Chomsky: 'The center of the Bush administration isn't different from what Clinton or Obama say.'
Noam Chomsky, one of America's favorite radicals, established himself as a world-renown linguist, then rose to political prominence in the 1960s as a vociferous critic of American foreign policy.
Born in Philadelphia, Chomsky has received more than 35 honorary degrees from universities around the world. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, he is the eighth most cited scholar of any time period. More than 20 authors have written books about him and his ideas. Chomsky himself has published a combination of more than 70 books or essays of radical left political thought, as well as dozens of works on linguistics.
Chomsky has long called America the world's leading terrorist state, winning fans among world leaders like Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who recommended one of Chomsky's works, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, during a speech before United Nation Security Council in 2006.
Chomsky, 79, spoke recently to The Daily Page about Iraq's sectarian violence and what foreign policy changes to anticipate should Democrats win the White House.
The Daily Page: You've attributed declines in Iraq's sectarian violence to the successful ethnic cleansing campaigns of various groups that have left fewer targets for violence. Do you think the troop surge was ineffective?
Chomsky: Everyone says that, not just me. Everyone says there was a substantial ethnic cleansing and there's much more segregation so people don't kill people in their community because those of the opposite sect are gone. But there are a number of other factors. One is that there are fewer people to kill....
In a poll the military released last December, which it was presented as good news, there's a lot of shared beliefs among the Iraqis from all of the regions. One [of these beliefs] is that all of the atrocities in Iraq, including the sectarian violence, are the fault of the American invasion. [Another] is that the Americans should get out and leave the place to the Iraqis, in which case violence will decline.
Do you anticipate any major changes in foreign policy should Clinton or Obama become the next president?
No. I mean, it'll be a little different. Almost anybody who becomes president will back away somewhat from the extremist stand of the Bush administration. They're really off the spectrum, which is why they've always gotten such extensive criticism. But if you look at the mainstream, it's not that much different. It won't be as brazen or extremist, but the principles are pretty much the same.
The Bush administration did finally announce formally what its goals are and hence the reasons for the invasion. There will be a good amount of military bases, like the kind they've been building. The United States has been demanding the right to carry out combat operations at will. And rather surprising to me, they were pretty brazen about the economic demands. The declaration states that Iraq will be open to foreign investment, privileging U.S. investors.
The center of the Bush administration isn't different from what Clinton or Obama say, mainly that all of them agree that America is free to violate international law and norms at will and the way they put it is that "all options are on the table." Meaning, if we want to bomb Iran we have a right to do it. Even the threats are crimes. They're against the U.N. Charter, but no one cares about that in an outlaw state.
Do you think President Bush will launch a military strike against Iran before he leaves office or back an Israeli strike?
I don't think it's very likely. For one thing, the world is overwhelmingly opposed to it, even the neighboring countries. The U.S. military appears to be opposed as much as they talk, and they don't think they have the force to do it after the wreckage of Iraq. But you can't tell. Cheney may want to go down in a blaze of glory.
Where do you see the war against terrorism landing us?
There is no war against terrorism. The Bush administration announced a war against terrorism. In fact, they re-declared it. Reagan had declared it 20 years earlier. On the other hand, they've acted in such a way as to increase terrorism, because it's not a high priority to them, and it's conscious.
Take the invasion of Iraq. It was undertaken with the expectation from intelligence agencies and others that it would increase terrorism, and it did, way beyond what was anticipated. So the latest studies indicate that what they call the Iraq Effect -- the effect of Iraq on terrorism -- has increased terrorism by a factor of seven. And there are many other cases like that, where they've acted in a way that increases terrorism. So, what is the war on terrorism?
What is it?
It's the same as it was for Reagan when he announced it in 1981. They said the core of our foreign policy will be the struggle against international terrorism, the plague of the modern age, the return to barbarism in our time. The media likes to pretend they don't remember that, but it's worth remembering.
Reagan and his advisors acted on that. They launched major international terrorism campaigns. They quickly turned the United States into the leading sponsor of international terrorism of the world, within a couple of years, in Central America, the Middle East, Southern Africa and elsewhere, but it was [billed as] a war against terrorism. That was a way of rallying the population to support their own atrocities, which is pretty much what happened this time.
You expect that if the Democrats take the White House they'll carry on that legacy?
They won't carry on the policies with the same arrogant extremism and brazen contempt for the world which has turned the United States into a pariah state. They'll do it in a more modulated form.
Take the famous Bush Doctrine that everyone was so upset about. The doctrine announced in the national security strategy in 2002, which announced that the United States has the right to carry out preemptive war against anyone it perceives as a threat. There was a lot of criticism of that right in the mainstream.
Now, what was the Clinton Doctrine? It was literally more extreme. The Clinton doctrine said that the United States has the right to use military force to protect markets and access to resources. It didn't even say we needed a pretext the way the Bush Doctrine did. But Clinton said quietly, in a way that wasn't offensive. It wasn't so brazen that it alienated allies. But that was the doctrine. What is the difference?