Chomsky As the Rest of the World Knows Him
By Sonali Kolhatkar, Uprising Radio. Posted June 7, 2007.
Noam Chomsky speaks about the status of democracy in Iraq, U.S. imperialism over Latin America, and the media’s shallow coverage of foreign affairs — all topics explored in his latest book, “Interventions.”
Since 2002, the New York Times Syndicate has been distributing op-eds written by the pre-eminent foreign policy critic and scholar of our time, Noam Chomsky. The New York Times Syndicate is part of the same company as the New York Times newspaper, and while readers around the world have had a chance to regularly read Chomsky’s articles, the New York Times newspaper has never published a single one. Only a few regional newspapers in the US have picked up the Op-eds, such as the Register Guard, the Dayton Daily News, and the Knoxville Voice. Internationally, the Op-eds have appeared in the mainstream British press including the International Herald Tribune, the Guardian, and the Independent. Now, City Lights Books has just published a complete collection of these 1000 word Op-eds in a single book called Interventions.
On June 1st, 2007, Noam Chomsky spoke with radio host Sonali Kolhatkar about his new book:
Kolhatkar: In your April 2004 op-ed entitled “Iraq: The Roots of Resistance,” you describe the false pretext of democracy that the Bush administration used to justify its war and then in March 2005 you lauded the real success of the Iraqi elections in that the US had actually allowed them to take place. Now a few years later what is the status of real democracy in Iraq?
Chomsky: The elections of January 2005 were, as I probably wrote there in my view, a real triumph of non-violent resistance. The US was trying in every possible way to prevent elections and finally had to give in just because it could not face a mass, popular non-violent resistance, which was far more effective than the insurgency. So it allowed the elections to take place but immediately moved to subvert them. And that’s the situation we’re in. I mean, you can’t really have a functioning democracy under military occupation. You can have some elements of it but not much. Military occupation is too harsh. I mean, it’s hard enough to find a functioning democratic system in a country that deprived of Democratic elections. Paris system, for example, of military occupation, their system has extremely serious flaws and in Iraq, it’s far harsher. The elections as they took place finally were, as many observers, have pointed out it was kind of a census more than an election. It was sectarian voting and the conflicts are by now so extreme that the political system is kind of a shadow.
Kolhatkar: So, when you talk about the elections themselves not necessarily being that meaningful, what about the aspirations of Iraqis and how do we here in the United States, who are against the war in Iraq, count on the democratic aspirations of the Iraqis? Increasingly, it seems as though Iraqis do not have much space to exercise their democratic rights.
Chomsky: They do not have space under a military occupation. I mean, if the United States was occupied by Iran, would we be able to run a democratic society? I mean, it’s not a matter of counting on Iraqis. We have responsibilities to them and the responsibilities are clear.
The responsibilities are to, first of all, pay enormous reparations, not just for the war but for the murderous, sanctioned regime that preceded it and fatuous support for Saddam Hussein during the ’80s. We have plenty of obligations in that regard. We have an obligation to hold the guilty here accountable for crimes, crime of aggression being the main one. And we have a responsibility to pay attention to the victims and it’s not a secret what they want.
Last fall, the State Department released a poll showing that about 2/3 of Baghdadis want the US forces out right away in fact and about 70% of the rest of the country wanted them out within a narrow time frame, like about a year or less. That would be beginning or even ending right now. That’s all of Iraq. If you look at Arab Iraq, the figures are much higher. The overwhelming majority felt the US troops are increasing the level of violence and a large majority felt that US troops are legitimate targets of attack. And those figures are increasing, as they say, higher in the areas where the troops are deployed in Arab Iraq. Even without such figures, an invading army has no rights at all and as we’re counting on Iraqis we just have to give them the space to do whatever they can do with the chaos and destruction that’s been created by the invasion.
Read the rest here.