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16 August 2008

Three additional 2008 interviews with Professor Chomsky

Chomsky on the Kurds. With Namo Abdulla, Kurdish Aspect. August 11, 2008.

US public irrelevant. With Avi Lewis, Al-Jazeera. June 30, 2008.

Benazir's martyrdom may exacerbate unrest in Sindh. With Farad Faruqui, AAJ TV. February 2, 2008.

New Beck: Modern Guilt

15 August 2008

Nader on NPR's "Talk of the Nation"

Starts at 12:35.

14 August 2008

After Ron Suskind Reveals Bush Admin Ordered Iraq-9/11 Fakery, House Judiciary Chair John Conyers Opens Congressional Probe

13 August 2008

Bill Maher Pounds on Rightwingers' Hatred (Faked) of France

The Genius of Charles Darwin: Life, Darwin, and Everything. A New Series with Richard Dawkins

So, you'll be getting a hyperselectionist view, but it's probably worth watching.

Part 1:

Parts 2 and 3 coming soon, I assume....

Chomsky Interview: American Foreign Policy After Bush, 8/1/08

Untitled interview
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Thordur Sveinsson, Campaign Against Militarism in Iceland
E-mail correspondence, August 1, 2008

SVEINSSON: Do you think that American foreign policy might change after the presidential elections in November, and does it matter in that respect whether McCain or Obama will be elected?

CHOMSKY: The political spectrum is quite narrow, and it is of some significance that on a host of major issues, both political parties are well to the right of the general population. Nevertheless, there are differences, and in a system of huge power, small differences can have large effects. The Bush administration is far to the radical ultranationalist extreme of the spectrum, and it has caused so much damage to the interests of state-corporate power that there is likely to be a shift towards the center, less so with McCain than with Obama, who will probably be a Clinton-style centrist Democrat.

SVEINSSON: Do you think that threats against Iran are grounded in the possibility of that country acquiring nuclear weapons or some other reasons - and if so, then what do you think really motivates US policy towards Iran?

CHOMSKY: The powerful and privileged regard history as bunk. The victims do not have that luxury. Even if Westerners prefer to live in a comfortable state of denial, Iranians are well aware that for over half a century, the US has been torturing Iran. In 1953, the US-UK overthrew the Iranian parliamentary system and installed a tyrant, the Shah, who ruled with extreme brutality and with enthusiastic US support until he was overthrown in 1979. It is worth remembering that the current uranium enrichment programs in Iran, as far as is known, are similar to those strongly supported by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Wolfowitz and others like them while Iran was ruled by the US-backed tyrant. Immediately after the overthrow of the Shah, the US turned to efforts to subvert the regime from within. Reagan backed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, with ample aid and crucial military and diplomatic support. Bush I went so far as to invite Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US in 1989 for advanced training in weapons design. After US intervention virtually compelled Iran to capitulate, the US imposed harsh sanctions on Iran. Bush II rejected efforts by Iran to negotiate all outstanding issues. The US not only rejects meaningful diplomacy, but both political parties issue regular threats of destruction of Iran, of course in violation of the UN Charter, but also in violation of the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans, who are as irrelevant to policy-making as the rest of the world. It is unmentionable in the US that most of the world, including most Americans, support Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and still more significant, that a large majority of Americans call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. If the US were a functioning democracy, in which public opinion mattered, this confrontation could probably be settled amicably.

The history of US-Iran relations strongly indicates that fear of nuclear weapons is not driving policy. If it were, Washington could join Iran, the Arab States, and the large majority of American citizens in working to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons. Even though US intelligence concluded "with high confidence" that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran does have such a program, and if so, the reasons are pretty clear: as pointed out by Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, after the invasion of Iraq, if Iran is not developing nuclear weapons as a deterrent against the US, they are "crazy." The Iranian regime should be harshly criticized on many counts, but the Nazi-style Iranian threat that is conjured up by propaganda is hardly more than a cry of desperation by those who claim the right to rule the world and regard any sign of disobedience or independence, particularly in a region so significant for world control, as criminal aggression.

SVEINSSON: Which countries do you think might possibly support military action against Iran?

CHOMSKY: Israel. Probably Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. It's hard to imagine that even Britain would go along, though there is enough fear of the US so that reactions might be muted.

SVEINSSON: What do you think is the purpose of the proposed missile defense system which the US plans to deploy in Eastern Europe? Is it meant to protect Western countries against "rogue states" or might the purpose be somewhat else?

CHOMSKY: I'll simply quote myself, from another op-ed distributed by the NYT syndicate:

Ballistic missile defense programs are understood on all sides to be a first-strike weapon, perhaps capable of nullifying a retaliatory strike and thus undermining deterrent capacity. The quasi-governmental Rand corporation describes BMD as "not simply a shield but an enabler of U.S. action."

In journals across the political spectrum, military analysts write approvingly of BMD. In the conservative National Interest, Andrew Bacevich writes, "Missile defense isn't really meant to protect America. It's a tool for global dominance." To Lawrence Kaplan in the liberal New Republic, BMD is "about preserving America's ability to wield power abroad. It's not about defense. It's about offense. And that's exactly why we need it."

Russian strategists draw the same conclusion. They can hardly fail to regard U.S. BMD installations in northern Poland and the Czech Republic as serious potential threats to their security, conclude U.S. analysts George Louis and Theodore Postol.

And the Russians of course are reacting accordingly, just as the US would if Russia placed such systems in Canada and Mexico, a very ominous development.

The chances of "rogue states" attacking the West with missiles are too slight to consider seriously. One reason is that they would be instantly vaporized. It is possible, as van Creveld observed, that they might develop missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent against US attack, and BMD could conceivably undermine their deterrent, thus freeing to US to attack at will.

SVEINSSON: What do you think is the purpose of the military alliance NATO, and why was that alliance not dissolved following the Cold War like the Warsaw Pact?

CHOMSKY: If NATO had been developed to defend the West against the USSR, it would have been dissolved when the USSR collapsed. If, on the other hand, the goal was to extend the dominance of the US and its allies and clients, it would not only remain but would expand its membership and range of actions -- exactly as has happened.

SVEINSSON: In what aspects do you think US foreign policy might change in the light of diminishing oil resources?

CHOMSKY: Probably a more intense effort to control energy resources, old and new.

Chomsky Interview: The Bush Administration Endgame, 8/1/08

Untitled interview
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Wissam Matta, Assafir newspaper (Lebanon)
E-mail correspondence, August 1, 2008

MATTA: How do you thing president Bush is preparing to close his administration's file, few months before he left the white house, in term of internal and foreign policies (energy, economy, Middle East, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Northern Korea)?

CHOMSKY: One cannot predict with any confidence. They have demonstrated extreme irrationality and ignorance. Virtually everything they have touched has turned to disaster. They are desperate to salvage something from the wreckage they have created at home and abroad, and for that reason alone, are unpredictable.

On North Korea, the prominent Korea scholar Bruce Cumings writes accurately that "Bush had presided over the most asinine Korea policy in history," undermining diplomatic efforts that were making some progress, and leaving North Korea with a greatly enhanced nuclear weapons capacity. The administration was under so much international and domestic pressure that it was compelled to return the diplomatic track, leading to some progress, and hope for more, though neither side as yet has fulfilled its commitments.

In the Middle East, they are doing everything they can to ensure that Iraq remains an obedient client state that serves as a base for US power projection in the region and permits free exploitation of its rich oil resources by Western (primarily US) corporations. That much is evident from ongoing activities and formal pronouncements. The huge military bases around the country and the massive "embassy" -- a city-within-a-city that resembles no embassy in the world -- are not being built to be dismantled, and it is worth noting that they are being constructed with bipartisan support. The White House declared last November that Iraq must permit US military operations and encourage foreign investment, "especially American investments," an unusually brazen pronouncement of imperial intent. Washington's plans for energy production effectively reconstitute the Iraq Petroleum Company that was established under British rule, and if implemented, would leave Iraq as the only major oil-producing power not controlling its own resources, after the nationalizations of the 1970s. Just a few days ago the US Air Force announced plans for extensive operations in Iraq "for the foreseeable future." It is unclear whether the US can impose such goals on a country where a large majority of the population calls for withdrawal of US forces, but there is every reason to expect that intensive efforts will be made to compel Iraq to accept them. Meanwhile the US is strengthening the sectors of Iraqi society that have the closest relations to Iran, and its counterinsurgency policies are enhancing tribalism, warlordism, and sectarianism, as Middle East specialist Steven Simon observes in the leading establishment journal, Foreign Affairs.

For Israel-Palestine, there is unlikely to be a change from Bush's "'67-plus" program, formally granting Israel the right to annex parts of the West Bank; these are not specified officially but are fairly well known. That is Bush's sole innovation in US policy towards the conflict. There is no indication of any departure from this stand. If so, the US-Israel will continue to block the overwhelming international consensus on a two-state settlement, and to create "facts on the ground" designed to undermine the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, while Condoleezza Rice occasionally issues mild censures of the Israeli policies that proceed thanks to Washington's diplomatic, military, economic and ideological support.

The major open question is Iran. There has been a feverish government-media campaign to portray Iran as an aggressive imperial power, a new Nazi Germany, which must be stopped, by violence if necessary, before it is too late. Both political parties are committed to the illegal threat of force against Iran, which is opposed by a large majority of the population (and by the world). The Iranian government can be severely condemned on many counts, but this fantasy is the desperate construction of those who regard it as their right to rule the world without resistance or interference.

It is unmentionable in US media and commentary that most countries of the world endorse Iran's right to enrich uranium, a position recently reiterated by the Nonaligned Movement. They are joined by the large majority of Americans, who, furthermore, call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region, including Iran and Israel, a step that would significantly reduce the threat of conflict, perhaps even nuclear war. That too is unmentionable.

Bush-Cheney might decide to go down in a blaze of glory -- or the fires of Hell -- bombing Iran if Obama wins the election, a proposal now circulating in radical nationalist circles (called "neoconservative"). In June, Congress came close to passing a resolution, strongly supported by the Israeli lobby, virtually calling for a blockade of Iran -- an act of war that could have set off the conflagration that is greatly feared in the region and around the world. Pressures from the anti-war movement appear to have beaten back this particular effort, but others are likely to follow.

The administration has no energy policy, other than to maximize the huge profits of energy corporations. On the economy generally, policies have been designed to enrich a tiny fraction of the population. They have been harmful to the large majority and have by now caused a severe financial crisis, spreading to the world. The specific programs to respond to the crisis in housing and credit markets are designed to reward the managers for their incompetence with large compensation packages, and to pay off shareholders, with the taxpayer picking up the burden. This is consistent with the general anti-capitalist commitments of the right-wing.

MATTA: Do you think he is really closing these files, or opening them, in order to make the next administration involved with these issues? And what is the margins of freedom for the next president in these issues?

CHOMSKY: The administration will, of course, seek to establish its "legacy," which reduces to several simple propositions: (1) greatly enhance executive power, (2) enrich the wealthy, (3) intimidate the world by the threat and use of overwhelming means of violence. The great damage that they have done to US interests limits the extent to which they can impose their legacy on future administrations. However, objections within the political class are more on grounds of failure than principle. Hence a good deal is likely to remain, at least until the general population becomes a significant force in policy formation. On a host of major issues, both political parties are well to the right of the population, which is not unaware of what is happening. 80% believe that the government is run by "a few big interests looking out for themselves," not for the benefit of the people, and 95% believe that the government should pay attention to public opinion. Unless significant steps are taken towards "democracy promotion" in the United States, one cannot expect policy to depart from the fairly narrow elite spectrum -- in which Bush and company are far to the extremist end.

MATTA: In your opinion, did Bush draw the future of America (9-11, war against terror), so that we can talk on "America before Bush" and "America after Bush".

CHOMSKY: Doubtless Bush introduced some radical innovations, which is why his administration has been sharply criticized within the mainstream. But these are more matters of practice than principle. Consider, for example, the resort to torture and denial of elementary rights to those who the administration declares to be "enemy combatants" -- for example, a 15-year-old boy who is soon to be tried in a military court that barely rises to a caricature of justice, charged with resisting the US invasion of his country. He has languished for years in the Guantanamo prison-torture chamber, which the US is using in violation of a treaty that was imposed on Cuba at gunpoint a century ago. All of this proceeds with bipartisan support. Or consider what many regard as the most significant doctrine of the Bush administration: the National Security Strategy of September 2002, which declared that the US has the right to attack anyone it believes is posing a potential threat ("preventive war"). That was harshly criticized, but because of its style, not its content. Clinton's doctrine, taken literally, was even more extreme: he declared that the US has the right to use force to protect markets and access to resources, without even the pretexts on which Bush insisted. But Clinton's doctrine passed without comment, because it was presented quietly in a message to Congress, without the brazen arrogance and open contempt for the world that antagonized even allies. In fact the doctrine can be traced back to high-level World War II planning. Or take the "war on terror." A "war on terror" was declared by Ronald Reagan in 1981, with much the same rhetoric as today. It had bipartisan support, but has been left in the shadows of history because it very quickly became a murderous terrorist war. For example, it is not considered good manners to report that Nelson Mandela's African National Congress was designated one of the "more notorious terrorist groups" in the world in 1988, when Reagan was supporting his South African friends and participating in their slaughter of over 1 million people in the neighboring countries (though Mandela has recently been removed from the list of international terrorists). It is also not considered proper to recall that a US-run elite battalion murdered six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, in 1989, after having compiled a bloody record of atrocities among the usual victims. And so on, through a hideous record, best forgotten.

There is an elite political spectrum, but it is fairly narrow -- and, as noted, on many crucial issues it is to the right of the general population.

MATTA: Do you expect a "happy end" for our region with Bush outside the white house?

CHOMSKY: I wish I could say that I did. But I cannot.

The Way of the World: Ron Suskind on How the Bush Admin Deliberately Faked an Iraq-al-Qaeda Connection and Undermined Diplomacy, Democracy in Pakistan

Amazing revelations in this book; Suskind is the real deal. (I'm going by Suskind's interviews: haven't read it yet.)

Will the Democrats act on this information? Don't hold your breath.

More on the book here, including transcripts of interviews with sources, some of whom are engaging in "non-denial denials," as Suskind notes.

Patrick Cockburn on Muqtada, interviewed by James Zogby on C-SPAN

Click here for the video (RealPlayer). Here's the book: Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Here's another interview of Cockburn at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Pepe Escobar on Georgia, Ossetia, the US, and Russia

More good analysis here, by Michael Klare, on DN!

Naomi Klein on China's McCommunism

Sorry to interrupt all the big explosions and bright, shiny objects on NBC, but there is something important going on underneath these Olympics:

11 August 2008

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman

Will next Israeli leader attack Iran? TRNN

The decision by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down amid corruption allegations has left many questions in Israel and in the region. There are two main contenders to replace Olmert as leader of the Kadima party. The front-runner Tzipi Livni, is a former Mossad operative and current foreign minister. She was a protégé of Ariel Sharon in the Likud and jumped with him to Kadima when it was formed. Her main Kadima rival is Shaul Mofaz, a hawkish former general and current transportation minister. The Iranian born Mofaz is famous for his ruthless crushing of the Palestinian uprising in Jenin and other West Bank towns in 2000, first as military chief of staff and later defense minister. Livni is favoured in opinion polls by 8 to 18 percent to win the Kadima leadership. Calls have come from Israeli opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu of Likud for a general election. The elections would probably come in February or March, which would see Olmert remain prime minister till then. Netanyahu was prime minister from 1996 to 1999, a hardliner who does not believe in land for peace, He is in favour of more west bank settlements and calls Israel’s recent meetings with Syria “groveling”. Ehud Barak, leader of the Israeli Labour Party, part of the ruling coalition with Kadima, will also be in the running. Barak is a former General and was Prime Minister from 1999-2001. As the current defence minister Barak said that Israel will return to its pattern of air stikes to crush in Gaza despite the month long truce. A recent poll by Israel’s Channel 10 shows Netanyahu as the most preferred leader with 36 per cent, Tzipi Livni with 24.6, Ehud Barak with 11.9 and none of the above with 19 percent. When Livni was replaced in the poll, by her Kadima rival Shaul Mofaz, Netanyahu garnered 36.6, Barak 14.4, Mofaz 12 and None of the above 27.4. What this could mean for the stalled peace process with the Palestinians will depend mostly on the next US president whether Barack Obama or John McCain. But on the question of Iran, there is still the fear that Israel might act unilaterally. Recent comments from the 4 possible future Israeli prime ministers might seem to reinforce what investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker last month, that an attack on Iran could come before the end of US President George W. Bush’s term next January.

All options on the table? Noam Chomsky

NUCLEAR threats and counter-threats are a subtext of our times, steadily, it seems, becoming more insistent. The July meeting in Geneva between Iran and six major world powers on Iran's nuclear programme ended with no progress.

The Bush administration was widely praised for having shifted to a more conciliatory stand — namely, by allowing a US diplomat to attend without participating — while Iran was castigated for failing to negotiate seriously. And the powers warned Iran that it would soon face more severe sanctions unless it terminated its uranium enrichment programs.

Meanwhile India was applauded for agreeing to a nuclear pact with the United States that would effectively authorise its development of nuclear weapons outside the bounds of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), with US assistance in nuclear programmes along with other rewards — in particular, to US firms eager to enter the Indian market for nuclear and weapons development, and ample payoffs to parliamentarians who signed on, a tribute to India's flourishing democracy.

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and a leading specialist on nuclear threats, observed reasonably that Washington's decision to "place profits ahead of nonproliferation" could mean the end of the NPT if others follow its lead, sharply increasing the dangers all around.

During the same period, Israel, another state that has defied the NPT with Western support, conducted large-scale military manoeuvres in the eastern Mediterranean that were understood to be preparation for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities.

In a New York Times Op-Ed article, "Using Bombs to Stave Off War," the prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that Iran's leaders should welcome Israeli bombing with conventional weapons, because "the alternative is an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland."

Purposely or not, Morris is reviving an old theme. During the 1950s, leading figures of Israel's governing Labor Party advised in internal discussion that "we will go crazy ("nishtagea") if crossed, threatening to bring down the Temple Walls in the manner of the first "suicide bomber," the revered Samson, who killed more philistines by his suicide than in his entire lifetime.

Israel's nuclear weapons may well harm its own security, as Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz persuasively argues. But security is often not a high priority for state planners, as history makes clear. And the "Samson complex," as Israeli commentators have called it, can be flaunted to warn the master to carry out the desired task of smashing Iran, or else we'll inflame the region and maybe the world.

The "Samson complex," reinforced by the doctrine that "the whole world is against us," cannot be lightly ignored. Shortly after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which left some 15-20,000 killed in an unprovoked effort to secure Israel's control of the occupied territories, Aryeh Eliav, one of Israel's best-known doves, wrote that the attitude of "those who brought the 'Samson complex' here, according to which we shall kill and bury all the Gentiles around us while we ourselves shall die with them," is a form of "insanity" that was then all too prevalent, and still is.

US military analysts have recognised that, as Army Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote in 1999, one "purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their 'use' on the United States," presumably to ensure consistent U.S. support for Israeli policies — or else.

Others see further dangers. Gen. Lee Butler, former commander-in-chief of the US Strategic Command, observed in 1999 that "it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so." This fact is hardly irrelevant to concerns about Iran's nuclear programmes, but is off the agenda.

Also off the agenda is Article 2 of the UN Charter, which bars the threat of force in international affairs. Both US political parties insistently proclaim their criminality, declaring that "all options are on the table" with regard to Iran's nuclear programmes.

Some go beyond, like John McCain, joking about what fun it would be to bomb Iran and to kill Iranians, though the humour may be lost on the "unpeople" of the world, to borrow the term used by British historian Mark Curtis for those who do not merit the attention of the privileged and powerful.

Barack Obama declares that he would do "everything in my power" to prevent Iran from gaining the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The unpeople surely understand that launching a nuclear war would be "in his power".

The chorus of denunciations of the New Hitlers in Teheran and the threat they pose to survival has been marred by a few voices from the back rooms. Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy recently warned that an Israeli attack on Iran "could have an impact on us for the next 100 years."

An unnamed former senior Mossad official added, "Iran's achievement is creating an image of itself as a scary superpower when it's really a paper tiger" — which is not quite accurate: The achievement should be credited to US-Israeli propaganda.

One of the participants in the July meetings was Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who outlined "the Arab position": "to work toward a political and diplomatic settlement under which Iran will maintain the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" but without nuclear weapons.

The "Arab position" is that of most Iranians, along with other unpeople. On July 30, the 120-member Nonaligned Movement reiterated its previous endorsement of Iran's right to enrich uranium in accord with the NPT.

Joining the unpeople is the large majority of Americans, according to polls. The American unpeople not only endorse Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes but also support the "Arab position" calling for a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the entire region, a step that would sharply reduce major threats, but is also off the agenda of the powerful; unmentionable in electoral campaigns, for example.

Benny Morris assures us that "Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian programme is geared toward making weapons." As is well-known, the US National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 judged "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Teheran halted its nuclear weapons programme." It is doubtful, to say the least, that the intelligence agencies of every country of the NAM disagree.

Morris is presumably reporting information from an Israeli intelligence source — which generalizes to "every intelligence agency" by the same logic that instructs us that Iran is defying "the world" by seeking to enrich uranium: the world apart from its unpeople.

There are rumblings in radical nationalist (so-called "neocon") circles that if Barack Obama wins the election, Bush-Cheney should bomb Iran, since the threat of Iran is too great to be left in the hands of a wimpish Democrat. Reports also have surfaced — recently from Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker — on US "covert operations" in Iran, otherwise known as international terrorism.

In June, Congress came close to passing a resolution (H. Con. Res. 362), strongly supported by the Israeli lobby, virtually calling for a blockade of Iran — an act of war, that could have set off the conflagration that is greatly feared in the region and around the world. Pressures from the anti-war movement appear to have beaten back this particular effort, according to Mark Weisbrot at Alternet.org, but others are likely to follow.

The government of Iran merits severe condemnation on many counts, but the Iranian threat remains a desperate construction of those who arrogate to themselves the right to rule the world, and consider any impediment to their just rule to be criminal aggression. That is the primary threat that should concern us, as it concerns saner minds in the West, and the unpeople of the rest of the world.

Noam Chomsky's writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in "The Essential Noam Chomsky," edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Interview with Noam Chomsky by Vincent Navarro, May 13, 2008

For the Progressive Summer University of Catalonia (UPEC).
Interviewed by Vincent Navarro. at M.I.T., Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 13, 2008. Vincent Navarro is Professor of Public Policy at the Pompeu Fabra University, and The Johns Hopkins University.

Chomsky Q&A at Roxbury Community College