George Bush were to be judged by the standards
of the Nuremberg Tribunals, he'd be hanged. So
too, mind you, would every single American President
since the end of the second world war, including
suggestion comes from perhaps the most feted liberal
intellectual in the world - the American linguist
Noam Chomsky. His latest attack on the way his
country behaves in the world is called Hegemony
or Survival, America's Quest for Global Dominance.
Paxman met him at the British Museum, where they
talked in the Assyrian Galleries. He asked him
whether he was suggesting there was nothing new
in the so-called Bush Doctrine.
CHOMSKY: Well, it depends. It is recognised to
be revolutionary. Henry Kissinger for example
described it as a revolutionary new doctrine which
tears to shreds the Westphalian System, the 17th
century system of International Order and of course
the UN Charter. But nevertheless, and has been
very widely criticised within the foreign policy
elite. But on narrow ground the doctrine is not
really new, it's extreme.
PAXMAN: What was the United States supposed to
do after 9/11? It had been the victim of a grotesque,
intentional attack, what was it supposed to do
CHOMSKY: Why pick 9/11? Why not pick 1993. Actually
the fact that the terrorist act succeeded in September
11th did not alter the risk analysis. In 1993,
similar groups, US trained Jihadi's came very
close to blowing up the World Trade Center, with
better planning, they probably would have killed
tens of thousands of people. Since then it was
known that this is very likely. In fact right
through the 90's there was technical literature
predicting it, and we know what to do. What you
do is police work. Police work is the way to stop
terrorist acts and it succeeded.
PAXMAN: But you are suggesting the United States
in that sense is the author of Its own Nemesis.
CHOMSKY: Well, first of all this is not my opinion.
It's the opinion of just about every specialist
on terrorism. Take a look, say at Jason Burke's
recent book on Al-Qaeda which is just the best
book there is. What he points out is, he runs
through the record of how each act of violence
has increased recruitment financing mobilisation,
what he says is, I'm quoting him, that each act
of violence is a small victory for Bin Laden.
PAXMAN: But why do you imagine George Bush behaves
CHOMSKY: Because I don't think they care that
much about terror, in fact we know that. Take
say the invasion of Iraq, it was predicted by
just about every specialist by intelligence agencies
that the invasion of Iraq would increase the threat
of Al-Qaeda style terror which is exactly what
happened. The point is that...
PAXMAN: Then why would he do it?
CHOMSKY: Because invading Iraq has value in Itself,
I mean establishing...
PAXMAN: Well what value?
CHOMSKY: What value? Establishing the first secure
military base in a dependant client state at the
heart of the energy producing region of the world.
PAXMAN: Don't you even think that the people of
Iraq are better off having got rid of a dictator?
CHOMSKY: That, they got rid of two brutal regimes,
one that we are supposed to talk about, the other
one we are not suppose to talk about. The two
brutal regimes were Saddam Hussein's and the US-British
sanctions, which were devastating society, had
killed hundreds of thousands of people, were forcing
people to be reliant on Saddam Hussein. Now the
sanctions could obviously have been turned to
weapons rather than destroying society without
an invasion. If that had happened it is not at
all impossible that the people of Iraq would have
sent Saddam Hussein the same way to the same fate
as other monsters supported by the US and Britain.
Ceausescu, Suharto, Duvalier, Marcos, there's
a long list of them. In fact the people, the westerners
who know Iraq best were predicting this all along.
PAXMAN: You seem to be suggesting or implying,
perhaps I'm being unfair to you, but you seem
to be implying there is some equivalence between
democratically elected heads of state like George
Bush or Prime Ministers like Tony Blair and regimes
in places like Iraq.
CHOMSKY: The term moral equivalence is an interesting
one, it was invented I think by Jeane Kirkpatrick
as a method of trying to prevent criticism of
foreign policy and state decisions. It has a meaning
less notion, there is no moral equivalence what
PAXMAN: Is it a good thing if it is preferable
for an individual to live in a liberal democracy,
is there benefit to be gained by spreading the
values of that democracy however you can?
CHOMSKY: That reminds me of the question that
Ghandi was once asked about western civilisation,
what did he think of it. He said yeah, it would
be a good idea. In fact it would be a good idea
to spread the values of liberal democracy, but
that I would be a good idea to spread the values
of liberal democracy. But that's not what the
US and Britain are trying to do, it's not what
they've done in the past, I mean take a look at
the regions under their domination. They don't
spread liberal democracy. What they spread is
dependence and subordination. Furthermore its
well- known there is a large part of the reason
for the reason the great opposition to the US
policy within the Middle East. In fact this was
known in the 1950's.
PAXMAN: But there is a whole slur of countries
in eastern Europe right now that would say we
are better off now than we were when we were living
under the Soviet Empire. As a consequence of how
the west behaved.
CHOMSKY: Well, and there is a lot of countries
in US domains, like Central America, the Caribbean
who wish that they could be free of American domination.
We don't pay much attention to what happens there
but they do. In the 1980s when the current incumbents
were in their Reganite phase. Hundreds of thousands
of people were slaughtered in Central America.
The US carried out a massive terrorist attack
against Nicaragua, mainly as a war on the church.
They assassinated an Archbishop and murdered six
leading Jesuit intellectuals. This is in El Salvador.
It was a monstrous period. What did they impose?
Was it liberal democracies? No.
PAXMAN: You've mentioned on two or three occasions
this relationship between the United States and
Britain. Do you understand why Tony Blair behaved
as he did over Afghanistan and Iraq?
CHOMSKY: Well, if you look at the British diplomatic
history, back in the 1940s, Britain had to make
a decision. Britain had been the major world power,
the United States though by far the richest country
in the world was not a major actor in the global
scene, except regionally. By the Second World
War it was obvious the US was going to be the
dominant power, everyone knew that. Britain had
to make a choice. Was it going to be part of what
would ultimately be a Europe that might move towards
independence, or would it be what the Foreign
Office called a junior partner to the United States?
Well it essentially made that choice to be a junior
partner to the United States. US, the leaders
have no illusions about this. So during the Cuban
missile crisis for example, you look at the declassified
record, they treated Britain with total contempt.
Harold McMillan wasn't even informed of what was
going on and Britain's existence was at stake.
It was dangerous. One high official, probably
Dean Atchers and he's not identified, described
Britain as in his words "Our lieutenant, the fashionable
word is partner". Well the British would like
to hear the fashionable word, but the masters
use the actual word. Those are choices Britain
has to make. I mean why Blair decided, I couldn't
PAXMAN: Noam Chomsky, thank you.
Posted: May 23, 2004