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Chomsky on Bush: BBC Interview PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Tuesday, 25 May 2004 06:16
If 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 Jimmy Carter.
The suggestion comes from the American linguist Noam Chomsky.
Bush Doctrine

BBC Interview
by Noam Chomsky and Jeremy Paxman
May 21, 2004

If 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 Jimmy Carter.

The suggestion comes from 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.

Jeremy 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.

NOAM 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.

JEREMY 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 but try...?

NOAM 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.

JEREMY PAXMAN: But you are suggesting the United States in that sense is the
author of Its own Nemesis.

NOAM 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. 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.

JEREMY PAXMAN: But why do you imagine George Bush behaves like this?

NOAM 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 in 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...

JEREMY PAXMAN: Then why would he do it?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Because invading Iraq has value in itself, I mean

JEREMY PAXMAN: Well what value?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Establishing the first secure military base in a dependant
client state at the heart of the energy producing region of the world.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Don't you even think that the people of Iraq are better off
having got rid of a dictator?

NOAM CHOMSKY: 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 westerners who
know Iraq best were predicting this all along.

JEREMY 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.

NOAM 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 is a meaningless notion,
there is no moral equivalence what so ever.

JEREMY PAXMAN: 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?

NOAM 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's not what the US and Britain are trying to do.
It's not what they've done in the past. Take a look at the regions under
their domination. They don't spread liberal democracy. What they spread is
dependence and subordination. Furthermore it's well-known that this is a
large part of the reason for the great opposition to US policy within the
Middle East. In fact this was known in the 1950's.

JEREMY 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.

NOAM CHOMSKY: 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.

JEREMY 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?

NOAM 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

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 say.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Noam Chomsky, thank you.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 May 2004 06:16

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