From Bolivia to Baghdad: Noam Chomsky on Creating Another World in a Time of War, Empire and Devastation
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/19/1433244
World-renowned scholar and linguist Noam Chomsky spoke this weekend at an event titled, "What's Next? Creating Another World in a Time of War, Empire and Devastation." Chomsky spoke about the Iraq Study Group report, recent elections in Latin America, the current situation with Iran and much more. [includes rush transcript - partial]
World-renowned scholar and linguist Noam Chomsky spoke this weekend at an event sponsored by Massachusetts Global Action. The event titled, "What's Next? Creating Another World in a Time of War, Empire and Devastation" was held at the Emmanuel Church in Boston. Chomsky, who is a professor of Linguistics at MIT, returned from Latin America in October. He talked about the recent elections in the region, which have brought leftist, governments to power that are challenging U.S foreign policy. Chomsky also spoke about Iraq and Iran in the context of Latin America.
In this excerpt, he begins by analyzing the recently released Iraq Study Group report that was chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker.
Chomsky begins by talking about the recent South America Summit meeting, held earlier this month in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
- Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology speaking last weekend at an event sponsored by Massachusetts Global Action.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we bring you world-renowned scholar and linguist Noam Chomsky, who spoke a few days ago in an event sponsored by Massachusetts Global Action. The speech was called "What's Next? Creating Another World in a Time of War, Empire and Devastation." It was held at the Emmanuel Church in Boston.
Chomsky is a professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He recently returned from Latin America. He talked about the recent elections in the region, which have brought leftist governments to power that are challenging US foreign policy. Chomsky also talked about Iraq and Iran in the context of Latin America.
In this excerpt, he begins by analyzing the recently released Iraq Study Group report that was chaired by the former Secretary of State James Baker.
NOAM CHOMSKY: There are efforts to try to extricate the US from the US power -- doesn’t matter much to the people, but US power -- from the catastrophes it’s created for itself. The most recent such effort, right on the front pages now -- so I’ll keep to that one -- is the Baker-Hamilton report, the Iraq Study Group report, which has some interesting features. Very interesting.
For example, one of its -- it doesn’t have much in the way of proposals -- but the thinking is interesting. So here's one paragraph, refers to recent polls in Iraq. The US government and polling agencies here take regular polls in Iraq. They care a lot about Iraqi opinion. And this points out that recent polling indicates that 79% of Iraqis have a mostly negative view of the influence that the United States has in their country, and 61% of Iraqis -- includes Kurds -- approve of attacks on US-led forces. Well, that's clearly a problem. And we have to deal with that problem by changing tactics, so they'll understand that we really love them and we’re trying to help them and they'll stop thinking they ought to attack us and hating us, and so on. OK, that was the proposal.
There's something missing. The same polls that they cited have some other information, for example, that two-thirds of the people of Baghdad want US troops out immediately, and about over three-quarters of the whole population, including Kurds, again, wants a firm timetable for withdrawal within a year or less. Well, that isn’t mentioned, because in our mission to bring democracy to the world, we don’t care about the opinions of people. They’re kind of irrelevant, so that isn't mentioned. And, of course, there's no timetable for withdrawal. That’s one of the options they rejected.
Also interesting is that the American people are treated the same way. A majority of people here are in favor of a firm timetable for withdrawal. But that's irrelevant, too. In fact, back as far as April 2003, considerable majority of people here in the United States were in favor of keeping US troops there only if they were under UN supervision. The UN ought to take responsibility for security, for economic development, reconstruction, for democratic development, and so on. But that opinion was, of course, totally ignored and, to my knowledge, not even reported.
Now, that continues, if that attitude continues, the next big problem, next to Iraq, is Iran. And the Baker-Hamilton Commission, as you know, gave a recommendation about that. It said the US must somehow engage Iran, but they said that that’s going to be problematic given the state of US-Iranian relationships. Well, the US population has an opinion about that, too. 75% of the population here, including a majority of Republicans, think that the United States ought to keep to diplomatic peaceful measures in engagement with Iran, which they approve of, and not use military threats -- exact opposite of the policy.
The same attitudes are true of the people of the region. They don't like Iran, and they don’t certainly [inaudible] nuclear-armed Iran, but a majority of the population of the regional states favors a nuclear-armed Iran to any form of military intervention, just as people here do. Well, that's kind of irrelevant, so that’s also not mentioned in the report.
A third interesting fact about the report is that it says the United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East -- of course, taken for granted they must achieve those goals. It doesn't mean the people of the United States, it means the government and their constituency. The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. And then goes on to say that the US must encourage discussions and so on, but restricting and allowing Palestinians to participate, but only those who accept Israel's right to exist. OK, those are the only Palestinians who can participate. What about Israelis who accept Palestine's right to exist? Well, no point in mentioning them, because there probably aren't any.
And, in fact, there shouldn't be any. No state has a right to exist. It's obvious. In fact, the whole concept, right to exist, as far as I’m aware -- somebody should -- it’s a good research project for someone -- to my knowledge, that concept was created in the 1970s when the Arab States and the PLO accepted, formally accepted -- PLO tacitly, the Arab States formally, the major ones -- formally accepted Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized borders, borrowing the wording of the major UN resolution, UN 242. So it became necessary to raise the barrier to prevent negotiations diplomacy and to allow expansion instead.
And here comes right to exist, which, of course, nobody is going to accept. It means accepting not only the fact of the expulsion of Palestinians, but also its legitimacy. No state in the world is ever going to accept that, any more than Mexico accepts the -- it recognizes the United States, but it does not recognize the legitimacy of the US conquest of half of Mexico -- outlandish.
But even if we reduce it from the crazy notion of right to exist to just recognizing Palestine, how many -- who -- recognizing Israel, suppose we limit Palestinians to those who recognize Israel, which Israelis recognize Palestine? Does the United States recognize Palestine? I mean, I won’t run through the history here, but for 30 years, the US and Israel have, with rare exceptions, been unilaterally preventing the establishment of a broad international consensus on a two-state settlement. I mean, they're willing now, in the last couple of years, only the last couple of years, to accept a very truncated Palestine that’s dismembered, surrounded -- no chance of viable existence. Maybe they'll recognize that. A couple of Bantustans, but not any viable state.
AMY GOODMAN: We are watching and listening to Noam Chomsky, giving an address last week in Boston. When we come back, we'll turn to the segment of his speech where he talks about Latin America, from which he just returned. Stay with us.