Noam Chomsky discusses the New World Order - tri-polar economically, three major economic powers, the United States still the biggest, but declining, relatively, but uni-polar militarily, one military force.
The following is a transcript of a speech given at a benefit for The Middle East Children's Alliance (president, Barbara Lubin) and KPFA radio (manager, Pat Scott).
The topic, as you saw, is The New World Order with primary concern for the Middle East.
According to George Bush and James Baker we are entering into one of these "rare, transforming moments of world history," "a new era full of promise," "a new order" based on international law, justice and peace. For the first time the United Nations, which has undergone a wondrous sea change, the press tells us, for the first time the United Nations will be able to seriously undertake its peace-keeping role, but now that the Cold War is over it's no longer impeded by the automatic Russian veto and the psychotic behavior of various Third World hysterics.
Regarding the Middle East, simply sampling from the extreme outer edges of skeptical dissidence, Anthony Lewis writes in the New York Times that "George Bush is at the height of his power and he has made it clear that he wants to breathe life into that hypothetical creature, the middle east peace process" so that things will start looking up there, too. Well, not everyone sees it that way. A Vatican journal, Il Sabato, writes that "George Bush is the surly master of the world. He had a very concrete possibility of a just peace and he chose war. Bush doesn't give a damn about the numerous peace deals issued by Pope John the Second, the proposal of Gorbachev, others. He repeatedly reimposed new conditions on Iraq to justify the war and the humiliation which were always his unchanging objectives." With respect to the Middle East, a view alternative to the one that I quoted would be that the victor in the Gulf crisis is the Great Power that has fought a political settlement of the Middle East conflict for the past twenty years, ever since George Bush received his first national office as the UN ambassador. That happened to coincide actually with the first major peace proposal for the Middle East which initiated this hypothetical creature, the middle east peace process, namely the proposal of Anwar Sadat of Egypt of February 1971, which offered full peace with Israel -- incidentally that proposal mentioned nothing about the Palestinians. The peace proposal was exactly in terms of official U.S. policy, State Department Policy, called the Rogers Plan. This proposal was recognized by Israel as a genuine peace offer, but they rejected it on grounds that they felt if they held out they could get more territorial concessions. Henry Kissinger, who at that time was moving in to take over Middle East policy, succeeded in giving assurances of U.S. backing to Israel's rejection of the peace offer because, as he later explained, he preferred stalemate, and since that time that's the way the story has been.
The United States has repeatedly defeated security council resolutions calling for diplomatic settlement. It has voted along with Israel in the General Assembly to block the settlement supported by virtually the entire world. Simply to give you an sense of the degree of this isolation, in December of 1990 -- there's a vote every winter session -- the December vote in 1990 was 144 to 2 on an international conference to deal with the Middle East issue. The vote in the year before, December 1989, was 151 to 3. The three that time were the United States, Israel, and Dominica. Exactly how Dominica got into the act no one knows exactly. [laughter] Perhaps the ambassador was sleeping that day. Usually the numbers are 150 to 2 or something like that. That vote, December 1989, was for an international conference and for the political resolution to the terms of UN Security Council resolution 242 as understood in the world, that is, the world outside the United States and Israel, namely calling for a political settlement of the international recognized borders with territorial guarantees and security guarantees and the right of all states in the region to exist in peace and security. And, recognition of legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
Recall that if the vote in the General Assembly is 150 to 1, as many votes are, that it will be nullified if the one happens to be the United States. It's a matter of power. On December 25 of last year, December 1990, the Security Council voted condemnation of Israel for its violations of the Geneva conventions, deporting Palestinians. The United States reluctantly agreed to vote for it instead of vetoing it for reasons of expediency that had to do with holding together the coalition, the so-called coalition, against Iraq, but the United States threatened to veto the resolution if it contained wording indicating, however vaguely, that at some appropriate moment in the future, unspecified, it might be advantageous to have an international conference on the Middle East. Even such wording, however vague, would have received a U.S. veto, so therefore the wording was taken out of the resolution. The U.S. position on this for years has been very explicit, very clear, adamant in opposition to any form of political settlement that accepts the rights, national rights, of the Palestinians, and that in any way interferes with Israel's right to basically use what it wants in the Occupied Territories as maintains military advantages. Now the United States must be alone in that position. The international isolation on this has been remarkable over a long time.
Now the United States has won a major war and it's in a position to impose its will. Its will is quite explicit. I'll return to it. It's quite true, as Anthony Lewis says, that the Peace Process is a hypothetical creature, but he didn't give the reason. The Peace Process is a hypothetical creature because it has been blocked at every turn by the United States for twenty years. That's a fact that must be suppressed in a well functioning commissar culture and it is very effectively suppressed. You'll have to look far to find a statement of that truism.
You'll occasionally find a kind of recognition that the United States isn't exactly leading a world cheering section on this issue and sometimes even an indication that the United States is alone in opposing an international conference or peace settlement, but that doesn't change the fact that what we do, whatever it may be, that's the peace process, even if it's alone and we're the only ones doing it. So you can find New York Times headlines like "Soviet Union Trying to Become Team Player in the Mideast." And when you read on you discover that what it means is, well, there's some indication that maybe the Russians may agree to join our position of rejecting a political settlement on Palestinian rights; and if they do they'll be a team player, that is, the team will now have two members. [laughter] The definition is, of course, that we're the team and if everyone else is off the team, well, that's their problem. They'll just have to learn to walk in step again.
Here's two different views of the New World Order and the Middle East. Before turning to them we might notice that there's also two different ways of approaching these questions. There are two different ways of looking at the world and percepting its likely course. We'll have to make a methodological decision of which of these two ways we're going to pursue. One way to pursue the matter is to simply rely on your rhetoric power, so George Bush has made it clear that so-and-so and therefore this is the way that is. Now that's the easy way. It's also the respectable way. It's a passage to success. If you want to be the respected editorial writer or commentator or scholar or someone, you got to internalize that selection. That's the way to the political route. There's an alternative way and that is to look at the record of history, the documentary record. That's harder work, requires some thought, and is frowned upon, so if you want to get ahead you better seize the first method. These two methods do, in fact, lead to radically different answers [laughter], radically different answers, and that has occasionally been noticed by the better and more serious sectors of political science scholarship, so, for example, Hans Morganthau, who is one of the founders of the modern field of international relations, and is a distinguished realist scholar, although not a very good one, and to his credit noticed this difference, had a book called "The Purpose of America", written back during the Kennedy years. He gave the familiar story. The United States, he said, has a transcendent purpose to pursue and bring about justice and freedom and all good things, but remember he's a realist, which means he pays attention to the historical record, and he observed that the historical record deviates rather sharply from this picture of [laughter] and again I want to stress that it's to his credit to notice the distinction because it's rare. And he then goes on to say that if we look at the difference between the American transcendent purpose, justice, freedom and so on, on the one hand, and the historical record on the other, that might lead us to question whether, in fact, the United States is pursuing the transcendent purpose of achieving peace and justice and freedom. But he points out that to draw that conclusion would be a logical error. Now here you've got to think carefully so follow the reasoning closely. The reason why it could be a logical error is this, we have to distinguish, he says, between reality and the abuse of reality. Reality is the actual history as it's interpreted through our perceptions and our self image, that is reality is what we prefer to see and what we would like to believe. Abuse of reality is the actual history. [laughter] As I said it's a fairly subtle point so you want to make sure you master it. And we have to decide whether we're going to pay attention to the abuse of reality, that is in fact what actually happened in the world and what is described in the documentary record, or to reality itself, namely our preferences, our propaganda, our specifications, and so on. And again, I stress that it's a subtle point and one you must understand if you hope to get ahead in the world so bear it in mind.
Well, we then have a choice between abuse of reality, namely what actually happens, and reality in the sophisticated sense, the illusions and fabrications of propaganda, and despite the fact that the second course of pursuing reality is the path to privilege and success and respectability, despite that, let's nevertheless, at least for a brief time, take the hard way with the facts, not simply be satisfied with rhetoric, and continue to attend to the abuse of reality.
Well, now we're back to two visions of the New World Order: the one that's given by the educated classes who understand the way for us to behave and whose eyes are focused on the oratory and there is where George Bush says, George Bush has made it clear that he'll breathe new life into the peace process in the Middle East and all other good things. On the other hand, we have the view of Il Sabato in Rome. Their eyes are focused on the world. They didn't understand this subtle distinction, and what they see is that George Bush is the surly master of the world and that what lies ahead of us is the rule of force, not peace and justice. Well, which of those two approaches is correct?
Actually, we can be thankful to the Administration for having recently given us a little insight into this, not just action, which it always does, but even words, Schlesinger's. Just as the so-called ground war, which wasn't actually a ground war, just as on October Twenty-third, as U.S. forces were being sent into Kuwait and Iraq, the New York Times published a leak from the Administration of a National Security Review that was done by the Bush administration in its first months in office. When a President comes into office he asks right away from the CIA and the Pentagon for a review of world affairs and a National Security Review and we usually don't learn about it for thirty years or so unless someone like Daniel Ellsberg comes around and expedites the process [laughter and applause] and this time apparently the Administration is proud of one section of it and they leaked it. This section has to do with what are called "Third World Threats to the United States." And it says, here's what it says, it says in the case of conflicts with much weaker enemies it is not enough merely to defeat them, we must defeat them rapidly and decisively. Anything else will be too embarrassing to us and will undercut political support.
Now those are the words of the surly master of the world, and they're interesting words. Let's have a look at them. First, the victory over the much weaker enemy must be rapid, decisive and unambiguous or we will lose political support. That recognizes the very thin, that is, it recognizes that the United States, as commonly put on all sides, is politically weak. In the Third World the positions that the United States is pursuing, not surprisingly, have very little support. The hope is that Third World populations can be held under control by the dictatorships that are allied with the United States and quite often the United States is in (???) but, of course, there is always the problem that they do not have control of their own populations and, therefore, we've got to get things over with fast or we'll lose political support. Now it's particularly striking in the last couple of months, it was understood that although there was a lot of talk about how the world was united against Saddam Hussein, and so on, it was pretty well understood that if you count noses, and non-white noses count, then the story was radically different in a region from Morocco to Indonesia, including Africa and Latin America, the world was overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S./British insistence on going to war. And that opposition included, for example, the Iraqi democratic opposition, the people who for years had fought courageously against Saddam Hussein and had every reason to hate him. They too were strongly opposed to it. And the question was, will the dictatorships that support the United States be able to control populations? I recall driving home one day and in a weak moment turning on NPR [National Public Radio] [laughter] -- in Boston we don't have KPFA -- but as I listened to them there were the familiar, somber tones of Daniel Schorr crooning away, and he was running a seminar with several academic specialists on various parts of the Middle East and the question that came up was will everyone agree that the dictatorships supporting the United States (they were following policies that were extremely unpopular among their own populations), and the question was, would they be able to suppress and control their own populations? And since these were all respectable liberals talking, they naturally hoped that they would be able to suppress and control their own populations, but they weren't quite sure that it was going to be possible and, of course, the advice all around, and it was the same in the National Security Review, better get it over with fast because popular support is so thin that unless you can get it over fast we're going to be in real trouble.
Now, there are conclusions following that. One, and this is quite general because it doesn't only have to do with the Middle East, one conclusion is no negotiations and no diplomacy. If your position is politically weak, if it doesn't have political support, then plainly you don't want to enter into diplomacy and negotiations. That's something you know, if you've been following U.S. policy in various parts of the world, in Indochina, in Central America, and in the Middle East, in fact, virtually everywhere, the United States has consistently, rather consistently, been opposed to diplomacy. And that makes a good deal of sense. If your position is politically weak, if you don't have political support, you naturally want to void the diplomatic reef. You play your strong cards, not your weak cards, and the strong card for the United States is economic power, now declining, and force, now increasing, relatively. Those are the strong cards, so those are the ones you want to play. That explains why the United States, in the case of the Middle East, has been alone in opposing a political settlement of the kind supported by the entire world. It explains why the United States is opposed to an international conference. If you have an international conference, somebody has to be there and with anybody there except the United States, Israel and, maybe, Dominica, [laughter] you're going to get pressure in favor of liberal settlement which the United States opposes. So therefore no international conference. Now it's pretty simple, but apparently too hard to have made it into the media or scholarship as yet, although I assume it'll maybe get there in a couple of decades. Anyhow, if you think that through, it becomes pretty clear that you can't have an international conference. Clearly, you can't have an international conference that includes any independent powers. Henry Kissinger pointed this out years ago when he said in secret, though it was released under the Freedom of Information Act, that his diplomacy in the Middle East was guided by the principle that Europe and Japan had to be kept out of diplomacy. In other words, that area is too important to allow anyone to fool around with. That's our turf. And we don't want Europe and Japan there.
You have to recognize Europe is used in a slightly technical sense in U.S. discourse. It doesn't include England. Europe means continental Europe. The assumption about England was once expressed by a high advisor to the Kennedy Administration in a weak moment, secretly, but it came out, he said, England is our "lieutenant." The fashionable word is "partner." The British only hear the fashionable word. They persist with various illusions of partnership, but their role is to be our lieutenant in this. Europe means continental Europe which you can't count on as being a lieutenant. Japan you can't count on as being a lieutenant. They may follow their own path. Therefore they have to be kept out of the diplomacy.
Now, actually, one thing that is likely to happen in the New World Order is that is Soviet Union may be allowed in, that is, the United States might now agree to something it's always rejected in the past, a so-called Superpower Conference, not including Europe and Japan, we've got to keep them out, but one organized by the United States and the Soviet Union. The reason behind that being that in the current straits of the Soviet Union, where it's unclear if it can even be held together, and it's not a superpower in any serious sense, in fact, it barely exists as a country, it's possible in those kinds of straits they might be so desperate that they'll do anything the United States tells them to do. If we tell them to sing Yankee Doodle, they'll sing Yankee Doodle, and so on, and if they've reached that point maybe we can allow them to join us in running an international conference. But nothing, no one with real force will be allowed in and that follows from the political weakness, again recognized in the National Strategy Survey which says when you're in conflict with a much weaker enemy destroy them quickly, pulverize them, otherwise you may lose political support.
Now they're also concerned with political support at home. Here there are no illusions apart power. They know that political support is very thin and that unless the conflict is with a much weaker enemy, and of course those are the only ones we fight, never fight anybody who might be able to defend themselves, that's always a big mistake. But in the conflict with a much weaker enemy destroy them quickly because political support at home will erode. That's the reason why the United States is so intent on avoiding a ground war in the current conflict, and in fact, contrary to what was reported, it did avoid a ground war. There never was a ground war, rather there was just a huge slaughter of trapped and fleeing soldiers from a Third World peasant army. The ground war would have been too dangerous. It had to be avoided because there was no political support. Well, that's with regard to the passage that says you got to be careful about the absence of political support abroad or at home.
What about the notion of a Third World threat? In what way does a much weaker enemy pose a threat to the United States? Well, obviously it can't pose any threat to the United States. In fact, no one poses any threat to the United States. There hasn't been any real threat to the United States since probably the War of 1812. The level of security in the United States is extraordinary and, certainly, no Third World country poses any threat in any meaningful sense of the word threat. What is meant here is something, again, you have to decode, what is meant by a Third World threat is the threat of independence. Now, the United States will support the most murderous pirate if he plays along, and the U.S. will labor to undermine and overthrow Third World democrats if they fail to pursue the service function. On this the record is quite clear, this historical and diplomatic record. Of course, you recall here that what I'm keeping to is the record of the abuse of reality, that is, the record of what happened.
Third, it's not enough to force a much weaker enemy to avoid diplomacy and negotiation, because that's where we're weak and they're strong, and you don't merely defeat them but you pulverize them. The purpose of that is to teach some lessons and there are three targets of those lessons.
First is the Third World. The lesson to the Third World is don't raise your heads. We are the masters. You are the slaves. If you get out of line, you don't get just defeated, but you get totally destroyed.
Second message is to the rich countries of the world, and they are supposed to learn the lesson that the world is to be ruled by force. We'll do it for you, but you better pay us for it. That's the second lesson to which I'll return.
And the third lesson is directed to the domestic population. Here it is crucially necessary to divert their attention away from social and economic catastrophies which are pretty evident if you are allowed to look around. These were bad enough before. They have become far more serious during the Reagan/Bush Administrations. Just in the two years that George Bush has been in office about three million more children have crossed the poverty line. Malnutrition has increased. Federal money for education has declined. The Federal debt has zoomed skyward. Real wages are continuing to decline and are now back to the level of about the late 1950s. The infrastructure is collapsing.
We're moving towards a kind of Third World society. This is a rich country here. The proportions of the population will be different than a typical Third World society but it's moving toward a society with Third World features. A typical Third World country under U.S. influence or control has a sector of quite wealthy and privileged people. Say Brazil, rich, well endowed country, say maybe five percent of the population lives in the style of Western Europe or the United States, and seventy-five percent lives in the style of Central Africa, Ethiopia, and the rest are somewhere in between. That's a typical Third World society in the domain of the United States and we're visibly moving in that direction with different proportions because of the enormous wealth. One indication of this, released recently, is prison population of the United States, it used to be third, behind the Soviet Union and South Africa, that is prison population per capita. Now it's way in the lead. Nobody's close. For black males in the United States, the probability of being in jail is four times as high as it is in apartheid South Africa.
See what tendencies are developing and accelerating, everything from homelessness to Third World standards of malnutrition to the decline of educational standards, and so on. It's perfectly clear that the Bush Administration hasn't a thought in their heads about what to do about these things. If you look at domestic programs, take the choice, crime, energy, wealth, health, education, highways, whatever you pick, you discover that they're vacuous. They have no programs. That being the case, it's necessary the domestic population has to be kept from looking at, kept from paying attention to it. It has to be diverted to something else.
One thing, this is classic in situations like this, one thing you can do is try to divert the attention of the population to conflicts with much weaker enemies. Now, of course, in order to make this work, you have to turn these much weaker enemies, at least in the propaganda system, you have to portray them as huge monsters who are about ready to wipe us out. You first have to terrorize the domestic population. Make them frightened. Then when you destroy the much weaker enemy you can arouse jingoist hysteria. And a lot of that has been carried right through the Reagan/Bush years: Grenada, Libya, international terrorism, Panama, now Iraq. In each case, huge chimera were made, a great monster about to destroy us, but finally we got in there just in time and saved ourselves. We can heave a sigh of relief.
This was even done in the case of Grenada, first try. Grenada, you remember, was a monstrous superpower [laughter] that had major influence over the world nutmeg trade [laughter] and was literally portrayed as a threat to our existence. As the United States proceeded to liberate us from this threat the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General More, intoning away in somber sounds on the radio about how, in the event of a Russian attack on Western Europe, Grenada would interdict the supply lines between the Caribbean and Western Europe and without oil from the region our leaders would be lost. And it was reinforced and magnified. Sober scholars called upon by the media, not to explain in the same profound fury, I forget what they were called, great stores of weapons found on Grenada afterwards showing that we got there in time before they were about to do something really serious. But we made it. And as Ronald Reagan put it, we were "standing tall" and had overcome the Vietnam syndrome with this glorious victory. During this campaign [the Gulf war] I again, in another weak moment, tuned into to NPR and heard General Schwarzkopf giving a briefing. He was some kind of officer during this great work [Grenada], and he explained, he was asked, How come with your brilliant generalship we were able to succeed in conquering, driving Iraq from Kuwait so well? And he said, Well, in the case of Grenada, we learned some lessons. One of the lessons we learned is that the Cubans fought much harder than we expected. Now, look back to recall there were about, I think it was 43 or so Cuban paramilitary forces, construction workers that knew how to fire a rifle or something. They were attacked by 6000 elite U.S. troops who, incidentally got 8000 medals for this. [laughter] And the lesson was that they [the Cubans] fought too hard. Frankly we didn't expect it. And of course that was one lesson we learned, one can't take chances. And that was the first thing we did with Iraq was carpet bombing to make sure there was nothing would be left except broken bodies, and so on, when our soldiers went on what some of them called their nature walk. But these lessons were learned. If you want to be a great hero and a great general, you want to make sure we don't make the same mistake we made in Grenada.
I should perhaps mention, that there too, the war took place on exactly the grounds that are explained in the Policy Review: no negotiations, a much weaker enemy, pulverize them. The Cubans, these fierce Cubans, that fought back when the U.S. landed and attacked them, they had actually made an offer to the United States. They had announced to the United States a couple of days earlier when the crisis began to develop, that Cuba would have no objection to the United States landing forces at the famous airport to bring out the medical students who, in fact, were under no attack, but no claim had been made that they were under threat. That offer was made on October 21. It received no response from the United States. In fact, there was no response to that offer for five days until after U.S. forces had landed and attacked the Cubans. Cuba did announce that if its forces, its paramilitary construction workers were fired upon, they would fire back. After U.S. forces landed and did fire on them and they did fire back, the U.S. then recognized the Cuban offer. When a few mavericks in the press asked what the problem was and how come they didn't recognize the offer before, to land the airplanes at the airport to take the medical students out, what's the problem, the answer was, well, we didn't have good communication. Communication lines were down. You know, the country was backward. A country with poor technology like ours had trouble getting back to the Cubans for five days. I guess there was a shortage of carrier pigeons in the embassy. [laughter] But actually what was going on was the usual thing: avoid diplomacy, avoid negotiations, because that's not going to teach the right lessons. The right lessons are taught by a show of force, in particular the show of force against a much weaker enemy.
The same story was played against Libya and international terrorism and again, the domestic population was properly terrified. Remember back in 1986 when this hysteria reached its peak, the tourism industry in Europe was destroyed because Americans were too afraid to travel in Europe. They were too afraid to travel in Europe where they would be about one hundred times as safe as they would be in any American city. They were terrorized, frightened that there would be crazed Arabs springing at them from every place, and tourism collapsed.
In the case of Panama, after all just a year ago, remember General Noriega, a minor thug, was converted into a figure larger than life, trying to undermine our whole society and way of life by narcoterrorism and therefore we were saved just in time. Frightened, we breathed a sigh of relief that he was out of the way.
In the case of Iraq, there was a huge disinformation effort. It's now practically conceded that all those fanciful tales about tremendous fortifications, hundreds of thousands of troops dug in a half a mile underground, artillery that can shoot all the way to who knows where, chemical weapons, was all a farce. They knew it was a farce. Again, the domestic population was properly terrorized. Once again people were afraid to travel. This caused quite a bit of ridicule in Europe. Even in England, where the right-wing press was thought of as rather comical, the Spectator, a right-wing journal, pointed out in one of its columns that some group of American gun collectors, guys that walk around with assault rifles and that thing, cancelled a conference in Scotland [laughter] worrying about their airplane. [laughter] Well, given the monster who was about to destroy us, that's not unrealistic. The picture that was presented, and it's worth paying attention to, it's serious, there's a reason behind this, the picture was presented to the American public, drilled into their heads, week after week, that this huge colossus was about to conquer the world, taking control of the world's oil, ready to march onward destroying us, suffering people groaning at his feet, pleading with somebody to save them. Nobody else had the courage to do it. We moved in finally because we had the guts. We saved the world. We saved ourselves. We saved them, just in time.
If this picture of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is true, and if we were to meet the threat posed by Iraq acting our part as defender of the world, then the conclusion that we should have moved in by force, and fast, and not waited, that's not a unreasonable conclusion. Think that through and you'll see that critics of the war and supporters of the war shared pretty much the same moral ground. I think that's an important thing. They differed in their picture of the world. Their picture differed in whether they were looking at reality or the abuse of reality, but it's hard to...you can certainly understand why the population would accept a picture of the world which was presented to them without deviation, drilled into their heads, unremitting propaganda, no deviation permitted, this is a great achievement, a great achievement of modern propaganda, and it should be understood as such, and I think it also tells people opposed to the script of events what they ought to be doing.
On almost any issue you can think of an edifice of lies has been constructed so extensive that, before you can have a rational discussion, you have to sort of clear away the rubble. And that better be done or we will see more and more of this.
Well, all of these things that I've been talking about are important features of the real world, the actual one. The domestic population and the world have to be intimidated. The domestic population has to be taught to "respect the martial virtues", as the Washington Post put it. We have to shed the dread Vietnam syndrome. We have to overcome what Reagan intellectual Norman Podhoretz called "our sickly inhibition against the use of military force." All this has to be overcome if we're to be able to control, if we are to be able to move toward the real New World Order, one based on the rule of force. At home the population has to be in fear, has to be cowering in terror, in fear of terrible enemies about to destroy us. The world has to be put on notice that the surly master will do what it wants. The intellectuals have the responsibility to conceal all of this in beguiling rhetoric. If this picture looks familiar, it's because it is familiar. And that's worth thinking about, too.
Events in the Gulf followed the script in the National Security Review quite closely. Let's review them quickly. In the pre-July 1990 period, the United States was strongly supporting Saddam Hussein. Now actually, in 1980, Iraq was a close Russian ally. But Ronald Reagan and George Bush recognized quickly that Saddam Hussein is our kind of guy and they moved quickly to change that and by 1988 the Iraqi regime was very much Western oriented. Of course, Saddam Hussein was recognized to be a murderous gangster who had imposed one of the worst tyrannies in the world, but that was not a big problem, it looked like he was our gangster, so that was quite all right. The Reagan-Bush Administration fought very hard to prevent any condemnation of his atrocious human rights record in Congress, and in particular, in any interference in the growing trade in aid that they were lavishing upon their friend. The United States became the leading market for Iraqi exports, oil. Iraq became the first or second largest recipient of credits for U.S. agricultural exports, I mean gifts from the U.S. taxpayer to American agribusiness and Iraq. As Iraq began turning toward Western corporations and governments for its military support, Western German corporations took the lead in providing the lead in supplying that military equipment. U.S. and British corporations were second.
The Iraqi democratic opposition, not a radical movement, incidentally, bankers, engineers and people like that for the most part, they were continually rebuffed in Washington. Last February, according to Iraqi and government sources, they came to the White House with a plea for support for a simple statement calling for parliamentary democracy in Iraq. They were rebuffed. You will notice, incidentally, that from August through March, through the end of the war, there was nothing in the press, nothing in the media about the Iraqi democratic opposition, none of their statements, none of their spokespeople cited. It's kind of interesting if you think about it. These are the forces that for years have fought against Saddam Hussein and called for democracy in Iraq, parliamentary democracy. And there are lots of them. Of course, they don't function inside Iraq. They can't. Under the kind of regime we like to support they'd be killed if they did that. What they did was this, they exist in Europe, in England. You can read their statements in the German press, in the British press and so on, not in the American press. I haven't found a word referring to them. They continue to be rebuffed by the media and by the Government just as they had during the period when Saddam Hussein was George Bush's great friend and the reason is obvious when you look at their statements. Yes, they were opposed to Saddam Hussein, but they were opposed to the war. They didn't want to see their country destroyed. They wanted a peaceful settlement and knew that it was possible. In fact, their position was indistinguishable from that of the American peace movement. I managed to sneak one of their spokesmen into an MIT teach-in and you couldn't tell the difference between his position and any other opponents to the war. Well, that fact had to be obscured in the press and it's done, another great propaganda achievement.
Well, that's pre-July. In July 1990 Saddam Hussein again made it pretty clear that he was turning his forces toward Kuwait and was making moves that were, clearly, very intimidating towards Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. reaction to that was, "That's quite OK." The State Department made it clear, it had mixed signals, but pretty clear that it had no objection if he wanted to rectify border problems with Kuwait by force, wanted to threaten the other oil ministers to raise the price of oil to $25 a barrel which is the figure that the State department mentioned. That was quite OK. True, he was a murderous thug, but remember, he was our thug. That was July.
Well, we can speculate about what happened next. Conservative speculation, one that I think is plausible myself, is that Saddam Hussein misinterpreted the signals, took it to be a green light to take over Kuwait, which he did on August 2nd, and that is unacceptable. That shifted him from being a murderous thug, which is quite OK by our standards, to an independent thug, which is not OK at all. In fact, if he was an independent boy scout, it's the same. So then we turn to the familiar script, the one announced in the Policy Review, and consistently used in the case of independent nationalists, those who do not understand that their role is to follow orders. Kill, gas, torture, terrorize, do anything you like, but don't step on our toes. That's the lesson that people in the Third World have to understand and he demonstrated that he needed understanding.
Well, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was certainly not the only case. It's within the range of many recent examples of aggression, some worse than others. World opinion responds the way it always does. The general response of the world community to aggression through the United Nations is sanctions, which means sanctions and diplomacy. Diplomacy was to achieve reversal of the aggression through diplomatic means. And in this case the sanctions approach had unusual prospects for success. The reasons were two. For one thing, the sanctions were of absolutely unprecedented severity. Never before had there been, even in cases of much worse acts of aggression and atrocities than this, there have not been sanctions on food and medicine. But the second and more important reason why sanctions would be highly likely to work was that for once they were going to hold. Usually sanctions do not hold. Usually, in fact, they're vetoed. Efforts to imposed sanctions are usually, simply vetoed by the great powers, the United States far in the lead. Just taking the twenty years since George Bush enters the scene, the United States is first by a long shot in vetoing Security Council resolutions on aggression or any relevant issue. In second place, with about half the number of vetoes of the United States is Britain, our lieutenant. The United States and Britain are responsible for about 80 percent of those. In third place, far behind, is France, and fourth place is the Soviet Union. It's less than a third the number of vetoes of Great Britain and about one seventh the number of vetoes of the United States. That, incidentally, tells you how likely we are to be entering a New World Order in which the United Nations will undertake a peace-keeping role with the Russian veto no longer blocking it. These trivial facts, and they are trivial, you'll have to search very far to find any reference to them in the journals of opinion, intellectual journals, media, and so on. In fact, you'll find no reference to them anywhere near the main stream, but they are important facts. And that's why sanctions usually don't work because they get blocked, usually by the United States, second England. On the rare occasions where sanctions are allowed to go through, for instance, in Southern Africa, first of all they're much weaker, and secondly, they're not enforced because they've been broken consistently, regularly, by the United States, Britain, France and their allies. As a result the sanctions were very weak in their impact. In this particular case these sanctions would hold. First of all they weren't vetoed. Secondly they would hold. The usual sanctions busters weren't going to violate them. And there was every likelihood from the first day that sanctions would be highly effective, but remember, the policy principle is no diplomacy, no negotiations. In the case of a much weaker enemy, you have to destroy them, then pulverize them and do it fast, so no sanctions. The United States and Britain therefore took the second course distinct from that of the general world community. They moved at once to block negotiations, in fact, to undercut sanctions and to narrow the options for the use of force. George Bush made it very clear in August that there would be no negotiations, no diplomacy, that the options would be either capitulation to force, or the use of force, and you'll notice that is in precisely in accord with the prescription of the Policy Review.
Now by late August this was becoming a serious problem. There's a position at the New York Times called the Chief Diplomatic Correspondent; that's Newspeak for "State Department Spokesman with the New York Times," and the State Department Spokesman now is Thomas Friedman and on August 22nd he had an interesting column which is worth reading, might as well know what the State Department is thinking. He had a column in which he said that is necessary to block the diplomatic track because pursuit of the diplomatic track "might defuse the crisis at the cost of a few token gains for Iraq." In fact, the token gains were control over a disputed oil field which extends about two miles in Kuwait over an unsettled border, and some form of Iraqi access to the Gulf, important, of course, for an oil exporter. And these were well within the range of negotiations. But you got to block the diplomatic track because it might succeed. In fact, at that point it was becoming pretty dangerous because there was every reason to think it would succeed. In fact, there was every reason to think that the sanctions had already worked. This is late August. Right at that time a former high U.S. official with Iraqi connections brought to Washington the proposal from Iraq to withdraw trying to act on those terms, no linkage, no connection with anything else, to withdraw in return for control over this one oil field, the Rumaila oil field, and some form of access to the Gulf, unspecified. That would mean some kind of lease over two uninhabited islands that had been assigned to Kuwait by Britain in the Imperial settlement precisely for the purpose of keeping Iraq landlocked. Well, that was dangerous. Looked like there really was a settlement, but we can't be certain that the Iraqi offer was serious. Of course you can determine whether an offer is serious by pursuing it. But the U.S. was taking no chances. It was rejected flat out of hand and basically eliminated from public discussion. So that matter continued. There's no time to go through the record here, but let's take the last known case on January 2nd. U.S. officials released another Iraqi offer, this time to withdraw completely, no border issues at all, but this time it would be in return for consideration of two major issues, about Security Council issues but issues that Iraq had recognized for a long time, one was a question of weapons of mass destruction in the region, the second was the Israel-Arab conflict, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Well, that was rejected flat. George Bush's response to that was there will be no negotiations.
Interesting fact is that, at that time, according to the polls, about two-thirds of the U.S. public supported settlement on those terms, that is, if asked "Would you agree to a settlement which involved Iraqi withdrawal in return for Security Council consideration for the Israeli-Palestine problem," about two-thirds of the population said yes. That's without knowing that such an offer was on the table and without even seeing any discussion that it might be a good idea. Remember the order from Washington was no linkage, and therefore every respectable intellectual had to parrot on command, no linkage, and they all did. No linkage means no diplomacy. It's interesting that even without knowing that the offer was on the table from Iraq, and without knowing that U.S. officials described it as serious and a negotiable offer indicating Iraqi intentions to withdraw, and without even seeing any discussion of the issue, still two-thirds of the population thought it was a good idea. You can simply imagine what the whole results would have been if people knew the facts. And that's why it's so important for the media and the educated classes to fulfill their function and to prevent any knowledge of the abuse of reality, the real facts. So matters went.
On February 15th there was another Iraqi offer to withdraw, immediately rejected. Mistranslated, incidentally, crucially, to make it look much harsher than it was. On February 22nd there was the Soviet-Iraqi offer. To terminate the press without any further instructions George Bush quickly rejected it, instantaneously, imposing conditions so absurd that it must have taken some self-discipline for the media to not raise an eyebrow. The U.S. position was that Iraq must instantly withdraw prior to a cease-fire, that is, while they're being carpet-bombed by B-52s, they must leave their hole in the ground and start walking toward the border. I mean, that is a proposal so insane that it obviously couldn't be considered for a moment except by a well disciplined, intellectual class who accepted it completely, and if you look back in the press during that period [applause]....
So the result of all of this without being perfidious, it's an interesting conclusion about the New World Order, the conclusion's straightforward, is that no reason was ever given for going to war, that is, no reason which could not be instantaneously refuted by a literate teenager [laughter] and that's an important fact. That's another typical hallmark of a totalitarian society and it's worth recognizing that's what happened. Now, of course, there was an official reason given. The official reason was that aggressors cannot be rewarded and that aggression must be quickly punished. It's interesting that instead of collapsing in ridicule when George Bush presented this claim, the media praised him in awe for his high principle. I won't insult your intelligence by running through the directory of how the United States and George Bush in particular has stood behind these principles. But again, that's the hallmark of totalitarian society, totalitarian culture, you begin to see how close we manage to approximate it without any state controls of any significant kind whatsoever.
Now, occasionally more serious intellectuals try to deal with the question of sanctions, they're all worth looking at, so the New York Review of Books, that thinker's guide, featured an article by Timothy Garton Ash, a British intellectual, and he, at last, does deal with this hard question, how come we could agree to sanctions in other cases -- he doesn't mention the fact that we usually reject sanctions because we support aggression but that's going too far -- so how come we could set sanctions in other cases but not in this case? He asks how come we could accept sanctions in the case of Southern Africa and the Communists in Eastern Europe, but not in the case of Saddam Hussein? And his answer is, well, in the case of Southern African racists and East European Communists sanctions would work, but in the case of Saddam Hussein they wouldn't. That's the end of his argument. That's the end of his argument. Putting aside a number of questions, like the fact that we didn't really support the sanctions against Southern Africa, what's the difference? Why are the South Africans racists and the East Europeans Communists nice guys, like us, while Saddam Hussein isn't a nice guy like us? No answer is given, but if you look at the color of their faces I think you can see an answer. [applause] The answer was given by Nelson Mandela who denounced the hypocrisy and prejudice of the Western world in its reaction to Iraqi crimes, observing that these were the crimes of brown skinned people who are treated differently from white skinned people. The same is true when the New York Times tells us that "the world is united against Saddam Hussein," or that "Saddam Hussein is the most hated man in the world." That's true if "the world" excludes its darker faces.
And, in fact, all the way through the discussion of this data you notice something pretty striking, either no reason at all is given for going to war, or reasons are given which, in fact, reduce to good old fashioned racism. And I think there's a reason for that. [applause] We are now back to the pre-1917 period. For the last seventy years it's been possible to pretend that the regular and constant attacks against the Third World, which go back five hundred years to the European conquest of the world, it's been possible to pretend that these so-called North-South conflicts, the contemporary euphemism, we could pretend that these were somehow conflicts with the Russians, defense against the Russians. That pretext is gone. Even the most imaginative propagandist can't conjure up a Russian threat anymore so we now have to face the reality -- it's a war against the Third World, as it's always been. [applause] That being the case, we have to go back to the kind of rhetoric that was found in the New York City press when we were wiping a couple hundred thousand Filipinos early in this century, namely that "we must go on slaughtering the natives in English fashion, and taking what muddy glory lies in the wholesale killing until they have learned to respect our arms. The more difficult task of getting them to respect our intentions will follow" along behind. They, in other words, have to respect reality, putting aside their naive interest in what actually happened, remember, and that, indeed, is where we are now. In fact, that current war is a striking case.
Well, what about the prospects of the Middle East? In 1988, the Intifada was reaching its peak, and it was becoming more obvious, it was becoming impossible to deny what had been clear for years that the PLO had long ago joined the rest of the world back in the mid-seventies, in calling for a political settlement. That was becoming impossible to deny. The United States was backed into a diplomatic corner. It made the wise move of pretending that the PLO had finally accepted our terms. We are now going to have a conversation with them in the outer chambers of the negotiations -- that was the decision made in late 1988. The first meeting of the PLO and the low level American ambassador from Tunis, transcripts of the first meeting leaked in both Israel and Egypt, but of course, blanked out in the United States, and it was very clear at this point exactly what was going on. The United States made two demands at the first meeting. First, it said, there will be no international conference, so forget any political settlement. Second, we demand that you call off the Intifada, the uprising, which we regard as terrorism against Israel. So we have only two simple demands. First, forget any political settlement. Second, stop doing anything. Go back to the prior status quo. Stop doing anything. When you get back to the prior status quo where you can just sit quietly under Israeli oppression, humiliation and exploitation, then everything will be OK. Those are our two demands. When you accept them we can go on and talk. A couple of weeks after that the Israeli Defense Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, had a meeting with several Peace Now leaders, reported in the Hebrew press, in which he told them that he was very much in favor of negotiations between the United States and the PLO He said they are low-level negotiations of no significance. They will divert attention elsewhere while we are granted a year or more to crush the Intifada by force. And he said, they will be crushed, different words, they will be broken. A literal translation of the words are the only response reported by the Peace Now leaders and some disagreement about that needs working on.
At that time the United States came out with the famous Baker plan. The Baker plan, its actual terms were never published in the United States so I'll repeat what they were, the Baker plan said that, this much was published, the only topic on the table for negotiations is the Shamir plan. It's actually the Shamir-Peres plan, the coalition plan of the two major parties in Israel, Labor and Likud. Their coalition plan is the only plan on the table. It said if any Palestinian representatives enter into negotiations, they will be permitted to consider the modalities of this plan, period. That's the length of discussion. That's the famous Baker plan. Well we next turn to consider what's the Shamir-Peres plan? That's the one that was never published in the United States and here are its terms. It begins with several basic principles as following. Principle One, there cannot be any additional Palestinian state, meaning there already is a Palestinian state, namely Jordan, and there can't be a second Palestinian state, that's Principle One. So Palestinians can forget about any self determination. Principle Two, there can be no change in the status of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, the occupied territories, except in accord with the basic guidelines of the Israeli government, meaning nothing for the Palestinians except maybe they can collect the garbage in Nablus and set the tax rates in Ramala. That's the limit. Three, there will be no negotiations with the PLO Remember, this is back in early 1989. No negotiations with the PLO means that the Palestinians are not permitted to accept their own representatives for negotiations. We and Israel will select their representatives for them. That's Point Three. Point Four, there will be what are called free elections, held under Israeli military occupation, and you know what that's like, and with the Palestinian leadership rotting in jail, under those conditions we'll allow free elections. So that's the famous Baker plan.
If any other country in the world made such a proposal, we be out there ridiculing it, probably nuke them or something like that [laughter] but that's described here as a very forthcoming plan revealing of James Baker as a dove (???). Defense Secretary Rabin understood it very well. It was a green light to Israel to crush the Palestinians and to suppress the Intifada by force which is exactly what Israel proceeded to do, tightening the totalitarian controls, increasing the violence, blocking any possibility of survival. Assuming that there's a limit to what flesh and blood can endure, within about a year, this is still well before the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the situation was under the control of literally one of the most totalitarian regimes of the world. There are regimes that do more killing and torturing but few that have this level of totalitarian control.
The position taken by the United States and Israel was not new. In fact it goes back a long time. It goes back, in fact, to 1948. The U.S. was ambivalent about the formation of Israel in 1948 but after the Israeli victories, the [United States] military was very impressed, recognized that, in their words, the second largest military force in the region, second after Turkey, and a valued ally for the United States, especially as Great Britain was withdrawing from the region and the United States was moving in to take over, Israel looked to be a good power base for U.S. strategy and therefore we supported it, what's to be what in later terms was called the strategic asset, no time to run through the history, but that position has remained until today.
With regard to the Palestinians, there's no reason to doubt that U.S. records indicate no concern for them at all. There's little reason to doubt that the U.S. shared the assessment of the Israeli foreign office, Israeli doves, Sharif's foreign office, and that was in late 1948, that the Palestinians will be crushed, in their words, "They are human dust. They will scatter like waste among the most impoverished masses of the Arab world, or they will die, or disappear." Nothing has really changed in that respect. Palestinians have nothing to offer the United States, no military force, no great wealth, they have no position in U.S. strategic planning. After the '67 conquest Israel proceeded with U.S. backing to block any economic development in the West Bank. For a time Palestinians were permitted to serve virtual slave labor in the Israeli economy. That's now being cut back. Revenues from elsewhere are being cut back. There will be no real alternative. There will be no way to survive for deportation, which is likely to come, "invisible transfer" is the word for it. Meanwhile, Russian Jews are being forced into Israel, not permitted to go, but forced to go to Israel by changes in U.S. immigration requirements which block them from coming here, which they would probably choose to do given a free choice but that's been denied them. Russian Jews being forced into Israel, Palestinians will have to emigrate because there is no way to survive for all of them. They will be human dust. They will join the most impoverished masses of the Arab world or they will disappear somewhere else.
Meanwhile, editorials and scholarship will be full of praise for the noble righteousness of the U.S. political leaders as they take us to a New World Order. Those are the plans. And they might succeed. Those, at the moment, are the prospects for the Middle East as far as I can see.
What about the New World Order? Here we also think alike, and particularly if you read the business press. James Webb, former Reagan Aid Secretary, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, I'm pointing to a Reagan insider that, he was very critical of this, but describes it adequately, he describes the Bush Administration as an extremist Administration which prefers brute force to other means, which has relentlessly maneuvered the country into a neat little war and did so because they're facing domestic problems. They have no way to deal with them. They have only one idea in their heads and that is to turn the United States into a mercenary state, Hessians. We'll carry out the corporate global enforcement role, others will pay us for it. Others in the business press take the same point of view but advocate it. In the conservative Chicago Tribune the financial editor has been writing about this for months. His advice, given the deterioration of the U.S. economy, relative to Japan and Germany, his advice is that we use our advantage which is force. We have a virtual monopoly on the security market. We should run a global protection racket. We should sell protection. This is Chicago remember. [laughter] [applause]
We should be a global mafia. If some great country finds that someone is getting in their way, we'll go out and break their bones for them. And since we only fight much weaker enemies, we'll pulverize them. That's the way you do it if you want to show that the world should be run this way. Someone's got to pay us for it. We no longer have the economic base for these actions. He says, if we want to keep our control over the world economic order, we can do it this way, and we'll pound on tables in Germany and Japan and make them pay up. We've got the guns remember. And crudely, we will ensure that the profits from Gulf oil flow to prop up the American economy. Now there's a long record on this, planning in declassified documents and so on. They show that the major U.S. concern, and British concern, over Gulf oil is not so much in access to the oil, but it's control over the profits. Those profits were needed in 1950 to prop up the tottering British economy. By the 1970s, particularly after the last ten years, they were critically necessary for the United States, for U.S. financial institutions, for treasury securities, and so on. So we'll get the funds to keep us going and we'll sell protection to our rivals. We'll be the world's mafia, running a global protection racket.
That's the New World Order. Tri-polar economically, three major economic powers, the United States is still the biggest in fact, but declining, relatively, but uni-polar militarily, one military force. No deterrent aggression throughout the game. Nobody's going to prevent us from exercising force. At home there may be a shortage of skilled labor because we've moved toward a Third World type society. Wise course would be...society expected to fill maybe half the jobs in the next ten years are not going to be educated. They'll be in jail, or selling drugs, or killing each other, and so on, not capable of taking skilled work, but there will be plenty of work for them as Hessians. Those again are some of the contours of the emerging New World Order. Well, that's not inevitable. However, it's not unlikely. There's no outside force that's going to prevent it. The responsibility lies right here, obviously. [applause]
The peace movement has not been dormant since the end of the Vietnam War. There have been real, visible effects of the work of the past twenty years. There's no part of the country that I know of, and I've traveled around a lot to some of the most reactionary areas, there's nowhere in the country just anything like what the most, you know, antiwar regions were twenty-five years ago. There are a lot more concerns, occasionally understanding. The Government P.R. specialists are quite right, in my opinion, in recognizing that political support is extremely thin and will collapse very quickly, and in fact, can only be maintained by huge propaganda efforts to intimidate and terrorize the population and prevent them from thinking. But when organized, whether these increasingly frenzied efforts can be countered, is for us to determine. If we fail there will be no world fit for human survival.
Questions and Answers
[Bob Baldoch, Pat Scott and Barbara Lubin here join Professor Chomsky at the podium.]
[Bob Baldoch:] We're now going to have some questions. These have been pre-selected by Phillip Maury, Larry Bensky, and from Pat Scott, and Barbara Lubin. [hisses] [An audience member shouts, "What about the audience?".] [general shouts of protest]
[Barbara Lubin:] A lot of these questions have come through KPFA and come from people, from letters of concern to KPFA, and we only have about 25 minutes so what I tried to do was to take some of those major concerns. [hisses] [applause] Might not Japan make an effort to challenge the United States leadership in the New World Order, and can the United States maintain this New World Order through military might? [An audience member shouts out, "What about China?"]
I don't think China's a player in the game yet. Who knows? These are the kind of circumstances that, say, fifty or sixty years ago, would have led to a global war. It's very unlikely that will happen in this case for a number of reasons. One reason is that there's much more interpenetration of capital then there was in the past so capital isn't quite so national as it used to be. There are big transnational corporations which are all over the place. Second reason is that the weapons of mass destruction are so much more horrendous that war is unthinkable. You can fight wars against much weaker enemies, but no one sane will contemplate the war against anyone else.
As to whether Germany or Japan will try to challenge the United States in the arena of force... First of all it's quite unlikely. I think that they will probably settle for a U.S. enforcer role. As far as they're concerned, it's not a bad deal. The U.S. will take on the task of smashing up and controlling the Third World. They're not going to pay for it very much but Gulf oil business will do OK, and if the United States economy collapses its skilled labor is transferred overseas as transnational corporations move their facilities overseas. There's no great theory for them to reject. That would be my expectation.
[Pat Scott:] There have been many accusations during the past few months of anti-semitism in the peace movement. Would you comment on this, and would you also speak about the role of APAC during the Gulf war. [An audience member shouts out, "And the left."]
AIPAC is the official Israeli lobby. Personally I don't think AIPAC played much of a role in this, in fact, my own feeling is that the role of the Israeli lobby, in general, is pretty much exaggerated. That's a matter of judgement. It's not a simple factual question. In my opinion the Israeli lobby gets its input in large part because it happens to line up with powerful sectors of domestic U.S. power. [scattered applause] It can have an influence if there's a split among elites, and there is on this issue. It can have a swing effect, doubtless. Actually one often hears talk about the Jewish lobby, but the support for Israel is not really a Jewish lobby. For example, large parts of the support for Israel come from fundamentalist Christians who are, in fact, often violent anti-semites. Those two things are not at all contradictory. [applause] It comes from the general intellectual classes who, since 1967, though not before, have been very pro-Israel, very impressed with Israel's military prowess. And all of these things have to be taken into account if you're going to be serious about it.
As for anti-semitism within the peace movement, I think it's extremely marginal. There's plenty of anti-semitism, but you find it elsewhere. So for example, let's take, say, the Republican party, [laughter] a more powerful organization in the United States than the peace movement. In the 1988 election campaign, some of you may recall, a month or so before the election it was revealed that folks called the Ethnic Outreach Committee of the Republican Party, that is the sector of the Republican campaign that tries to mobilize support for the Republicans among ethnic communities, that the Ethnic Outreach Committee was, that is, had on it, in very high places, in fact, prominent places in it, were outright Nazis. I don't mean that word metaphorically. I mean outright Nazis, people who had served in the Rumanian Iron Guard, had been Nazi collaborators and denied the Holocaust, and so forth, outright Nazis, unreconstructed Nazis. It's interesting that the Democrats never made an issue of it. You look back and you notice it never came up in the campaign. Some of them were dismissed. A couple of them resurfaced in other high positions. It was sort of dropped. Now there was a little discussion about this. There was some discussion about this in the New Republic which is basically the journal of the Israeli lobby. It's the Israeli propaganda journal. It's interesting the way they dealt with it. Of course, the Democrats never picked the issue up because the leadership of the Jewish community told them to forget it. It's not worth pursuing. We don't care. The New Republic explained it, interestingly. There is, they said, this "antique and anemic anti-semitism." It's a crime in the Republican Party. It's true we have this "antique and anemic anti-semitism," namely outright Nazis, [laughter] people who gassed people and so on, but that's "antique and anemic anti-semitism." That's not a big concern. They said the real anti-semitism was in the Democratic Party. Why? Because at the Democratic convention there was a discussion of a Palestinian State. OK. That's the real anti-semitism. And, in fact, the Anti Defamation League, the B'nai B'rith, the official monitor of anti-semitism, they both put out some really dirty news copy. It's called "The Real Anti-Semitism in America," around the early eighties, and in it they agreed with the New Republic. We don't have to be worried about antique and anemic anti-semitism, outright Nazis and Holocaust deniers, and so on. We don't have to worry about that. What we have to be worried about is the real anti-semitism. Now, what's the real anti-semitism? Well, they define it. Real anti-semitism they say is, I'm quoting now, I may be off by a word or so but this is essentially a quote, "The real anti-semitism is people who give war a bad name and peace favorable press." Peace wreakers of Vietnam vintage, people who oppose the U.S. military budget, oppose U.S. actions in Central America, that's the real anti-semitism. Why? Well, the logic is clear. By their standards the interests of anti-semitism are opposition to the interests of Jews. The interests of Jews are the same as the interests of Israel, in their particular interpretation of those interests, not somebody else's, their hawkish interpretation. The hawkish interpretation of the interests of Israel requires a powerful U.S. military budget and U.S. militancy worldwide. Because they want to maintain the military confrontation. They want Israel to be an embattled state in a military confrontation with its neighbors, not entering into a political settlement, and that means powerful support from the United States. Well, that being the case, people who give war a bad name and peace a favorable press, they're the real anti-semites. So, in a sense, there is anti-semitism in the peace movement, yes. [laughter][applause]
[A member of the audience approached the stage, quite angry because someone, apparently from the Palestinian community, was not being given a chance to respond, and asked that "Nabil" be brought up to speak.]
[Barbara Lubin:] John, send Nabil up to the podium. Since we're talking about Israel and while we're waiting for Nabil to come up here, Noam, is there a meaningful force in Israel for a just settlement for the Palestinians, and what chance do these forces have to grow?
There is a small peace movement in the country, I mean, everybody says they're for peace, so the phrase "peace movement" is pretty ridiculous, so let's say in the sense of the support for the international consensus on the Intifada settlement, in the sense of the 151 countries who voted for the resolution that I mentioned calling for a political settlement of the internationally recognized borders with guarantees for the rights of every state in the region and for Palestinian self-determination, in that sense, there's a sector of the Israeli population, maybe a large sector, that's in favor of it, but they have virtually no organizing. For example, the biggest so-called peace movement, Peace Now, has never come out, essentially, in favor of recognition. There are fringe elements that strongly support Palestinian rights and they've taken part in some big demonstrations. They are people that I know. Some are close friends of mine. They could become influential. I think that depends a lot of the kind of support they get here. The relationships of dependency between Israel and the United States are so extreme, in part because of the choices that Israel's taken, constantly rejecting political settlement and insisting on what amounts to a permanent military confrontation, one result of that is extreme dependency on the United States and it means no group can get team credibility internally unless it has U.S. backing. The authentic, what I would call authentic peace movement, is the part I've just described.... [Chomsky spoke so quietly here I lost the words.]
The answer to that last part of the question about a chance for growth is if there's a move here for changing U.S. government policy, where you can have articulate expression of those opinions in favor of a real, meaningful settlement [of the Israeli-Palestinian problem] then I think you'll have....
[Chomsky's voice trailed off and I couldn't pick it up on my tape recorder. At this point Nabil, whoever he is, who had been standing for a few moments on the edge of the stage, was invited to the microphone by Barbara. He proceeded, nervously and somewhat embarrassed, to express some disagreement with Chomsky about the impact of the AIPAC lobby in Congress and mention that Palestinians have had no political voice in this country. Unfortunately, he spoke so low that my tape recorder did not pick up his words well enough to understand them later for this transcription. He received applause after a one minute statement and then he left the stage. Chomsky returned to the mike and said that while, as a matter of judgement he felt differently about the influence of AIPAC, since it was a matter of judgement, speculation and interpretation, there was certainly room for the differences expressed by Nabil and that it was certainly true that Palestinians had a weak voice in this country. But Chomsky felt that AIPAC had influence only when there were splits among the ruling powers, as between the Kissinger policy of stalemate favored by the Government, and the media and business elites, like the oil lobbies, who favored some form of political settlement. In the case of such a difference among those in power, AIPAC could have a swing effect. But the major concern of the U.S. in the Middle East has always been the oil, and the control of oil profits where real financial leverage comes from.]
[Chomsky (continuing):] Now the oil is in the hands of, basically, family dictatorships, what the British called "an Arab facade." They have to be protected from the general population, from Arab nationalists, popular forces . . . How do you protect them? Well, the traditional view is protect them with an array of local enforcers, with U.S. or British power in back of them. Preferably the local enforcers should be non-Arab, . . . so the traditional enforcers are Turkey, Israel, and Iran, the Shah. [The rest of the response was lost.]
[Lubin:] What portion of the U.S. right, including Pat Buchanan, was opposed to the Gulf War? Could you comment on this?
It was quite remarkable right before the war to look at the Nunn hearings. Virtually every articulate spokesman for the right, the Secretary of Defense, etc., they all pointed out that sanctions would work. Practically no one opposed them. That wasn't the issue. The real issue was, do you want a settlement or do you want to establish a principle, namely that the world is to ruled by force? [Chomsky said that the principle of force prevailed, but I couldn't record the much quieter conversational style of talking. He mentioned that substantive issues were never debated. In the New World Order do we have the right to control the world's oil supply? Do we have the right to police the Middle East? Can we exert our will on other countries as only we see fit? On the basis of principle, where do we stand when it comes to rewarding aggression? What about our relationship with Israel and Syria if we aren't rewarding aggression. None of these more important issues was ever debated. Only the tactical debate of sanctions versus war was ever raised.]
[Lubin:] Finally, what were the major elements of the Bush administration's successful propaganda campaign to convince the American people to support the war? How did it work?
I think the main thing that worked was frightening the population, terrorizing and intimidating the population. Make them feel their existence was threatened. The major elements of this propaganda campaign were very much like the earlier cases that I mentioned, to create an image of a demon, to create an image of a very powerful colossus about to take over the world's energy system, marching on from there to dominate the world, making us cower in fear, so under such circumstances we had no way but to support violence, cheer at the destruction of the violence that threatened our existence.
Added to that is another feature. We stand for right and justice, that is, we are the traditional guarantors of perfect order. We oppose aggression. We support peace. It worked in this case. In this case it succeeded. It definitely succeeded. Scary. And it will continue to happen if we are incapable of challenging the essential framework of those pictures that are presented. We must work to eliminate these constructions of lies that prevent recognizing reality. Look what is happening on any major issue, whether it's Indochina or terrorism or the international economic order, and whatever. Until we can bring about that situation in which people can face the reality that actually is and see through this tissue of lies, we can expect regular propaganda campaigns to frighten the population in supporting massive atrocities.
University of California at Berkeley
March 16, 1991