States: The Abuse Of Power
And The Assault On Democracy
By Noam Chomsky
01 April, 2006
The New York Times calls him "arguably the most important intellectual
The Boston Globe calls him
"America's most useful citizen"
He was recently voted the
world's number one intellectual in a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy
We're talking about Noam
Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and one of the foremost critics of U.S. foreign policy. Professor
Chomsky has just released a new book titled "Failed States: The
Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy."
It examines how the United
States is beginning to resemble a failed state that cannot protect its
citizens from violence and has a government that regards itself as beyond
the reach of domestic or international law.
In the book, Professor Noam
Chomsky presents a series of solutions to help rescue the nation from
turning into a failed state.
They include: Accept the
jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court;
Sign the Kyoto protocols on global warming; Let the United Nations take
the lead in international crises; Rely on diplomatic and economic measures
rather than military ones in confronting terror; and Sharply reduce
military spending and sharply increase social spending
In his first broadcast interview
upon the publication of his book, Professor Noam Chomsky joins us today
from Boston for the hour.
AMY GOODMAN: In this first broadcast interview upon publication of his
book, Professor Noam Chomsky joins us today from Boston for the hour.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Noam.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be
with you again.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to
have you with us. Failed States, what do you mean?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, over
the years there have been a series of concepts developed to justify
the use of force in international affairs for a long period. It was
possible to justify it on the pretext, which usually turned out to have
very little substance, that the U.S. was defending itself against the
communist menace. By the 1980s, that was wearing pretty thin. The Reagan
administration concocted a new category: terrorist states. They declared
a war on terror as soon as they entered office in the early 1980s, 1981.
‘We have to defend ourselves from the plague of the modern age,
return to barbarism, the evil scourge of terrorism,’ and so on,
and particularly state-directed international terrorism.
A few years later -- this
is Clinton -- Clinton devised the concept of rogue states. ‘It’s
1994, we have to defend ourselves from rogue states.’ Then, later
on came the failed states, which either threaten our security, like
Iraq, or require our intervention in order to save them, like Haiti,
often devastating them in the process. In each case, the terms have
been pretty hard to sustain, because it's been difficult to overlook
the fact that under any, even the most conservative characterization
of these notions -- let's say U.S. law -- the United States fits fairly
well into the category, as has often been recognized. By now, for example,
the category -- even in the Clinton years, leading scholars, Samuel
Huntington and others, observed that -- in the major journals, Foreign
Affairs -- that in most of the world, much of the world, the United
States is regarded as the leading rogue state and the greatest threat
to their existence.
By now, a couple of years
later, Bush years, same journals’ leading specialists don't even
report international opinion. They just describe it as a fact that the
United States has become a leading rogue state. Surely, it's a terrorist
state under its own definition of international terrorism, not only
carrying out violent terrorist acts and supporting them, but even radically
violating the so-called "Bush Doctrine," that a state that
harbors terrorists is a terrorist state. Undoubtedly, the U.S. harbors
leading international terrorists, people described by the F.B.I. and
the Justice Department as leading terrorists, like Orlando Bosch, now
Posada Carriles, not to speak of those who actually implement state
And I think the same is true
of the category “failed states.” The U.S. increasingly has
taken on the characteristics of what we describe as failed states. In
the respects that one mentioned, and also, another critical respect,
namely the -- what is sometimes called a democratic deficit, that is,
a substantial gap between public policy and public opinion. So those
suggestions that you just read off, Amy, those are actually not mine.
Those are pretty conservative suggestions. They are the opinion of the
majority of the American population, in fact, an overwhelming majority.
And to propose those suggestions is to simply take democracy seriously.
It's interesting that on these examples that you've read and many others,
there is an enormous gap between public policy and public opinion. The
proposals, the general attitudes of the public, which are pretty well
studied, are -- both political parties are, on most of these issues,
well to the right of the population.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Professor
Chomsky, in the early parts of the book, especially on the issue of
the one characteristic of a failed state, which is its increasing failure
to protect its own citizens, you lay out a pretty comprehensive look
at what the, especially in the Bush years, the war on terrorism has
meant in terms of protecting the American people. And you lay out clearly,
especially since the war, the invasion of Iraq, that terrorist, major
terrorist action and activity around the world has increased substantially.
And also, you talk about the dangers of a possible nuclear -- nuclear
weapons being used against the United States. Could you expand on that
a little bit?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there
has been a very serious threat of nuclear war. It's not -- unfortunately,
it's not much discussed among the public. But if you look at the literature
of strategic analysts and so on, they're extremely concerned. And they
describe particularly the Bush administration aggressive militarism
as carrying an “appreciable risk of ultimate doom,” to quote
one, “apocalypse soon,” to quote Robert McNamara and many
others. And there's good reasons for it, I mean, which could explain,
and they explain. That's been expanded by the Bush administration consciously,
not because they want nuclear war, but it's just not a high priority.
So the rapid expansion of offensive U.S. military capacity, including
the militarization of space, which is the U.S.'s pursuit alone. The
world has been trying very hard to block it. 95% of the expenditures
now are from the U.S., and they're expanding.
All of these measures bring
about a completely predictable reaction on the part of the likely targets.
They don't say, you know, ‘Thank you. Here are our throats. Please
cut them.’ They react in the ways that they can. For some, it
will mean responding with the threat or maybe use of terror. For others,
more powerful ones, it's going to mean sharply increasing their own
offensive military capacity. So Russian military expenditures have sharply
increased in response to Bush programs. Chinese expansion of offensive
military capacity is also beginning to increase for the same reasons.
All of that threatens -- raises the already severe threat of even --
of just accidental nuclear war. These systems are on computer-controlled
alert. And we know that our own systems have many errors, which are
stopped by human intervention. Their systems are far less secure; the
Russian case, deteriorated. These moves all sharply enhance the threat
of nuclear war. That's serious nuclear war that I'm talking about.
There's also the threat of
dirty bombs, small nuclear explosions. Small means not so small, but
in comparison with a major attack, which would pretty much exterminate
civilized life. The U.S. intelligence community regards the threat of
a dirty bomb, say in New York, in the next decade as being probably
greater than 50%. And those threats increase as the threat of terror
And Bush administration policies
have, again, consciously been carried out in a way, which they know
is likely to increase the threat of terror. The most obvious example
is the Iraq invasion. That was undertaken with the anticipation that
it would be very likely to increase the threat of terror and also nuclear
proliferation. And, in fact, that's exactly what happened, according
to the judgment of the C.I.A., National Intelligence Council, foreign
intelligence agencies, independent specialists. They all point out that,
yes, as anticipated, it increased the threat of terror. In fact, it
did so in ways well beyond what was anticipated.
To mention just one, we commonly
read that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. Well,
it's not totally accurate. There were means to develop weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq and known to be in Iraq. They were under guard by
U.N. inspectors, who were dismantling them. When Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz
and the rest sent in their troops, they neglected to instruct them to
guard these sites. The U.N. inspectors were expelled, the sites were
left unguarded. The inspectors continued their work by satellite and
reported that over a hundred sites had been looted, in fact, systematically
looted, not just somebody walking in, but careful looting. That included
dangerous biotoxins, means to hide precision equipment to be used to
develop nuclear weapons and missiles, means to develop chemical weapons
and so on. All of this has disappeared. One hates to imagine where it's
disappeared to, but it could end up in New York.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking
to Noam Chomsky, and we're going to come back with him. His new book,
just published, is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the
Assault on Democracy. We'll be back with Professor Chomsky in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking
to Professor Noam Chomsky, upon the release of his new book, Failed
States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Noam Chomsky,
a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I'm Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Professor
Chomsky, in your book you also talk about how Iraq has become almost
an incubator or a university now for advanced training for terrorists,
who then are leaving the country there and going around the world, very
much as what happened in the 1980s in Afghanistan. Could you talk about
NOAM CHOMSKY: Actually, that's
-- actually, these are just quotes from the C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence
agencies and analysts. Yes, they describe Iraq now as a training ground
for highly professionalized terrorists skilled in urban contact. They
do compare it to Afghanistan, but say that it's much more serious, because
of the high level of training and skill. These are almost entirely Iraqis.
There's a small number of foreign fighters drawn to Iraq. Estimates
are maybe 5% to 10%. And they are, as in the case of Afghanistan, are
expected to spread into throughout many parts of the world and to carry
out the kinds of terrorism that they're trained in, as a reaction to
-- clearly reaction to the invasion. Iraq was, whatever you thought
about it, was free from connections to terror prior to the invasion.
It's now a major terror center.
It's not as President Bush
says, that terrorists are being concentrated in Iraq so that we can
kill them. These are terrorists who had no previous record of involvement
in terrorism. The foreign fighters who have come in, mostly from Saudi
Arabia, have been investigated extensively by Saudi and Israeli and
U.S. intelligence, and what they conclude is that they were mobilized
by the Iraq war, no involvement in terrorist actions in the past. And
undoubtedly, just as expected, the Iraq war has raised an enormous hostility
throughout much of the world, and particularly the Muslim world.
It was the most -- probably
the most unpopular war in history, and even before it was fought. Virtually
no support for it anywhere, except the U.S. and Britain and a couple
of other places. And since the war itself was perhaps one of the most
incredible military catastrophes in history, has caused utter disaster
in Iraq and has -- and all of that has since simply intensified the
strong opposition to the war of the kind that you heard from that Indonesian
student of a few moments ago. But that's why it spread, and that's a
-- it increases the reservoir of potential support for the terrorists,
who regard themselves as a vanguard, attempting to elicit support from
others, bring others to join with them. And the Bush administration
is their leading ally in this. Again, not my words, the words of the
leading U.S. specialists on terror, Michael Scheuer in this case. And
definitely, that's happened.
And it's not the only case.
I mean, in case after case, the Bush administration has simply downgraded
the threat of terror. One example is the report of the 9/11 Commission.
Here in the United States, the Bush administration didn't want the commission
to be formed, tried to block it, but it was finally formed. Bipartisan
commission, gave many recommendations. The recommendations, to a large
extent, were not carried out. The commission members, including the
chair, were appalled by this, set up their own private commission after
their own tenure was completed, and continued to report that the measures
are simply not being carried out.
There are many other examples.
One of the most striking is the Treasury Department has a branch, the
Office of Financial Assets Control, which is supposed to monitor suspicious
funding transfers around the world. Well, that's a core element of the
so-called war on terror. They've given reports to Congress. It turns
out that they have a few officials devoted to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein,
but about -- I think it was -- six times that many devoted to whether
there are any evasions of the totally illegal U.S. embargo against Cuba.
There was an instance of
that just a few months ago, when the U.S. infuriated even energy corporations
by ordering a Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City to cancel a meeting between
Cuban oil specialists and U.S. oil companies, including some big ones,
seeking to explore the development of offshore Cuban oil resources.
The government ordered -- this OFAC ordered the hotel, the U.S. hotel,
to expel the Cubans and terminate the meeting. Mexico wasn't terribly
happy about this. It’s a extraordinary arrogance. But it also
reveals the hysterical fanaticism of the goal of strangling Cuba.
And we know why. It's a free
country. We have records going from way back, and a rich source of them
go back to the Kennedy-Johnson administrations. They had to carry out
a terrorist war against Cuba, as they did, and try to strangle Cuba
economically, because of Cuba's -- what they called Cuba's successful
defiance of U.S. policies, going back to the Monroe Doctrine. No Russians,
but the Monroe Doctrine, 150 years back at that time. And the goal was,
as was put very plainly by the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations,
to make the people of Cuba suffer. They are responsible for the fact
that the government is in place. We therefore have to make them suffer
and starve, so that they'll throw out the government. It's a policy,
which is pretty consistent. It’s being applied right now in Palestine.
It was applied under the Iraqi sanctions, plot in Chile, and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking
to Noam Chomsky, his new book, after he wrote Hegemony or Survival,
one of scores of books, if not a hundred books that Professor Chomsky
has written, his new one is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power
and the Assault on Democracy.
You mention Israel, Palestine,
and I wanted to ask you about this new study that's come out. A dean
at Harvard University and a professor at the University of Chicago are
coming under intense criticism for publishing an academic critique of
the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. The paper charges that the United
States has willingly set aside its own security and that of many of
its allies, in order to advance the interests of Israel. In addition,
the study accuses the pro-Israel lobby, particularly AIPAC, the America
Israel Public Affairs Committee, of manipulating the U.S. media, policing
academia and silencing critics of Israel by labeling them as anti-Semitic.
The study also examines the role played by the pro-Israel neoconservatives
in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The authors are the Stephen
Walt, a dean at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer
of the University of Chicago. They, themselves, are now being accused
of anti-Semitism. In Washington, a Democratic congressman, Eliot Engle
of New York, described the professors as dishonest so-called intellectuals
and anti-Semites. The Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse, called for the
paper to be withdrawn. Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz,
described the study as trash that could have been written by neo-Nazi
David Duke. The New York Sun reported Harvard has received several calls
from pro-Israel donors, expressing concern about the paper, and Harvard
has already taken steps to distance itself from the report. Last week,
it removed the logo of the Kennedy School of Government from the paper
and added a new disclaimer to the study. The report is 81 pages. It
was originally published on Harvard's website and an edited version
appeared in the London Review of Books.
The controversy comes less
than a year after Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz attempted to
block the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah:
On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Now, this goes
into a lot of issues: the content of the study, what you think of it,
the response to it and also the whole critique. In this country, what
happens to those who criticize the policies of the state of Israel?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the answer
to your last question is well described in Norman Finkelstein's quite
outstanding book and also in the record of Dershowitz’s attempts
to prevent its publication. Some of the documents were just published
in the Journal of Palestine Studies. Finkelstein's book gives an extensive
detailed account, the best one we have, of a frightening record of Israeli
crimes and abuses, where he relies on the most respectable sources,
the major human rights organizations, Israeli human rights organizations
and others, and demonstrates, just conclusively, that Alan Dershowitz's
defense of these atrocities, based on no evidence at all, is outrageous
comes under tremendous attack for being anti-Semitic, and so on. Now
that's pretty normal. It goes back, I suppose, to the distinguished
diplomat, Abba Eban -- it must be thirty years ago -- wrote in an American
Jewish journal that “the task of Zionists,” he said, “is
to show that all political anti-Zionism” – that means criticism
of the policies of the state of Israel – “is either anti-Semitism
or Jewish self-hatred.” Well, okay, that excludes all possible
criticism, by definition. As examples of neurotic Jewish self-hatred,
I should declare an interest. He mentioned two people. I was one; the
other was Izzy Stone.
Once you release the torrent
of abuse, you don't need arguments and evidence, you can just scream.
And Professors Walt and Mearsheimer deserve credit for publishing a
study, which they knew was going to elicit the usual streams of abuse
and hysteria from supporters of Israeli crimes and violence. However,
we should recognize that this is pretty uniform. Try to say a sane and
uncontroversial word about any other issue dear to the hearts of the
intellectual elite that they've turned into holy writ, you get the same
reaction. So – and there's no lobby, which does raise one of a
few minor points that raises questions about the validity of the critique.
It's a serious, careful piece
of work. It deserves to be read. They deserve credit for writing it.
But it still it leaves open the question of how valid the analysis is,
and I notice that there's a pretty subtle question involved. Everyone
agrees, on all sides, that there are a number of factors that enter
into determining U.S. foreign policy. One is strategic and economic
interests of the major power centers within the United States. In the
case of the Middle East, that means the energy corporations, arms producers,
high-tech industry, financial institutions and others. Now, these are
not marginal institutions, particularly in the Bush administration.
So one question is to what extent does policy reflect their interests.
Another question is to what extent is it influenced by domestic lobbies.
And there are other factors. But just these two alone, yes, they are
– you find them in most cases, and to try to sort out their influence
is not so simple. In particular, it's not simple when their interests
tend to coincide, and by and large, there's a high degree of conformity.
If you look over the record, what's called the national interest, meaning
the special interests of those with -- in whose hands power is concentrated,
the national interest, in that sense, tends to conform to the interests
of the lobbies. So in those cases, it's pretty hard to disentangle them.
If the thesis of the book
– the thesis of the book is that the lobbies have overwhelming
influence, and the so-called “national interest” is harmed
by what they do. If that were the case, it would be, I would think,
a very hopeful conclusion. It would mean that U.S. policy could easily
be reversed. It would simply be necessary to explain to the major centers
of power, like the energy corporations, high-tech industry and arms
producers and so on, just explain to them that they've – that
their interests are being harmed by this small lobby that screams anti-Semitism
and funds congressmen, and so on. Surely those institutions can utterly
overwhelm the lobby in political influence, in finance, and so on, so
that ought to reverse the policy.
Well, it doesn't happen,
and there are a number of reasons for it. For one thing, there's an
underlying assumption that the so-called national interest has been
harmed by these policies. Well, you know, you really have to demonstrate
that. So who's been harmed? Have the energy corporations been harmed
by U.S. policy in the Middle East over the last 60 years? I mean, they're
making profits beyond the dream of avarice, as the main government investigation
of them reported. Even more today – that was a couple years ago.
Has the U.S. – the main concern of the U.S. has been to control
what the State Department 60 years ago called “a stupendous source
of strategic power,” Middle East oil. Yeah, they’ve controlled
it. There have been – in fact, the invasion of Iraq was an attempt
to intensify that control. It may not do it. It may have the opposite
effect, but that's a separate question. It was the intent, clearly.
There have been plenty of
barriers. The major barrier is the one that is the usual one throughout
the world: independent nationalism. It’s called “radical
nationalism,” which was serious. It was symbolized by Nasser,
but also Kassem in Iraq, and others. Well, the U.S. did succeed in overcoming
that barrier. How? Israel destroyed Nasser. That was a tremendous service
to the United States, to U.S. power, that is, to the energy corporations,
to Saudi Arabia, to the main centers of power here, and in fact, it's
in – that was 1967, and it was after that victory that the U.S.-Israeli
relations really solidified, became what's called a “strategic
It's also then that the lobby
gained its force. It's also then, incidentally, that the educated classes,
the intellectual political class entered into an astonishing love affair
with Israel, after its demonstration of tremendous power against a third-world
enemy, and in fact, that's a very critical component of what's called
the lobby. Walt and Mearsheimer mention it, but I think it should be
emphasized. And they are very influential. They determine, certainly
influence, the shaping of news and information in journals, media, scholarship,
and so on. My own feeling is they're probably the most influential part
of the lobby. Now, we sort of have to ask, what's the difference between
the lobby and the power centers of the country?
But the barriers were overcome.
Israel has performed many other services to the United States. You can
run through the record. It's also performed secondary services. So in
the 1980s, particularly, Congress was imposing barriers to the Reagan
administration's support for and carrying out major terrorist atrocities
in Central America. Israel helped evade congressional restrictions by
carrying out training, and so on, itself. The Congress blocked U.S.
trade with South Africa. Israel helped evade the embargo to all the
– both the racist regimes of Southern Africa, and there have been
many other cases. By now, Israel is virtually an offshore U.S. military
base and high-tech center in the Middle East.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky,
we have to break for stations to identify themselves, but we'll come
back. Professor Noam Chomsky is our guest for the hour. His latest book
has just been published, and it’s called Failed States: The Abuse
of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today is Professor Noam Chomsky. His new book
is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Noam
Chomsky, longtime professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
world-renowned linguist and political analyst. I'm Amy Goodman, here
with Juan Gonzalez. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Professor
Chomsky, in your book you have a fascinating section, where you talk
about the historical basis of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, and
also its relationship to empire or to the building of a U.S. empire.
And you go back, you mention a historian, John Lewis Gaddis, who the
Bush administration loves, because he's actually tried to find the historical
rationalization for this use, going back to John Quincy Adams and as
Secretary of State in the invasion by General Andrew Jackson of Florida
in the Seminole Wars, and how this actually is a record of the use of
this idea to continue the expansionist aims of the United States around
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, that's
a very interesting case, actually. John Lewis Gaddis is not only the
favorite historian of the Reagan administration, but he's regarded as
the dean of Cold War scholarship, the leading figure in the American
Cold War scholarship, a professor at Yale. And he wrote the one, so
far, book-length investigation into the roots of the Bush Doctrine,
which he generally approves, the usual qualifications about style and
so on. He traces it is back, as you say, to his hero, the great grand
strategist, John Quincy Adams, who wrote a series of famous state papers
back in 1818, in which he gave post facto justification to Andrew Jackson's
invasion of Florida. And it's rather interesting.
Gaddis is a good historian.
He knows the sources, cites all the right sources. But he doesn't tell
you what they say. So what I did in the book is just add what they say,
what he omitted. Well, what they describe is a shocking record of atrocities
and crimes carried out against what were called runaways Negros and
lawless Indians, devastated the Seminoles. There was another major Seminole
war later, either exterminated them or drove them into the marshes,
completely unprovoked. There were fabricated pretexts. Gaddis talks
about the threat of England. There was no threat from England. England
didn't do a thing. In fact, even Adams didn't claim that. But it was
what Gaddis calls an -- it established what Gaddis calls the thesis
that expansion is the best guarantee of security. So you want to be
secure, just expand, conquer more. Then you'll be secure.
And he says, yes, that goes
right through all American administrations -- he's correct about that
-- and is the centerpiece of the Bush Doctrine. So he says the Bush
Doctrine isn't all that new. Expansion is the key to security. So we
just expand and expand, and then we become more secure. Well, you know,
he doesn't mention the obvious precedents that come to mind, so I'll
leave them out, but you can think of them. And there's some truth to
that, except for what he ignores and, in fact, denies, namely the huge
atrocities that are recorded in the various sources, scholarly sources
that he cites, which also point out that Adams, by giving this justification
for Jackson's war -- he was alone in the administration to do it, but
he managed to convince the President -- he established the doctrine
of executive wars without congressional authorization, in violation
of the Constitution. Adams later recognized that and was sorry for it,
and very sorry, but that established it and, yes, that's been consistent
ever since then: executive wars without congressional authorization.
We know of case after case. It doesn't seem to bother the so-called
originalists who talk about original intent.
But that aside, he also --
the scholarship that Gaddis cites but doesn't quote also points out
that Adams established other principles that are consistent from then
until now, namely massive lying to the public, distortion, evoking hysterical
fears, all kinds of deceitful efforts to mobilize the population in
support of atrocities. And yes, that continues right up to the present,
as well. So there's very interesting historical record. What it shows
is almost the opposite of what Gaddis claims and what the Reagan --
the Bush administration -- I think I said Reagan -- the Bush administration
likes. And it's right out of the very sources that he refers to, the
right sources, the right scholarship. He simply ignores them. But, yes,
the record is interesting.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky,
I wanted to ask you a question. As many people know, you're perhaps
one of the most cited sources or analysis in the world. And I thought
this was an interesting reference to these citations. This was earlier
this month, program, Tim Russert, Meet the Press, questioning the head
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.
TIM RUSSERT: Mr. Jaafari
said that one of his favorite American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky,
someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and
against most of the Bush administration foreign policy. Does that concern
GEN. PETER PACE: I hope
he has more than one book on his nightstand.
TIM RUSSERT: So it troubles
GEN. PETER PACE: I would
be concerned if the only access to foreign ideas that the Prime Minister
had was that one author. If, in fact, that's one of many, and he's digesting
many different opinions, that's probably healthy.
AMY GOODMAN: That's General
Peter Pace, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, being questioned by Tim
Russert, talking about Jaafari, who at this very moment is struggling
to be -- again, to hold on to his position as prime minister of Iraq.
Your response, Noam Chomsky?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I, frankly,
rather doubt that General Pace recognized my name or knew what he was
referring to, but maybe he did. The quote from Tim Russert, if I recall,
was that this was a book that was highly critical of the Iraq war. Well,
that shouldn't surprise a prime minister of Iraq. After all, according
to U.S. polls, the latest ones I've seen reported, Brookings Institution,
87%, 87% of Iraqis want a timetable for withdrawal. That's an astonishing
figure. If it really is all Iraqis, as was asserted. That means virtually
everyone in Arab Iraq, the areas where the troops are deployed. I, frankly,
doubt that you could have found figures like that in Vichy, France,
or, you know, Poland under -- when it was a Russian satellite.
What it means essentially
is that virtually everyone wants a timetable for withdrawal. So, would
it be surprising that a prime minister would read a book that's critical
of the war and says the same thing? It's interesting that Bush and Blair,
who are constantly preaching about their love of democracy, announce,
declare that there will be no timetable for withdrawal. Well, that part
probably reflects the contempt for democracy that both of them have
continually demonstrated, them and their colleagues, virtually without
But there are deeper reasons,
and we ought to think about them. If we're talking about exit strategies
from Iraq, we should bear in mind that for the U.S. to leave Iraq without
establishing a subordinate client state would be a nightmare for Washington.
All you have to do is think of the policies that an independent Iraq
would be likely to pursue, if it was mildly democratic. It would almost
surely strengthen its already developed relations with Shiite Iran right
next door. Any degree of Iraqi autonomy stimulates autonomy pressures
across the border in Saudi Arabia, where there's a substantial Shiite
population, who have been bitterly repressed by the U.S.-backed tyranny
but is now calling for more autonomy. That happens to be where most
of Saudi oil is. So, what you can imagine -- I'm sure Washington planners
are having nightmares about this -- is a potential -- pardon?
JUAN GONZALEZ: I would like
to ask you, in terms of this whole issue of democracy, in your book
you talk about the democracy deficit. Obviously, the Bush administration
is having all kinds of problems with their -- even their model of democracy
around the world, given the election results in the Palestinian territories,
the situation now in Iraq, where the President is trying to force out
the Prime Minister of the winning coalition there, in Venezuela, even
in Iran. Your concept of the democracy deficit, and why this administration
is able to hold on in the United States itself?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there
are two aspects of that. One is, the democracy deficit internal to the
United States, that is, the enormous and growing gap between public
opinion and public policy. Second is their so-called democracy-promotion
mission elsewhere in the world. The latter is just pure fraud. The only
evidence that they're interested in promoting democracy is that they
say so. The evidence against it is just overwhelming, including the
cases you mentioned and many others. I mean, the very fact that people
are even willing to talk about this shows that we're kind of insisting
on being North Koreans: if the Dear Leader has spoken, that establishes
the truth; it doesn't matter what the facts are. I go into that in some
detail in the book.
The democracy deficit at
home is another matter. How have -- I mean, they have an extremely narrow
hold on political power. Their policies are strongly opposed by most
of the population. How do they carry this off? Well, that's been through
an intriguing mixture of deceit, lying, fabrication, public relations.
There's actually a pretty good study of it by two good political scientists,
Hacker and Pearson, who just run through the tactics and how it works.
And they have barely managed to hold on to political power and are attempting
to use it to dismantle the institutional structure that has been built
up over many years with enormous popular support -- the limited benefits
system; they’re trying to dismantle Social Security and are actually
making progress on that; to the tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the rich,
are creating -- are purposely creating a future situation, first of
all, a kind of fiscal train wreck in the future, but also a situation
in which it will be virtually impossible to carry out the kinds of social
policies that the public overwhelmingly supports.
And to manage to carry this
off has been an impressive feat of manipulation, deceit, lying, and
so on. No time to talk about it here, but actually my book gives a pretty
good account. I do discuss it in the book. That's a democratic deficit
at home and an extremely serious one. The problems of nuclear war, environmental
disaster, those are issues of survival, the top issues and the highest
priority for anyone sensible. Third issue is that the U.S. government
is enhancing those threats. And a fourth issue is that the U.S. population
is opposed, but is excluded from the political system. That's a democratic
deficit. It's one we can deal with, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky,
we're going to have to leave it there for now. But part two of our interview
will air next week. Professor Noam Chomsky's new book, just published,
is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.