Chomsky: 'The worst enemy of a government is its own population'
from David P Ball - 13.05.2006 15:11
Prominent U.S. intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky spoke in Beirut this week, in two packed lectures at the American University and Masrah al-Medina. He also met Wednesday with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, warning that disarming the party would be dangerous and in U.S. interests.
Chomsky speaking at the American University on 'The Great Soul of Power'
The U.S. constitutes a new global empire propped up by corporations and military force, prominent U.S. intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky told Beirut activists yesterday.
But he dismissed suggestions that there is nothing citizens can do to challenge it.
"We’re in a better position than before to carry this forward," he said. "It’s mostly a problem of will, not of options."
The dissident academic spoke in two packed lectures at the American University and Masrah al-Medina this week.
Chomsky also met Wednesday with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, warning that disarming the party would be dangerous and in U.S. interests.
The following excerpts are from Chomsky's lecture at Masrah al-Medina on Friday, May 13. (Brackets indicate editorial content or paraphrase).
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"The oil sources here are a tremendous source of power, one of the greatest treasures in world history. Control of this primary resource has been of interest [for the U.S.] for decades.
For years, it was pretended that the threat came form the Russians. In the case of the Middle East, this pretext was abandoned when the Berlin Wall fell. (The first Bush government) announced that everything would continue as before, with new rhetoric. The primary threat worldwide became indigenous nationalism.
Saddam may have been despised everywhere, but it was only in the United States where people were terrified of what he would do to them any moment.
It’s an astounding fact that the U.S. and Britain are having more trouble running occupied Iraq than the Nazis did in occupied Europe. In contrast, the U.S. has been unable to establish an obedient client regime in Iraq. An unthinkable option is that Iraqis should rule Iraq.
All of this in boring, irrelevant history to those who hold the clubs. But to those victims, the story is quite different. It points to a deep moral and intellectual crisis in Western culture.
There is a natural hatred of democracy by the powerful, despite their rhetoric for democracy. Such obvious goals are unspeakable in civilized society. The labels we put on our enemies are unmentionable when it comes to ourselves.
(-US's biggest fear:)
“A loose alliance of continuous Shiite (nations) controlling all oil in the Middle East. It’s the ultimate nightmare in Washington.”
(-points to China’s leading a wide Asian energy security coalition, to secure the regions oil from the U.S., joined by Iran, Pakistan, India, mainland Asia.)
“The Chinese have a 4,000 year history of contempt for barbarians.” (laughter)
It is not at all surprising that the U.S. has sought to avoid such an outcome. If the U.S. were compelled to grant some degree of sovereignty to Iraq, Washington would have failed in one of its major policy objectives of the U.S. since World War II, with the collapse of the British Empire - the need to control the most dominant energy market in the world. Such control gives the U.S. veto power over its industrial rivals. A successful conquest over Iraq would give the U.S. an advantage over any competitors.
This illustrates Thucydides maxim of international politics: 'The strong do as they can, and the weak suffer as they must.'
Existing strategies mean little if the fundamental problem is not addressed. (According to intelligence documents), in the new millennium there will be total U.S. control over Middle East oil, while relying on more stable sources itself.
It’s two major instruments of control are violence and economic strangulation. But both weapons are losing their efficacy. Overthrow of a democratic government (for example) is no longer accepted quietly. It is unacceptable to attribute rational economic thinking to one’s own state, which must be guided by high ideals like freedom and justice. This leads to a fundamental crisis in Western culture with dangerous portent. Governments have to keep their populations in ignorance about what is to happen to them. The goal is to fight popular nationalism, another word for anyone who doesn’t obey.
Israel’s service to the United States and its military (in defeating Arab nationalist Egypt in 1967) confirmed that Israel would be the only pro-Western power in the Middle East apart from Turkey. The system of domination has worked quite well for the people that matter – oil profits and military industries have lucrative ties to Israel, which is a virtually offshore U.S. military base.
(-During the U.S. supported Shah regime in Iran prior to 1980, the US supplied nuclear technology to Iran. Chomsky quoted former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:)
They (Iran) were an allied country then, so therefore they had a genuine need for nuclear energy then.
Iran has been tortured without a break for 50 years by a global superpower. But there are ways to end these crises:
(1. call off threats virtually urging Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.
2. reintegrate Iran into the global economy
3. implement the FissBan treaty on developing nuclear weapons
4. implement article 6 of nuclear non proliferation treaty,) “which obligates states to eliminate their nuclear weapons.”
The threat of nuclear war is severe and increasing. If measures are not taken, we face an increased risk of doom and Armageddon. The threats are well understood and consciously enhanced.
Globalization refers to a specific form of international economic integration designed by multinational corporations and linked states. The massive global justice movements have now been joined by Northern global justice movements. It may be the seeds of a new International dreamed of by workers. They’re called ‘anti-globalization’ in the doctrinal system, because they seek a globalization rooted in the needs of common people. Unfortunately, some have adopted the ludicrous name ‘anti-globalization.’ Neoliberalism is the policy imposed by force on the colonies since the 19th century.
(If Iran is prevented from nuclear weapons), the country that is under the greatest threat has no deterrent to attack. Imperial sensitivities are delicate, indeed.
Throughout modern history, democracy and development have had a common enemy – the loss of sovereignty and the decreased ability to conduct social and economic policy. The loss of sovereignty harms development. The imposed regimes are called ‘neoliberal,’ so it’s fair to say the common enemy of democracy and development is neoliberalism. That neoliberalism harms democracy is understood. Every aspect of the neoliberal package harms democracy.
(What do we do?)
The first step is to understand what path has been followed in the past, which led to these crises. Failure to do so is almost certain to have grim consequences.
As a system of power, the United States is at a worse place than it’s ever been. It’s literally in danger of losing control over its primary resource, the world’s energy. The talent of the Bush administration for creating catastrophe is astounding.
It’s quite possible that Ahmadinejad and Bush are soul brothers [chuckles]. Both believe that the Second Coming is coming and pretty soon everything will be solved. It really doesn’t matter what you do today, if you blow it up with nuclear weapons.
You have to understand that the United States is an extremely fundamentalist country. The Christian Evangelicals are a substantial voting bloc. This has always been true, but they were never a political force. Even Bill Clinton, who’s probably about as religious as I am, was shown singing hymns or going to church.
Global justice movements are perhaps the first truly global movement in history. There are a lot of things happening.
U.S. intellectuals’ love affair with Israel began in 1967, not before, because of its tremendous success smashing Third World peoples. They looked to its success in breaking Third World upstarts (such as Nasser).
-cautions against making the Israel lobby in US a monolith or too powerful. Most are Zionist Christians. “When a domestic lobby coincides with political interests, you can’t tell which one is influential. When their interests conflict, the lobby disappears. Israel is almost an image of the United States.
-woman asked a question: Arabs are told we’re worthless, we’re losers, we can’t resist. But we still look up to the American Dream. That balm, that soothing image, has been ripped away.
Chomsky: You have to replace ‘dream’ with ‘illusion.’ It’s just as much propaganda as the British Dream was, or the French Dream, the Japanese Dream. Empires always produce a dream. When you read the Nazi propaganda, tears almost come to your eyes. Of course, reality is a different matter. The Bush administration has done a lot to destroy those illusions. Hatred of the United States has gone way up since Bush came in. But (the hatred) is not new; it goes way back. The worst enemy of any government is its own population.
If you attack and destroy someone, you have only responsibilities and no rights. In the case of conflicts with much weaker enemies, the U.S. must win rapidly and decisively or else political support will disappear. That’s why you have ‘Shock and Awe’ – you have to get out quickly.
Any criticism of systems of power is not going to be welcomed by systems of power. It seems obvious. When I began giving talks about the Vietnam War in the early 1960s, I was literally giving talks in peoples’ living rooms, or a church with four people – the minister, the organist, a drunk, and somebody who wanted to kill me [laughter]. The first protest I spoke at was broken up by students.
The attacks of 9/11 opened up a lot of peoples’ minds. Small publishers suddenly had to reprint progressive books from the 1980s which they could never sell before. It made people think, ‘What is out in the world?’
The U.S. has pressured Syria to get out of Lebanon, but that’s because they care about Syria, not because they care about Lebanon. As long as Lebanon doesn’t get out of control, the U.S. doesn’t care.
Are Americans responsible for the Bush government?
There’s a sense in which the population is responsible, to some extent. It’s the responsibility of people to compel governments to follow values, not the interests of power. The means to control people by force was declining (after WWII); other means had to develop to control people. We had to create a culture of consumerism so people will focus their attention on superficial things. When you look at a television advertisement, it’s not informing you, it’s deluding you. The same mechanisms have been extended to politics and elections. It’s selling a president or a senator, and it has to delude voters into believing in their product. The elections are designed so you do not know what the candidates actually support.
Is there any hope?
-(International solidarity movements (such as those in Central America and Palestine), and Christian Peacemaker Teams, who actually go to places being bombed by the U.S. and live with the people. )
“It’s unprecedented in history. Is there any hope? Of course there is. Just look at history, even over our lifetime. There were a lot of improvements – they weren’t a gift. You never get a gift from the powerful. As much as we’re in a better position than before to carry this forward, it’s mostly a problem of will, not of options."
notes by David P Ball 2006