rebel-held oil-rich East and a poverty-stricken, Qadhafi-led West… Given that the oil wells have been secured, we may find ourselves facing a new Libyan oil emirate, sparsely inhabited, protected by the West and very similar to the Gulf's emirate states." Or the Western-backed rebellion might proceed all the way to eliminate the irritating dictator.

Those concerned for peace, justice, freedom and democracy should try to find ways to lend support and assistance to Libyans who seek to shape their own future, free from constraints imposed by external powers.  We can have hopes about the directions they should pursue, but their future should be in their hands.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Boston - Chomsky and Joya

U.S. Reverses Visa Denial To Malalai Joya Female Afghan Activist

Joya criticizes US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan. She is critical of the Taliban, the Karzai government as well.

Joya was barred from entering the U.S. earlier this month to promote a new edition of her memoir. However after widespread protests by many prominent U.S. intellectuals and others the decision was reversed. She is scheduled to speak tonight in Boston with Noam ChomskyNoam Chomsky.

Joya has been outspoken in her criticism of the Karzai government, the Taliban, and the NATO mission in Afghanistan which she calls an occupation. Perhaps her most famous speech was in the Afghan parliament in which she said that many of the parliamentarians were warlords and guilty of war crimes.

In the Afghan parliament after the swearing-in ceremony in December 2005, she offered her "condolences" to the people of Afghanistan "for the presence of warlords, drug lords and criminals" in the Parliament. "The people of Afghanistan have recently escaped the Taliban cage but still they are trapped in the cage of those who are called warlords" She had to be escorted out of the parliament to avoid physical attack and was suspended for her remarks.

She has been subject to constant death threats. She said:"They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

Joya has been to Canada several times. She appeared at the Federal Convention of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) in Quebec City on September 10, 2006, supporting party leader Jack LaytonJack Layton and the NDP's criticism of the NATO-led mission in southern Afghanistan. She said, "No nation can donate liberation to another nation."" The NDP has consistently held the view that Canada should withdraw troops immediately.

Joya has won many awards for her fight for women's rights in Afghanistan. However as the appended video shows she is a caustic critic of U.S. and NATO involvement in Afghanistan and wants them out now. No doubt this and probably complaints of the Karzai government are the reason for the earlier denial of a visa for her to talk in the U.S.

Malalai Joya

(born April 25, 1978) is an activist, writer and a former politician from Afghanistan.  She served as a female Parliamentarian in the National Assembly of Afghanistan from 2005 until early 2007, after being dismissed for publicly denouncing the presence of what she considered to be warlords  and war criminals in the Afghan parliament. She is an outspoken critic of the first ever democratically elected Karzai administration and its western supporters, particularly the United States.

Her suspension in May 2007 has generated protest internationally and appeals for her reinstatement have been signed by high profile writers, intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, and politicians including Members of Parliament from Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.  She is often called by some people as "the bravest woman in Afghanistan."

In 2010, Time magazine placed Malalai Joya on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Foreign Policy Magazine listed Malalai Joya in its annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. On March 8, 2011, The Guardian listed her among "Top 100 women: activists and campaigners"

Her father was a former medical student who lost a leg while fighting in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. In 1982, when she was 4 years old, her family fled Afghanistan to live as refugees in neighboring Iran. She got involved in humanitarian work while in eight grade.

    "I started working as an activist when I was very young, grade 8. When I started working amongst our people, especially women, it was so enjoyable for me. I learned a lot from them, even though they were not educated. Before I started, I want to tell you, I didn't know anything about politics. I learned from people who were non-educated, non-political people who belonged to a political situation. I worked with different committees in the refugee camps. I remember that in every house that I went everyone had different stories of suffering. I remember one family we met. Their baby was just skin and bones. They could not afford to take the baby to a doctor, so they had to just wait for their baby to die. I believe that no movie maker, no writer is able to write about these tragedies that we have suffered. Not only in Afghanistan, but also Palestine, Iraq…The children of Afghanistan are like the children of Palestine. They fight against enemies with only stones. These kinds of children are my heroes and my heroines."
    —Malalai Joya, November 5, 2007

After the Soviet withdrawal, Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban's reign. As a young woman she worked as a social activist and was named a director of the non-governmental group, Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities (OPAWC) in the western provinces of Herat and Farah. She is married

Speech at the 2003 loya jirga

Malalai Joya gained international attention when, as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga convened to ratify the Constitution of Afghanistan, she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords on December 17, 2003

My name is Malalai Joya from Farah Province. By the permission of the esteemed attendees, and by the name of God and the colored-shroud martyrs of the path of freedom, I would like to speak for a couple of minutes.

My criticism on all my compatriots is that why are they allowing the legitimacy and legality of this Loya Jerga come under question with the presence of those felons who brought our country to this state.

"I feel pity and I feel very sorry that those who call Loya Jerga an infidel --basically equivalent to blasphemy. After coming here their words are accepted, or please see the committees and what people are whispering about. The chairman of every committee is already selected. Why do you not take all these criminals to one committee so that we see what they want for this nation? These were those who turned our country into the nucleus of national and international wars. They were the most anti-women people in the society who wanted to [makes pause] who brought our country to this state and they intend to do the same again. I believe that it is a mistake to test those already being tested. They should be taken to national and international court. If they are forgiven by our people, the bare-footed Afghan people, our history will never forgive them. They are all recorded in the history of our country"

In response, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, chief of the Loya Jirga called her "infidel" and "communist". Since then she has survived four assassination attempts, and travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards

World Pulse Magazine (Issue 1, 2005) wrote:

…When her time came to make her 3-minute statement, she tugged her black headscarf over her hair, stepped up to the microphone, and with emotional electricity made the speech that would alter her life.

After she spoke, there was a moment of stunned silence. Then there was an uproar. Male mujahideen, some who literally had guns at their feet, rushed towards her, shouting. She was brought under the protection of UN security forces.

In a nation where few dare to say the word "warlord" aloud, Joya had spoken fiercely against a proposal to appoint high clergy members and fundamentalist leaders to guide planning groups. She objected that several of those religious leaders were war criminals who should be tried for their actions—not national heroes to influence the new government.

Despite the commands of Assembly Chairman, Joya refused to apologize

When Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Noam Chomsky wrote in an article syndicated by the New York Times: "The Nobel Peace Prize committee might well have made truly worthy choices, prominent among them the remarkable Afghan activist Malalai Joya."

Because she is "unemployed" and "lives underground", the United States denied Joya a travel visa in March 2011. She was scheduled to speak at several different places in the United States, including Pace University in Manhattan and St. Mary's College of Maryland.  Joya stated that "[the Afghan government] has probably requested the U.S. to not let me enter ... because I am exposing the wrong policies of the U.S. and its puppet regime at the international level."  However, the U.S. State Department later explained that a visa has been issued to Joya

Joya has written a memoir with Canadian writer Derrick O'Keefe. The US and Canadian version of the book was published in October 2009 by Scribner under the title of A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice

The Australian and British versions have already been published by Pan Macmillan   and Rider  under the title of Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dares to Speak Out. It has so far been published in German titled Ich erhebe meine Stimme - Eine Frau kämpft gegen den Krieg in Afghanistan, in Norwegian under the title Kvinne blant krigsherrer - Afghanistans modigste stemme and in Dutch under the title Een vrouw tussen krijgsheren.

video of her talking on CNN

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Noam Chomsky - MUST READ IN FULL (Arabistan India Colombia

Noam Chomsky speaks to Saswat Pattanayak

March 2011

SP- Prof Chomsky, where do you locate the contours of the current crisis in Egypt, Tunisia and rest of the Middle East?

NC- The source of the crisis in the Arab world goes back very far and it's similar to what we find in the formerly colonized world. Actually it was expressed rather clearly in the 1950's by President Eisenhower and his staff. He was holding an internal discussion which has been declassified since. Eisenhower asked his staff why there is, what he called a "campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world. Not among the governments, which are more or less docile, but among the people. And the National Security Council, which is the major planning body, produced a memorandum on this topic. It said that there is a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports harsh vicious dictators, blocks democracy and development; and we do this because we want to maintain control over their resources - in this case, energy. And went on to say that the perception is fairly accurate and furthermore that, that's what we should be doing.

The basic principle holds not just for the Arab world. It was expressed rather succinctly during the period of the recent spectacular uprising in Egypt by Marwan Muasher. He is a former high Jordanian official who is now the head of research in the Middle East for the Carnegie Endowment. He said there is a prevailing doctrine which is that as long as people are quiet, passive, controlled, there is no problem. We do whatever we like. Maybe they hate us, but it doesn't matter, because we can do what we like. That's a principle that holds in Arab world, in India, it holds domestically in the United States; its a standard principle of domination. Of course, sometimes the people break the chains and then you have to make adjustments. What's happening in Egypt right now is a dramatic, but not untypical example. There has been case after case where the United States and other imperial powers before have been compelled to abandon support for the favored dictator because he could no longer be sustained. So there is a standard gameplan now being applied in Egypt. You support the dictator as long as possible by adopting the Muasher Doctrine. Everything is quiet, so no problem. When the dictator can no longer be sustained, you sort of push him aside, issue Reagan proclamations of your love for democracy and freedom and proceed to try to reestablish as much as you can of the former system. And that's what we see happening right now in Egypt, and as I said, it happens over and over again.

SP - Do you foresee a similar uprising in India? Or, what in your views is holding India back?

NC - Let's take India. First of all, there is a major uprising. Large parts of India are in flames. The tribal areas are essentially in revolt. Large part of Indian Army is involved trying to suppress them.

SP - So you see a parallel between the insurgencies?

NC - hmm.. I think the real question in India would be ... I mean there has been, you know, this famous shining India. Its true for a segment of population. India is so huge, so its a substantial sector. On the other hand, probably three-quarters of the population are left out. The number of billionaires is rising about as fast as the number of peasant suicides. And the analogous question to Egypt would be not so much what's happening in the tribal areas, I think, as what about the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering severely.

SP - Absolutely. There's a huge class gap.

NC - There is an enormous class gap. India's dramatic, in fact. If suffering in South Asia is...

SP - The gap is growing now...

NC - Its growing and its the worst in the world. Has been for a long time. If you look at the Human Development Index of the United Nations, the last time I looked, India was about 120th or something like that at the beginning of the so-called reforms 20 years ago.

SP - Now the quality has fallen further down.

NC - Well, now the question is how long will these huge numbers of people be passive and apathetic so their concerns can be dismissed.

SP - Prof Chomsky, Arundhati Roy was pressed with sedition charges for speaking on Kashmiri people's right to self-determination. What is your take on self-determination, especially in the context of Kashmir?

NC - First I should say that Arundhati Roy should be greatly honored in India as a symbol of what could be great about the country. The fact that she is being charged with Sedition is utter outrage. And the anger and hatred that's being organized against her is a real disgrace. But that's Arundhati Roy, a marvelous person.

With regard to Kashmir, problems go back to the Partition. And there is plenty of responsibility on all sides. Keeping to India, India, of course refused to allow the referendum that was a condition on partition. (Thus, India) essentially took over the territory and (subsequent) conflict led to a Line of Control. There has been plenty of repression and violence. In late 1980's there was an election but it was totally fraudulent. It led to an uprising which was put down with extreme violence. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Indian controlled areas of Kashmir. Tortures, atrocities have been pretty horrible. Roy points out in her recent article that this is the most militarized region in the world. There's since been other controlled elections attempting to institute Indian control and anyone who looks at it can see that there is strong pressure for one or another form of autonomy or self-rule. It could take many forms. Exactly how it should be worked out is not a trivial problem. But you can think of ways in which a reasonably sensible outcome could be managed through the various parts of Kashmir, (since) different regions of Kashmir have different interests and goals.

SP - How do you perceive the Maoist movement in India? Do you see it as the battle of an indigenous people's right to self-determination or do you see in it, a communist, revolutionary struggle to gain control of a political economy?

NC - Well, first I should not make any pretense of having any deep knowledge with this. I don't. But as far as I understand, it is both. There are Maoist revolutionaries. So-called. They call themselves Maoists, whatever that's supposed to mean. But there is a basis in the population. These are substantially tribal areas and they are among the most repressed people in India. They have lives, they have a society, a functioning society; in the forests, in the tribal regions. There is an effort by the Government, essentially to invade those regions to destroy the basis for their life and society by resource extraction, mining and so on. And they are resisting. They wanna preserve their lives. Its going on all over the world.

Now, this Summer, for example, I was in Southern Columbia visiting endangered villages subjected to severe repression. Actually, Columbia has the largest internally displaced population in the world after Sudan, mostly from attacks on the indigenous areas. The villagers are trying to do the same thing. They are trying to find ways village I visited is trying to preserve nearby mountain and virgin forests from mining which will destroy their communities, destroy their lives, take away the water supplies. They are poor, but they have a functioning life. They want that life and they have every reason to have it. And that's happening all over the world. Its happening in the United States. In Appalachia, mountain top removal happens to be a very cheap way of coal mining, but it destroys the valleys, destroys the rivers, destroys the ecology, destroys the communities and people resist. I presume that, what's happening in the tribal areas (in India) is in substantial part an instance of this global phenomenon of the feverish surge for resources, whatever be the effect on environment and the people.

SP - Yes. And also, it has a continuation in terms of historical understanding of India's indigenous peoples. From 1960s onwards, there have been organized revolutionary movements among the oppressed...

NC - Oh yeah, from the Naxalite movements. That was, of course, very serious. In some places like West Bengal, it was a major factor that led to significant land reforms, to establishment of peasant communes and so on. Again, I don't claim to know much about it but I have visited some of them together with an agricultural economist friend and actually a Finance Minister with the Government who I happened to know when he was a student here. We went to visit a panchayat in West Bengal and there were a lot of impressive things happening. These are the outcomes of the Naxalite revolt...other outcomes have been vicious and brutal.

SP - Nation states are increasingly resembling larger corporations. Is it a trend to stay or do you think even globalization will have its necessary backlash and a historical meltdown?

I think many complicated things are happening around the world. I don't think thats true of all nation-states. For example, rather dramatically in Latin America, there has been in the past 10 years or so, significant moves towards integration, towards independence, towards bringing the mass of the population into the political process, dealing with severe internal problems, not like India, which has enormous poverty and misery in an island of wealth. That's in the opposite direction. If you take the rich, developed, some of the Asian countries, they are going in their own ways. Take a country like the United States, England and much of Europe - what you described...what's happening could be described that way but little differently. I mean what's actually been happening in much of the world, this incidentally includes China and India too - is a global shift of power - away from working people and into the hands of owners, managers, investors, the elite elements, highly paid professionals, and so on. There is a very sharp class split. You see it everywhere.

SP - Absolutely.

NC - In the United States, its the highest inequality since the 1920's. And if we look closely, its the highest ever, because the inequality largely results from the super enrichment of a tiny sector of the population. A fraction of one percent (comprising) managers, owners, hedge fund managers, and so on. And this concentration of economic power in the sector of corporate system, increasingly the financial sector, carries with it a political power. Concentrated economic power has overwhelming effect on the global process. And in fact, the state corporate policies for the past 30 years, running from fiscal policies like taxation to government rules on corporate governance and so on, have been designed in order to create this kind of system of sharply class divided oppression. And this is real and there is plenty of discontentment and anger. [Listen to Professor Neil Brooks] Its not like the Third World but the people in the rich countries have seen their incomes stagnate for 30 years while there is enormous wealth. Life is not miserable, but it is difficult. Unemployment for much of the population is still at the level of depression with no prospect of anything changing. This is kind of extreme in the United States. But its similar in England and to some extent, elsewhere. In places like China, let's say you also have extreme disparity of wealth, some of the worst in the world. India is of course a class by itself...

SP - Do most people recognize there is a class society in existence or is there a denial?

NC - The business class of, say in the United States, are highly class conscious. In fact, they are essentially Marxists. If you read the business literature, it reads like a little Red Book. They mention the hazards of the organized masses, the hazards they pose to industrialists and so on. And they fight a bitter class war. And in the last years its been dramatic. Among the rest of the population, its a mixed story. So again, take the United States. The word class is almost unmentionable. The United States is one of the few countries where...

SP - ...Class is a taboo word.

NC - ....It is a taboo word. Everyone is middle class. I have a friend who teaches History in a state college. On the first day of the semesters, she often asks students how they identify themselves in class terms. The answers are, 'basically if my father is in jail, I am underclass. If my father is a janitor I am middle class, if my father is a stock broker, I am upper class. But the idea of the class in its traditional sense is essentially driven out of peoples' heads. But whether they have a terminology for it or not, they know it. People know whether they are giving orders or taking orders. They know whether they have a role in decision making or they don't. And those are class distinctions.

SP – Your message for the readers of Kindle?

NC - The message is not to take that description too seriously. In fact, take a look at what's happening right now in Tahrir Square in Egypt. One of the most spectacular demonstrations of popular activism of courage and determination that I can remember. They are not following leaders. In fact, what's striking, dramatically striking is how self organized it is. People are forming defense communities to protect themselves against Government thugs, they are forming groups to develop policies, to reach out to others. That's the way things happen. Sometimes, you know, popular movements develop and leaders appear. Usually it's a bad thing. No one should be looking to anyone for guidance and advice. Basically, you can figure out the answers. The important ones will come from the people themselves.

Listen to"michael+Parenti"+mp3

source: Kindle Magazine (India)

Sunday, March 27 2011 @ 12:42 AM UTC  Views: 212

The source of the crisis in the Arab world goes back very far and it's similar to what we find in the formerly colonized world. Actually it was expressed rather clearly in the 1950's by President Eisenhower and his staff. He was holding an internal discussion which has been declassified since. Eisenhower asked his staff why there is, what he called a "campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world. Not among the governments, which are more or less docile, but among the people.

Michael Parenti writes in connection with the JFK assassination:

"Chomsky is able to maintain his criticism that no credible evidence has come to light only by remaining determinedly unacquainted with the mountain of evidence that has been uncovered.

The remarkable thing about [those] on the Left who attack the Kennedy conspiracy findings is they remain invincibly ignorant of the critical investigations that have been carried out. I have repeatedly pointed this out in exchanges with them and they never deny it. They have not read any of the many studies by independent researchers who implicate the CIA in a conspiracy to kill the president and in the even more protracted and extensive conspiracy to cover up the murder. But this does not prevent them from dismissing the conspiracy charge in the most general and unsubstantiated terms."

~ Michael Parenti, Dirty Truths, chapter 3

From an interview with Michael Parenti on the Flashpoints radio show,
Parenti takes a jab at Chomsky and Zinn as "pretend" leftists:

Audio of the interview, relevant section begins at approx 14:00


(After discussion of recent Cuban crackdown, statements by Bush admin., and
US actions regarding Cuba)

Parenti: ..So, the Cubans do have a right to defend themselves.  And, I'm
very sorry that people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn saw fit to sign
this petition condemning the Cuban government for putting on trial these
people who were working in collaboration with the US government to overthrow
the Cuban government

Interviewer: Can you give our listeners a little more background?  I'm not
aware of this declaration you just mentioned...that Zinn signed....

Parenti: Well there was a petition circulated by a number of people who
pretend to be on the left, condemning the Cuban government for putting these
25(?) so-called dissidents in prison, putting them on trial and finding them
guilty of collaboration with the US government to subvert the Cuban
government.  And this petition put these people in the best light, just
calling them "dissidents" and denounced the Cuban government for doing that.
A variety of people in the so-called Democratic Socialists of America also
signed that petition, as well as the luminaries I just mentioned.

Interviewer:  What was their intention for signing that?  What were they
trying to accomplish?

Parenti: Their intention is to give vent to the centrality of their
politics, to the heart and guts and soul of their politics, which is
anti-Communism.  Of course they're against imperialism.  Of course they're
against the big corporations.  Of course they're against capitalism doing
all these things..some of them are anway.  But their real passion is to be
fighting communism, the first trace of anything where people on the left
fight back using any kind of coercive power against the coercive power that
is being delivered upon them all the time.  The first time that happens,
they're up in arms and signing petitions and denouncing other people on the
left as "Stalinists" and "Communists" and whatever else.

That is their central passion and preoccupation.  Some of them can't get five
minutes into a lecture without making denounciations of "Stalinism" and
Stalin.  Stalin's been dead for half a century, but that has been for all
their lives and all their careers the centrality of their politics.  And
that isn't the centrality of my politics.  The centrality of my politics is
the search and the fight and the struggle for social justice, and to take
seriously the people that are running and ruining the world.  These guys are
playing for keeps, and if we can't fight back against them, then forget about it.

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Stop U.S. bombing of Libya!


Stop U.S. bombing of Libya!

Published Mar 24, 2011 10:08 PM

The bombing of Libya, which began on March 19, has aroused world opposition to this new aggression by the U.S. and European imperialist powers.

The bombing began on the eighth anniversary of the U.S. and British invasion and occupation of Iraq. Pentagon warplanes were bolstered by ships and planes from France, Britain, Italy and Canada. Using U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 as a cover, these imperialist states have initiated an all-out war aimed at overthrowing the Libyan government and occupying that North African country.

The assault, dubbed "Operation Odyssey Dawn," has included strikes by fighter aircraft and missiles launched from warships off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. Areas inside Libya that have been bombed include Benghazi, Tripoli, Misurata and Ajdabiya.

On March 19, three Air Force B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri dropped 45 bombs weighing a ton each on Misurata. Also, 15 Air Force and Marine fighter jets accompanied by aircraft from France and Britain bombed Benghazi. One U.S. F-15 jet fighter was reported downed on March 21.

The next day bombs dropped on the capital city of Tripoli destroyed a compound used by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The Libyan government said a three-story building in Tripoli had been destroyed by war planes of the U.S. and European states. Although U.S. and European military officials have stated that the Libyan leader is not a target in these operations, it is clear that these Western governments are out to assassinate Libya's head of state. Nearly 25 years ago the U.S. military under Ronald Reagan bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi in an earlier attempt on the life of Gadhafi; his young daughter was killed in the attacks.

In regard to the March 20 attacks on the compound where Gadhafi is often present, Libyan spokesperson Mussa Ibrahim told journalists, "This was a barbaric bombing which could have hit hundreds of civilians gathered at the residence of Moammar Gadhafi about 400 meters away from the building which was hit." (Herald Sun (Australia), March 21)

Ibrahim went on to point out the contradictory and deceptive language being utilized by the Western countries now bombing Libya. He noted that "Western countries say they want to protect civilians while they bomb the residence knowing there are civilians inside." In the aftermath of the bombing in Tripoli, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said on March 20 that Gadhafi was a "legitimate target." (The Australian, March 21)

Nevertheless, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claimed that no civilians had been harmed in the bombings, which have included the use of stealth B-2 bombers, jet fighters, and more than 120 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles as well as other deadly U.S. weapons.

NATO, the Arab League, African Union and U.N. Security Council

Since the bombing began on March 19, the United States has claimed to have limited objectives related to protecting civilians and imposing a "no-fly zone" over the North African state. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, contradicting his British counterpart, said Gadhafi was not a target. Gortney also claimed that "The no-fly zone is now effectively in place. We are not going after Gadhafi. At this particular point, I can guarantee he is not on the target list."

Yet since late February, the Obama administration has called for the removal of the Libyan leader. These calls have been repeated not only by the president but by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Moreover, the so-called rebellion in Libya that began in Benghazi on Feb. 17 has been supported by the U.S. and other Western imperialist states. Several of the groups trying to overthrow the Libyan government have long been financed, armed, trained and coordinated by the CIA.

France, prior to the bombing operations, gave recognition to the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. At least two major peace proposals, put forward by Latin American states as well as the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, were rejected outright by the imperialist states now bombing the country as well as by the rebels.

Evidence of the real objectives in the bombing of Libya is the cover being provided by the imperialist states for the rebels. After the rebels' defeat in the western and eastern section of Libya, the U.S. and European powers began bombing to support attacks by the rebels on key cities under government control.

Another important political aspect of the bombing of Libya has been the assertion that the Arab League supported the attacks. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, said several weeks prior to the bombings that he would support a no-fly zone over the country. However, the Arab League vote on support for U.N. Resolution 1973 was in a closed-door session with only half the member states present. Of those, Syria and Algeria reportedly objected to it.

Moussa has now expressed reservations about the military operations by the imperialist states against Libya. The Arab League leader said, "What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives. What we want is the protection of civilians. Protection, not shelling more civilians." (, March 21)

The African Union, a 53-member state organization for the continent, issued a communiqué on March 11 expressing solidarity with Libya and opposing foreign military intervention. The AU Peace and Security Council, which issued the communiqué, called for a negotiated resolution to the war in Libya and appointed a fact-finding mission to visit Libya to work on ending the fighting.

Nonetheless, the AU communiqué was totally ignored by the U.S., Canada, France, Italy and Britain. A delegation from South Africa that was scheduled to travel to Libya on March 21 was cancelled due to the imposition of the no-fly zone by the Western states.

Egyptian protesters attack U.N. chief

Outrage has been expressed throughout the world over the launching of a new war by Western imperialist governments. Inside Libya itself, thousands of citizens have resisted the rebel forces backed by the U.S. and other former colonial powers such as France, Britain and Italy, which had colonized Libya for many decades.

Thousands of Libyans have flocked to government buildings to act as human shields against the bombs being dropped by the Western military forces. Gadhafi on March 21 called for a civilian march on the city of Benghazi, where the rebels remain under the protection of bombs being dropped by the U.S., France and Britain.

Perhaps the most dramatic protest against the attacks on Libya took place in Cairo, Egypt, on March 21, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in the country to hold talks with Moussa of the Arab League. Several hundred anti-war demonstrators attacked his vehicle.

Ban had tried to visit Tahrir Square, the center of protest for the pro-democracy movement in Egypt, but was prevented from doing so by the demonstrators. His vehicle was pelted with rocks as he was driven away.

Demonstrations were held in Manila, Philippines, where U.S. flags were burned amid denunciations of the bombing. Criticism has also come from China, Russia, India and Brazil, all of which had abstained on the U.N. resolution.

In the Republic of South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League condemned the ruling party's vote in the U.N. in support of the resolution. The ANCYL said that "It is evident that certain powers, particularly the U.S., U.K. and France, want to impose a puppet government in Libya so that they can have access to its oil reserves." (, March 21)

The ANCYL stressed that it was a mistake for the South African government to vote in favor of the U.N. resolution, noting that its allies had abstained "because they noticed the inconsistencies being applied to Libya."

This response by the ANCYL and the impact of the bombing missions over Libya prompted South African President Jacob Zuma to express concern over how the no-fly zone was being implemented. "We call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and an end to attacks on civilians," Zuma said. (

Organizations throughout the world that have denounced the U.S./European bombing campaign against Libya include: Workers World Party, Free Arab Voice, the South African Communist Party, World Federation of Trade Unions, the Nation of Islam, Communist Party of Greece, Communist Party of Canada, All-African People's Revolutionary Party (GC), Philippine Communist Party and Communist Party of Australia, among others.

Numerous African states including Zimbabwe, South Africa and Uganda have denounced the bombing and efforts on the part of the imperialists to effect a regime change in Libya.

On April 9 there will be national anti-war demonstrations in New York and San Francisco whose demands include a halt to U.S. and European aggression towards Libya.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tariq Ali on Television New Zealand

PAUL Leave aside Libya just for the moment - we'll get to Libya, of course - but what is happening in the Middle East?  What is it about?

TARIQ  It's about two things.  It's firstly about people in the entire Arab world feeling that they don't need the despots who have been ruling over them for 20, 30, 40 years and wanting to get rid of them and not being able to get rid of them through democratic elections, deciding to take history by the scruff of its neck, marching out into the streets.  And so we've had a process of what I would call national democratic revolution or upheavals still going in the Arab world, demanding change, demanding freedom and saying to the West, which has propped up these despots and dictators for most of the time, 'Enough.  No more.'

PAUL Why now?  Why not four years ago, you know, or two years ago?

TARIQ  I think it's been triggered off.  The events in Tunisia were very much triggered off by the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the ensuing economic crisis.  Suddenly, unemployment tripled, and a large number of educated people found themselves without work, poured out into the streets, contrasting their lives with the lives of the elite, who ruled them and who are so blinded by greed to make more and more money that they can't see the conditions in which ordinary people live.  Once it happened in Tunisia and they got rid of a dictator who Sarkozy was backing and offering help to to stay in power, the Egyptians said that they were going to come out, and they began to come out in more and more numbers.  The repression didn't work, hundreds died, and finally Mubarak was toppled, but we still don't know how it's going to end in Egypt.

PAUL No, we do not.  We could talk about that too, but it's fascinating for us in the West to see that the young people coming out aren't shouting, 'Death to Israel,' aren't shouting, 'Death to America,' aren't burning effigies of the American president; they want their own guys gone.

TARIQ They want their own guys gone.

PAUL They want jobs, they want prospects.

TARIQ  But when the Americans were intervening in Egypt initially, when Hillary Clinton was saying Mubarak was family, when other Western leaders were backing Mubarak and Obama was not sure what they were going to do, there were lots of anti-American slogans.  Granted it wasn't the dominant slogan, and 82% of Egyptians in an opinion poll said that they did not like the role that America was playing in their country.  So this is a democratic uprising, but part of that includes being free again and not being ruled by the United States.

PAUL Can Islam tolerate democracy, really?  As far as I know, it hasn't really worked anywhere within the Arab world, in the Islamic world - democracy - perhaps Indonesia, you could say.

TARIQ Well, no, it's-

PAUL Because people say, don't they, there was never a separation between church and state, therefore&

TARIQ  I've always thought that was a lot of nonsense, actually.  There's absolutely no reason why democracy shouldn't work in the Muslim world.  The reason it hasn't is that often, including in Indonesia and in Pakistan on four separate occasions, the US has backed military coup 'd'etats to prevent democratic developments, and that led to clashes.  But whenever democracy is permitted, you know, the three largest Islamic countries - Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan - people go out and vote, there are different political parties.  The religious parties in Pakistan, for instance, have always got less than 10% of the vote.  In Indonesia, you have a moderate religious party in power, as you do in Turkey.  These are the equivalents of the Muslim-Christian democrats which you have in Europe.  So I think there's nothing in Islamic thinking or in the thinking of these countries which indicates that people don't want to determine who rules them.  They do just as much as they do in the West, and I think the turbulence we're seeing in the Middle East is the democracy will probably be more radical and offer real alternatives than the West offers today.

PAUL In the meantime, who's leading these revolutions through the Middle East at the moment?  It's the young educated people, yes?  And the social networks?

TARIQ I don't think that is an accurate assessment, actually.  I think the young people with their Facebooks and Twitters are playing a part in it, but an overwhelming- I mean, in Egypt, in particular, there were nine to 10 million people out on to the streets, and they were everyone.  Virtually every layer of Egyptian society was out there, including the very poor, who don't have mobile phones, who don't have computers, who don't know what Twitter is.  They were heavily involved in getting rid of a despot who has wrecked their lives for 30 years.

PAUL  Yeah.  Well, where's it going to end?  In the end, will the despots win? Or will people power be unstoppable, do you think?

TARIQ  I think a lot will depend on what happens in Egypt.  If in Egypt the democracy movement will succeed in having a new constitution which enshrines democratic freedoms and social rights - this is a very important part of the campaign - the right to work, the right to a free education, free health - this is part of the movement.

PAUL What's the attitude of the army going to be, though?

TARIQ  The army will do what the Pentagon tells them, because the top commanders of the army have been help to the States.  They are paid billions each year for their salaries and to keep their armies happy, so they will do what the Americans want, but the Americans cannot totally determine the situation, because just three days ago there was another huge demonstration in Egypt saying they want the military out.

PAUL Now let's talk about Libya just quickly because the deputy foreign minister was on television yesterday - bizarre performance saying, 'We will not enter Benghazi.  We will not enter Benghazi - this is our assurance to the world.  Send in the obvservers.'  And last night Gaddafi's tanks entered Benghazi.  The French overnight have fired on a military vehicle.  What's going to happen in Libya?

TARIQ Well, I think a loss, and tragically, the Libyan upsurge ran out of steam.  They were hoping that the military would split and some of it would come over to their side.  Some did.  A few pilots fled the land, but it wasn't enough to sway the thing.  My own feeling about the Western intervention is that it's a disastrous intervention that will strengthen Libya.  And, of course, the Libyan propaganda outfits are saying, you know, 'Who are these people to attack us.  They were doing deals with us.  We paying Sarkozy's election campaign money and the Brits money - all these sorts.'

PAUL But it's a United Nations initiative, this.

TARIQ Yeah, but, you know, let's face it.  The United Nations does what the Security Council wants, and that's five or six powers, essentially dominated by the United States.  The powers that disagree these days don't veto; they abstain.  And four or five of them abstained.

PAUL  Egypt again.  You say Egypt will define, really, what happens.  What do you think the Pentagon will tell the Egyptian army?

TARIQ Well, if they are sensible, they'll say, 'Keep out of politics.'  But who knows what they will really say, but Egypt is key because if it stabilises into a radical democracy with its own constitution, with people allowed the right to vote, it's very likely that the initial governments could well be governments the US could do business with.  But there are no guarantees of that once you permit democracy.

PAUL Are you optimistic about democracy through the Middle East?

TARIQ I'm very optimistic.  I'm very excited.  It hasn't happened yet, but the fact that the people are out on to the streets demanding it ends this notion that people in the Muslim world are zombies, unlike anyone else, that they don't want democracy, they don't want democratic rights, they don't want social freedom.  So it's a time of hope.

PAUL  Gee, maybe George Bush was right.  I'm sorry to wind you up.

TARIQ Well, George Bush was right to kill a million Iraqis, create five million orphans in Iraq, wreck the social infrastructure of the country - I don't think so.

PAUL I was just winding you up.

TARIQ I know you were, but, you know, a million Iraqi dead is a very serious business.

PAUL  Thank you, Tariq Ali, for coming on the show.

Transcript of Paul Holmes Q +  A interview with Tariq Ali, March 20, 2011.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chomsky interview - God is an imbecile - Jewish Life, November 12, 2010

Q&A: Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Samuels

Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life, November 12, 2010

David Samuels: You grew up in a home that was heavily influenced by
Ahad Ha'am, the father of cultural Zionism.

Noam Chomsky: My father was a great sympathizer of Ahad Ha'am. Every
Friday night we would read Hebrew together, and often the reading was
Ahad Ha'am's essays. He was the founding figure of what came to be
called cultural Zionism, meaning that there should be a Zionist
revival in Israel, in Palestine, and it should be a cultural center
for the Jewish people. He wrote in Hebrew, which was novel, because
Hebrew was then the language of prayer and the Bible. He saw Jews as
primarily a Diaspora community that needed a cultural center that had
a physical presence, but he was very sympathetic to the Palestinians.
In fact he wrote some very sharp essays, after a visit to Palestine,
criticizing the way the new settlers were treating the indigenous
population. He said, "You can't treat people like that." Also, on
practical grounds, he didn't want to create enemies. A Jewish cultural
center in Palestine was his ideal.

Now I won't swear to the precise accuracy of this, because these are
childhood memories, but I remember reading together with my father an
essay that Ahad Ha'am wrote about Moses. The basic idea was there are
two Moseses -- the first is the historical Moses, if there was such a
person, and the other is the image of Moses that was constructed and
came down through the ages and occupies an important place in the
national mythology.

Ahad Ha'am was an early advocate of the idea that later became famous
with [the Marxist political scientist] Ben Anderson, when he wrote his
books about how nations are imagined communities. He said there's an
imagined -- I don't think he used the term -- but there's an imagined
Jewish community, in which Moses plays a central role, and it really
doesn't matter if there was a historical Moses or not. That's part of
the national myth, which is a sophisticated version of what [author]
Shlomo Sand was trying to get at. Sand debunks the historical Moses,
but from Ha'am's point of view, it makes no difference.

DS: Did you read Nivi'im, the prophets, with your father in Hebrew?

NC: The word "prophet" is a very bad translation of an obscure Hebrew
word, navi. Nobody knows what it means. But today they'd be called
dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical analysis,
arguing that the acts of the rulers were going to destroy society. And
they condemned the acts of evil kings. They called for justice and
mercy to orphans and widows and so on.

I don't want to say it was all beautiful. Dissident intellectuals
aren't all beautiful. You read Sakharov, who is sometimes appalling.
Or Solzhenitsyn. And the nivi'im were treated the way dissident
intellectuals always are. They weren't praised. They weren't honored.
They were imprisoned like Jeremiah. They were driven into the desert.
They were hated. Now at the time, there were intellectuals,
"prophets," who were very well treated. They were the flatterers of
the court. Centuries later, they were called "false prophets."

People who criticize power in the Jewish community are regarded the
way Ahab treated Elijah: You're a traitor. You've got to serve power.
You can't argue that the policies that Israel is following are going
to lead to its destruction, which I thought then and still do.

DS: Did you imagine yourself as a navi, a prophet, when you were a
child reading those texts alone in your room or on Friday night with
your father?

NC: Sure. In fact, my favorite prophet, then and still, is Amos. I
particularly admired his comments that he's not an intellectual. I
forget the Hebrew, but lo navi ela anochi lo ben navi -- I'm not a
prophet, I'm not the son of a prophet, I'm a simple shepherd. So he
translated "prophet" correctly. He's saying, "I'm not an
intellectual." He was a simple farmer and he wanted just to tell the
truth. I admire that.

DS: Did religion play a role in the life of your home? Did your mother
light Shabbat candles?

We did those things, but they were -- I don't know how you grew up,
but my parents were part of the Enlightenment tradition, the haskalah.
So you keep the symbols, but it doesn't involve religious faith.

DS: At the age of 10 I came to the conclusion that the God I learned
about in school didn't exist.

NC: I remember how I did that. I remember it very well. My father's
family was super Orthodox. They came from a little shtetl somewhere in
Russia. My father told me that they had regressed even beyond a
medieval level. You couldn't study Hebrew, you couldn't study Russian.
Mathematics was out of the question. We went to see them for the
holidays. My grandfather had a long beard, I don't think he knew he
was in the United States. He spoke Yiddish and lived in a couple of
blocks of his friends. We were there on Pesach, and I noticed that he
was smoking.

So I asked my father, how could he smoke? There's a line in the Talmud
that says, ayn bein shabbat v'yom tov ela b'inyan achilah. I said,
"How come he's smoking?" He said, "Well, he decided that smoking is
eating." And a sudden flash came to me: Religion is based on the idea
that God is an imbecile. He can't figure these things out. If that's
what it is, I don't want anything to do with it.

DS: And what did your father say?

NC: I was just thinking about that. He just quoted the line to me and
then explained, "He thinks he is eating."

DS: Your father, Zev, was one of the significant Hebrew grammarians of
the past century, and you did your early academic work on medieval
Hebrew. Did something interest you about the structure of the
language, or was it just available to you as the language in your

NC: It wasn't the language in the home. We spoke English. My parents
would never utter a word of Yiddish, which was their native language.
You have to remember there was real kulturkampf going on at this time,
in the 1930s, between the Yiddish and the Hebrew tendencies. So we
never heard a word -- my wife either -- of Yiddish. Hebrew was the
language we studied. And then when I got to be a teenager I was
immersed in novels.

DS: You returned to Hebrew for your college thesis.

NC: When I got to college, I had to do an undergraduate thesis. I was
in linguistics then, so I figured, "OK, I'll write about Hebrew. It's
kind of interesting." I started the way I was taught to: You get an
informant, and you do field work and take a corpus. So I started
working with an informant, and I realized after a couple of weeks,
this is totally idiotic. I know the answers to all the questions. And
the only thing I don't know is the phonetics, but I don't care about
that. So I just dropped the informant and started doing it myself.

My work was more or less influenced by the style of medieval Hebrew
and Arabic grammar. It was historical analysis. But you can translate
the basic ideas into a kind of a synchronic interpretation, a
description of the system as it actually exists, and out of that came
the early stages of generative grammar, which nobody looked at.

DS: So your theory of generative grammar in its early stages came out
of your study of medieval Hebrew and Arabic?

NC: Yes. When I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I was actually reading
the proofs of my father's doctoral dissertation, which was on David
Kimhi's Hebrew grammar, and then I read articles on the history of the
language and Semitic philology. When I got to college I started
studying Arabic. I wanted to learn Arabic, and I got pretty far.

It's the same basic structure, but Hebrew is based on a root vowel
pattern distinction, so there's a root, which is neither a noun nor
anything else, and it's not plural or past tense or anything. It's a
root, typically a tri-consonant root, with a couple of exceptions, and
it fits into any large array of different vowel patterns, which
determine what its function is in a sentence. Is it a verb? Is it a
noun? If it's a verb, is it third-person plural, does it agree with
some other nouns? The whole language builds up from that. And that's
how I treated it in my early work, which is kind of the way it was
done in traditional grammar. Now people do it differently, rightly or

Of course the modern Hebrew language is quite different. I have
trouble reading modern Hebrew. In the 1950s I could read anything. I
don't know how much experience you've had with contemporary Hebrew.
It's quite difficult.

DS: When you were refused entry to the West Bank recently by the
Israeli Interior Ministry, did you talk Hebrew to the people who sent
you back to Jordan?

NC: I could've, but I didn't. I've done it before, at security. Back
in the 1980s I attended a conference in Jerusalem, and on the way out
of the country you have to go through security. There were two of us,
and the other guy was a friend who I don't think is Jewish, and they
opened everything in his suitcase, took out his dirty socks. There
were things in my suitcase I didn't want them to see. It was during
the First Intifada and I had managed to break curfew a couple of times
and get into places under curfew until we were picked up by soldiers.
I had found a container for a grenade that had stamped on it the name
of some place in Pennsylvania, and I wanted to bring that home.

I also had a lot of illegal pamphlets. Israeli security could never
find out how they were circulating these pamphlets. In fact it was
young kids jumping over rooftops. So I had a collection of these
pamphlets that I wanted to bring home, and I was hoping I wouldn't get
inspected. When I got to the inspection, the woman security officer
took my passport, and said, "Oh, you have a weird name." I said,
"Yeah." She said, "Do you speak Hebrew?" So I said, "Yeah." Then we
went on to have a discussion in Hebrew. "Did you visit your relatives,
did you have a good time." And she never bothered to look in my

DS: Were there any gentiles in your parents' world?

NC: Practically not. In fact there weren't even Yiddish-speaking Jews.
They lived in if not a physical ghetto then in a cultural ghetto.
Their friends were all people deeply involved in the revival of the
Hebrew language and cultural Zionism. I happened to have some
non-Jewish friends, but that's just from school.

DS: Describe Mikveh Israel, the synagogue that you grew up in and
where your father first taught.

NC: Well, Mikveh Israel was actually Sephardic, so I grew up in the
Sephardic tradition. It was kind of the elite synagogue in
Philadelphia, like the Portuguese synagogue in New York. It was
Sephardic because the original settlers were Sephardic Jews from
Holland. So we had a Dutch, actually originally Portuguese, rabbi, and
the hazan was from Morocco. We learned all the Sephardic rituals, and
pronunciation and everything, even though everyone in the community
was from eastern Europe. It was kind of the Jewish elite, but it was
also the center of a Hebrew renaissance-oriented small society. The
people were either teachers, rabbis, there were businessmen and
others, but they all shared a passionate interest in Hebrew cultural
revival. My father was the head of the school. My mother was running
the Hadassah meetings.

DS: Did your mother also come from a religious family?

NC: She came to America with her family when she was 1 year old. They
were so religious that she told me that when she was a teenager,
talking with her girlfriends on the street, if she saw her father
coming toward them, she would get them to cross the street so that she
didn't have to suffer the embarrassment of having her father walk past
her and not acknowledge her because she was a girl. It was a very
Orthodox family. Of course, they grew up here, and the kids lost it
quickly. My father came here in 1917. He and my mother shared many
interests and experiences in common.

They were so dedicated. I remember friends of my father and mother, a
couple of women, who when they called a department store downtown,
they would insist on talking Hebrew, in the hopes of convincing them
to hire a Hebrew-language operator. I mean they all spoke English. It
was real dedication. It had to be. How do you revive a dead language?

DS: Was that what motivated you to live in Israel?

NC: My wife and I were there in '53. We lived in a kibbutz for a while
and planned to stay, actually. I came back and had to finish my Ph.D.
We thought we'd go back.

DS: Was it the idea of the kibbutz, or was it the fact of speaking
Hebrew, or what was it?

NC: It was political. I was interested in Hebrew, but that wasn't the
driving force. I liked the kibbutz life and the kibbutz ideals. It has
pretty much disappeared now, I should say. But that time was
incredible in spirit. For one thing it was a poor country. The kibbutz
I went to, and I picked it for this reason, was actually originally
Buberite. It came from German refugees in the 1930s and had a kind of
Buberite style. It was the center for Arab outreach activities in
Mapam. There was plenty of racism, I should say. I lived with it. But
mostly against Mizrahim.

Q:When you think of the motivations of people like your parents or the
people who founded those Mapam kibbutzim, you don't think of those
motivations as being inherently linked to some desire to oppress

NC: By then I was old enough to separate from my parents. I'd been on
my own intellectually since I was a teenager. I gravitated toward
Zionist groups that were not in their milieu, like Hashomer Ha'tzair.

DS: My father grew up in Hashomer.

NC: I could never join Hashomer because in those days they were split
between Stalinist and Trotskyite, and I was anti-Leninist. But I was
in the neighborhood. It was a Hashomer kibbutz that we went to,
Kibbutz Hazore'a. It's changed a lot. We would never have lasted. It
was sort of a mixed story. They were binationalists. So up until 1948
they were anti-state. There were those who gravitated toward or who
were involved in efforts of Arab-Jewish working-class cooperation and
who were for socialist binationalist Palestine. Those ideas sound
exotic today, but they didn't at the time. It's because the world has

But there was an element of oppression I couldn't get around. If you
know the history, you know that most idealistic anti-nationalist
settlers insisted on a closed Hebrew society, you can't hire outside
labor, that sort of thing. You could see the motivation. They didn't
want to become what the first settlers were: landowners who had cheap
Arab labor. They wanted to work the land. Nevertheless, there's an
exclusionary character to it. Which then led into the policy of the
state and became quite ugly later. So it was kind of an internal
conflict that was never resolved.

DS: You believe that the job of the intellectual is to dissent, to
speak truth to power, and to wrestle with power. But there is a
troubling way in which your single-minded emphasis on opposing power
can lead to your having some very strange bedfellows. It's still
startling to me to see you at a Hezbollah rally in Lebanon. Hezbollah
is not an outfit dedicated to the secular model of human freedom that
you support. What were you doing there?

NC: Notice that you don't know what I did in Lebanon. You know what
the propaganda system said I did.

DS: That's why I was asking. Why were you there?

NC: I was invited to Lebanon by the secular left. Those were my
associations and my meetings. This last trip but also my previous
trip, I spent much more time with [Druze leader] Walid Jumblatt then
with --

DS: He's a great talker.

NC: You've met him?

DS: Yes.

NC: Within the Lebanese spectrum he's maybe the most open. But the
only thing that gets mentioned is that I was involved with Hezbollah.
Either you don't go to southern Lebanon at all, or you go in
connection with Hezbollah, because they run it. Furthermore, Hezbollah
is regarded, even by people like Jumblatt, as a national liberation
movement. The last trip I had -- happened to be -- I gave a talk on
May 25 at the UNESCO building, a talk run by the secular left. May 25
is a national holiday. It's liberation day. That's the day when Israel
is thrust out of Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Remember that Hezbollah happens to be the majority party.

DS: Hezbollah is not the majority party in Lebanon.

NC: It's part of a coalition. They won the last election with 53
percent of the vote. Because of the method of distributing seats, they
don't get the majority of parliament. So we're talking about basically
a majority coalition, which runs the south almost entirely. You can
like it or not like it.

I had been there before the war in 2006. It was a period of a lot of
excitement. I met a lot of people, visited the southern Lebanon
cultural centers. I wanted to see what had happened since. You want to
go back, so you go under the guidance of Hezbollah. There's no other
way to visit.

DS: Hezbollah is a highly militarized organization that runs South
Lebanon in a way that is hardly reflective of secular democratic

NC: It's interesting that secular Lebanese would not take that attitude.

DS: Most of them see Hezbollah as an extension of Iran.

AL No, they don't.

DS: They believe that the Iranians are trying to rip up their state.

NC: Ultra-right-wing Lebanese think that. But the person who organized
my trip was Fawwaz Trabulsi, the leading figure in the secular left.
And he insisted we go through Hezbollah, and he didn't look at it that
way. If you read Rami Khouri, you can't look at it that way. If you
get to the ultra-nationalist right, they do look at it that way. But
that's not Lebanon.

DS: In your work, there are two separate things that you've written
that touch on the political question of anti-Semitism and that I look
at together and try to reconcile. The first was the introduction you
wrote to a book by Robert Faurisson, who became notorious for writing
two letters to Le Monde denying that the gas chambers existed and
claiming that the suggestion that they did exist was part of a Jewish
plot or hoax.

NC: No, I didn't, actually that's more propaganda. That's more
propaganda. Are you asking why I would support Faurisson's right of
freedom of speech?

DS: Freedom of speech is one thing. Denial --

NC: Freedom of speech is the whole issue for me. I happen to be an
anti-Stalinist and an anti-Nazi, so I don't think that the state
should be granted the right to determine historical truth and to
punish people who deviate from it. That is the one and only issue. The
so-called introduction was a statement I was asked to write. It's
called "Some elementary remarks on freedom of expression." That's what
it's about: Freedom of expression.

NC: You were simply concerned about the attempt of the French state to
censor Faurisson, and you didn't care what he wrote?

NC: It's more than censoring. It's determining historical truth. The
issue at that time, if you actually read the title of his memoir, it
said, "Memoir in defense against those who accuse me of falsification
of history."

DS: Alan Dershowitz's critique of your engagement with Faurisson
centered around your use of the word "findings," which he said implied
that you believed that Faurisson's claims had some historical

NC: But that is just childish! I can talk about Stalin and say he
presented his findings -- or the Ku Klux Klan. I can say that John
Birch Society presented their findings and they were all worthless.
That means nothing. This is a desperate effort by extremist
ultra-nationalists to undermine any critical analysis. "Findings" is a
perfectly neutral word.

Furthermore it wasn't my word. It was a word that was in a petition,
of which I was one of 500 signers. I mean Iranian radical clerics
probably go after petitions that I signed, too. The word "findings" is
absolutely neutral. I can use it about the stuff that Alan Dershowitz
writes. As for the effort to try to turn a defense of freedom of
speech into support for the idea that the gas chambers didn't exist,
this is really desperation.

DS: The second thing I wanted to talk about was your critique on Znet
of the Walt and Mearsheimer article published in The London Review of
Books. I was grateful when I read your critique, because the thing
that puzzled me the most about their paper was how such an
unsophisticated understanding of American power could gain any
traction among intellectuals. American imperial policy in the Middle
East is shaped by the whims of a small coterie of Jews? Where does
this stuff come from?

NC: It's very simple. Did you ever study international relations?

DS: To my misfortune.

NC: Walt and Mearsheimer are realists -- what are called realists.
Realists have a doctrine that says that states are the actors in
international affairs and follow something called the "national
interest," which is some abstract ideal which is independent of the
interests of the corporate sector. What they see from that point of
view is that the United States is supposed to be pursuing its national
interest, and they know what the national interest is. The fact that
Intel and Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs don't agree with them is

From their point of view, then, somehow the United States is not
pursuing what they see as its national interest in the Middle East. So
there must be some extraneous factor that's driving it away from its
path of innocence and perfection.

DS: You have that very interesting remark at the end of your response,
where you describe the motivation behind their assertions as stemming
from the desire to salvage the Wilsonian idea of American innocence.

NC: They're not trying consciously. American innocence is built into
international relations theory. That's what American exceptionalism
means. If you read the founders of the theory, like Hans Morgenthau,
it's very straightforward. Hans Morgenthau was a smart guy, a very
decent guy, incidentally. He has a book called The Purpose of America.
He said the historical record doesn't conform with the purpose of
America, but that doesn't mean we don't have the purpose. In fact he
says, this is like atheists criticizing religion because people do bad
things. The truths are still there, even if the record conflicts with
them. That is the foundation of realist international relations

DS: Another comment that you had about Walt and Mearsheimer's argument
was: Well, who says this hasn't worked?

NC: It worked great. I think the same criticism holds of other
critiques of American policy. Take, say, the blowback theories. I like
Chalmers Johnson, he's a very good guy, but he argues that the U.S.
policy of installing the shah didn't work, because look at the
blowback. Didn't work? It worked perfectly for 25 years! That's a long
time in international affairs. Nobody plans for 50 years from now.

DS: You understand the State of Israel as having some independent
existence, coming from Jewish culture and history, aside from simply
being an American imperial vessel.

NC: It didn't become an American imperial vessel, if that's the right
term, until after '67. That was a choice. It's often misunderstood,
but in 1971, Israel had a very important decision to make. Sadat had
offered a full peace treaty. In return they were supposed to withdraw
from the Sinai. There were other conditions, but they didn't matter.
And they talked about it, and they decided not to accept it, because
they preferred expansion into the Sinai. If they had settled with
Egypt in '71, there'd be no security problem. Egypt was the only major
Arab force. And at that point, once you decide to sacrifice security
for expansion, you need a superpower patron. That's where the
dependence on U.S. power comes.

At the time I was writing that I thought that people who call
themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral
degeneration and ultimate destruction. And I think that was correct,

DS: It is possible for you to imagine a State of Israel that didn't
act as an extension of American power. But is it too late?

NC: No. I don't think so. It gets harder as time goes on. As they get
more -- as the occupation role becomes more powerful, that influences
the national culture. It gets harder to disentangle from that. They
have to face the fact -- they don't like to -- but they have to face
the fact that they're becoming an international pariah. Not because of
anti-Semitism, but because they're the only state that is occupying
another country in violation -- gross violation -- of international
law and U.N. Security Council orders.

DS: I'm no supporter of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land or of
state-sanctioned murder. But I always find something funny when people
criticize Israelis for their very real abuses at checkpoints, and then
you pick up the paper and you read that 40 people were wrongly killed
by U.S. soldiers at checkpoints in Afghanistan and no one was
punished. We blow up wedding parties with missiles fired from drones
over Pakistan and sometimes we pay money to the grieving families, but
no American is ever held responsible. I've come to the idea that part
of the outrage about Israeli abuses has an underlying unconscious
purpose of obscuring even grosser abuses that America commits
directly, as a matter of state policy.

NC: That they're killing Afghans is the least of it. How about
invading Iraq and destroying it? Killing hundreds of thousands of
people, driving millions into exile. Part of American national culture
is that we don't look at ourselves. In fact if you look at what I
write about Israel, it's overwhelmingly about the United States. It's
about U.S. support for the Israelis, not what Israel does. What Israel
does is not nice, but no state is nice.

But it's quite different for us. We don't support killings in the
eastern Congo. Or Chinese repression of dissidents. But we're
completely responsible for what Israel does. Israel isn't entirely an
American satellite, but pretty close to it. They couldn't do what
they're doing if it weren't for the decisive support of the United

DS: When you speak about Israeli crimes, do you feel that you have a
special responsibility to speak out as someone who comes from a
specific Jewish tradition, or do you simply speak as an American?

NC: There are many factors, as always. A sufficient factor is that the
United States is responsible. But of course there's a lot more.
Background. Childhood. Emotional connections. Friends. All sorts of
things. But they're kind of irrelevant to the fundamental issue, those
personal things. The fundamental issue is quite simple: Every U.S.
taxpayer is responsible for Israeli crimes. They can't carry them out
without the decisive military, economic, ideological, and diplomatic
support of the United States.

The United States destroyed Iraq. Of course that should be harshly
condemned. In fact I do it much more than I talk about Israel. In the
case of the Vietnam war, we basically destroyed three countries.
They'll never recover. Same with Nicaragua. Same with Cuba. Go on and
on. Same with Chile. That's what we ought to be concentrating on.
Israel happens to be a subcase of a larger problem. And yes, for me
personally, it's additional things.

DS: Those additional things -- namely, your parents, your childhood
memories, your sense of emotional connection --

NC: It's all there. You can't get out of your skin. But when we get
down to the moral issue, it's independent of one's personal

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