Posts Tagged ‘Noam Chomsky’


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Noam Chomsky: Why Israel’s Netanyahu Is So Desperate to Prevent Peace with Iran

TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Washington as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu will address the lobby group AIPAC today, followed by a controversial speech before Congress on Tuesday. The visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31st deadline. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Netanyahu’s trip won’t threaten the outcome.

PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: I think the short answer to that is: I don’t think so. And the reason is simply that there is a real opportunity for us here. And the president is hopeful that we are going to have an opportunity to do what is clearly in the best interests of the United States and Israel, which is to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program at the negotiating table.

AARON MATÉ: The trip has sparked the worst public rift between the U.S. and Israel in over two decades. Dozens of Democrats could boycott Netanyahu’s address to Congress, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. The Obama administration will send two officials, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, to address the AIPAC summit today. This comes just days after Rice called Netanyahu’s visit, quote, “destructive.”

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing domestic criticism for his unconventional Washington visit, which comes just two weeks before an election in which he seeks a third term in Israel. On Sunday, a group representing nearly 200 of Israel’s top retired military and intelligence officials accused Netanyahu of assaulting the U.S.-Israel alliance.

But despite talk of a U.S. and Israeli dispute, the Obama administration has taken pains to display its staunch support for the Israeli government. Speaking just today in Geneva, Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the U.N. Human Rights Council for what he called an “obsession” and “bias” against Israel. The council is expected to release a report in the coming weeks on potential war crimes in Israel’s U.S.-backed Gaza assault last summer.

For more, we spend the hour today with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, Noam Chomsky. He has written over a hundred books, most recently On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Ilan Pappé, is titled On Palestine and will be out next month. Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than 50 years.

Noam Chomsky, it’s great to have you back here at Democracy Now!, and particularly in our very snowy outside, but warm inside, New York studio.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Delighted to be here again.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam, let’s start with Netanyahu’s visit. He is set to make this unprecedented joint address to Congress, unprecedented because of the kind of rift it has demonstrated between the Republicans and the Democratic president, President Obama. Can you talk about its significance?

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the Antichrist, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever “them” happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions.

AARON MATÉ: You say that nobody with a grey cell thinks that Iran would launch a strike, were it to have nuclear weapons, but yet Netanyahu repeatedly accuses Iran of planning a new genocide against the Jewish people. He said this most recently on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, saying that the ayatollahs are planning a new holocaust against us. And that’s an argument that’s taken seriously here.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s taken seriously by people who don’t stop to think for a minute. But again, Iran is under extremely close surveillance. U.S. satellite surveillance knows everything that’s going on in Iran. If Iran even began to load a missile—that is, to bring a missile near a weapon—the country would probably be wiped out. And whatever you think about the clerics, the Guardian Council and so on, there’s no indication that they’re suicidal.

AARON MATÉ: The premise of these talks—Iran gets to enrich uranium in return for lifting of U.S. sanctions—do you see that as a fair parameter? Does the U.S. have the right, to begin with, to be imposing sanctions on Iran?

NOAM CHOMSKY: No, it doesn’t. What are the right to impose sanctions? Iran should be imposing sanctions on us. I mean, it’s worth remembering—when you hear the White House spokesman talk about the international community, it wants Iran to do this and that, it’s important to remember that the phrase “international community” in U.S. discourse refers to the United States and anybody who may be happening to go along with it. That’s the international community. If the international community is the world, it’s quite a different story. So, two years ago, the Non-Aligned—former Non-Aligned Movement—it’s a large majority of the population of the world—had their regular conference in Iran in Tehran. And they, once again, vigorously supported Iran’s right to develop nuclear power as a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s the international community. The United States and its allies are outliers, as is usually the case.

And as far as sanctions are concerned, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s now 60 years since—during the past 60 years, not a day has passed without the U.S. torturing the people of Iran. It began with overthrowing the parliamentary regime and installing a tyrant, the shah, supporting the shah through very serious human rights abuses and terror and violence. As soon as he was overthrown, almost instantly the United States turned to supporting Iraq’s attack against Iran, which was a brutal and violent attack. U.S. provided critical support for it, pretty much won the war for Iraq by entering directly at the end. After the war was over, the U.S. instantly supported the sanctions against Iran. And though this is kind of suppressed, it’s important. This is George H.W. Bush now. He was in love with Saddam Hussein. He authorized further aid to Saddam in opposition to the Treasury and others. He sent a presidential delegation—a congressional delegation to Iran. It was April 1990—1989, headed by Bob Dole, the congressional—

AMY GOODMAN: To Iraq? Sent to Iraq?

NOAM CHOMSKY: To Iraq. To Iraq, sorry, yeah—to offer his greetings to Saddam, his friend, to assure him that he should disregard critical comment that he hears in the American media: We have this free press thing here, and we can’t shut them up. But they said they would take off from Voice of America, take off critics of their friend Saddam. That was—he invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in weapons production. This is right after the Iraq-Iran War, along with sanctions against Iran. And then it continues without a break up to the present.

There have been repeated opportunities for a settlement of whatever the issues are. And so, for example, in, I guess it was, 2010, an agreement was reached between Brazil, Turkey and Iran for Iran to ship out its low-enriched uranium for storage elsewhere—Turkey—and in return, the West would provide the isotopes that Iran needs for its medical reactors. When that agreement was reached, it was bitterly condemned in the United States by the president, by Congress, by the media. Brazil was attacked for breaking ranks and so on. The Brazilian foreign minister was sufficiently annoyed so that he released a letter from Obama to Brazil proposing exactly that agreement, presumably on the assumption that Iran wouldn’t accept it. When they did accept it, they had to be attacked for daring to accept it.

And 2012, 2012, you know, there was to be a meeting in Finland, December, to take steps towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. This is an old request, pushed initially by Egypt and the other Arab states back in the early ’90s. There’s so much support for it that the U.S. formally agrees, but not in fact, and has repeatedly tried to undermine it. This is under the U.N. auspices, and the meeting was supposed to take place in December. Israel announced that they would not attend. The question on everyone’s mind is: How will Iran react? They said that they would attend unconditionally. A couple of days later, Obama canceled the meeting, claiming the situation is not right for it and so on. But that would be—even steps in that direction would be an important move towards eliminating whatever issue there might be. Of course, the stumbling block is that there is one major nuclear state: Israel. And if there’s a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone, there would be inspections, and neither Israel nor the United States will tolerate that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about major revelations that have been described as the biggest leak since Edward Snowden. Last week, Al Jazeera started publishing a series of spy cables from the world’s top intelligence agencies. In one cable, the Israeli spy agency Mossad contradicts Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb within a year. In a report to South African counterparts in October 2012, the Israeli Mossad concluded Iran is “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” The assessment was sent just weeks after Netanyahu went before the U.N. General Assembly with a far different message. Netanyahu held up a cartoonish diagram of a bomb with a fuse to illustrate what he called Iran’s alleged progress on a nuclear weapon.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: This is a bomb. This is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages. By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb. A red line should be drawn right here, before—before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2012. The Mossad assessment contradicting Netanyahu was sent just weeks after, but it was likely written earlier. It said Iran, quote, “does not appear to be ready,” unquote, to enrich uranium to the highest levels needed for a nuclear weapon. A bomb would require 90 percent enrichment, but Mossad found Iran had only enriched to 20 percent. That number was later reduced under an interim nuclear deal the following year. The significance of this, Noam Chomsky, as Prime Minister Netanyahu prepares for this joint address before Congress to undermine a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the striking aspect of this is the chutzpah involved. I mean, Israel has had nuclear weapons for probably 50 years or 40 years. They have, estimates are, maybe 100, 200 nuclear weapons. And they are an aggressive state. Israel has invaded Lebanon five times. It’s carrying out an illegal occupation that carries out brutal attacks like Gaza last summer. And they have nuclear weapons. But the main story is that if—incidentally, the Mossad analysis corresponds to U.S. intelligence analysis. They don’t know if Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But I think the crucial fact is that even if they were, what would it mean? It would be just as U.S. intelligence analyzes it: It would be part of a deterrent strategy. They couldn’t use a nuclear weapon. They couldn’t even threaten to use it. Israel, on the other hand, can; has, in fact, threatened the use of nuclear weapons a number of times.

AMY GOODMAN: So why is Netanyahu doing this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Because he doesn’t want to have a deterrent in the region. That’s simple enough. If you’re an aggressive, violent state, you want to be able to use force freely. You don’t want anything that might impede it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this in any way has undercut the U.S. relationship with Israel, the Netanyahu-Obama conflict that, what, Susan Rice has called destructive?

NOAM CHOMSKY: There is undoubtedly a personal relationship which is hostile, but that’s happened before. Back in around 1990 under first President Bush, James Baker went as far as—the secretary of state—telling Israel, “We’re not going to talk to you anymore. If you want to contact me, here’s my phone number.” And, in fact, the U.S. imposed mild sanctions on Israel, enough to compel the prime minister to resign and be replaced by someone else. But that didn’t change the relationship, which is based on deeper issues than personal antagonisms.

 


Noam Chomsky: Defeating ISIS Starts with the US Admitting Its Role in Creating This Fundamentalist Monster

It would take remedying the massive damage inflicted on Iraq in order to deal with the turmoil in the region.


Noam Chomsky: America paved the way for ISIS

The famed linguist and philosopher on the conflict in Iraq, Israel and the myriad dangers of U.S. foreign policy

Noam Chomsky: America paved the way for ISIS

Jacobin is happy to feature an interview with journalist David Barsamian and Professor Noam Chomsky. In it, Chomsky explains the roots of ISIS and why the United States and its allies are responsible for the group’s emergence. In particular, he argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq provoked the sectarian divisions that have resulted in the destabilization of Iraqi society. The result was a climate where Saudi-funded radicals could thrive

The interview also touches on Israel’s most recent massacre in the Gaza Strip, putting it in the context of the vital role Israel has always played for the United States. Chomsky then turns to today’s racist scapegoating of Guatemalan immigrants, tracing the conditions that lead them to leave their homes to the Reagan administration’s brutal destruction of the country.

Finally, Chomsky shares his thoughts on the growing movement for climate justice and why he thinks it is the most urgent of our time. The full exchange will be broadcast by Alternative Radio.

There are few voices more vital to the Left than Professor Chomsky’s. We hope you read and share the interview widely.


The Middle East is engulfed in flames, from Libya to Iraq. There are new jihadi groups. The current focus is on ISIS. What about ISIS and its origins?

There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.

But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.

In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq, a major crime. Just this afternoon the British parliament granted the government the authority to bomb Iraq again. The invasion was devastating to Iraq. Iraq had already been virtually destroyed, first of all by the decade-long war with Iran in which, incidentally, Iraq was backed by the US, and then the decade of sanctions.

They were described as “genocidal” by the respected international diplomats who administered them, and both resigned in protest for that reason. They devastated the civilian society, they strengthened the dictator, compelled the population to rely on him for survival. That’s probably the reason he wasn’t sent on the path of a whole stream of other dictators who were overthrown.

Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.

You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.

In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.

Britain, before the US, had typically preferred radical Islamism to secular nationalism. And when the US took over, it essentially took the same stand. Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia. It’s the most extremist, radical Islamic state in the world. It makes Iran look like a tolerant, modern country by comparison, and, of course, the secular parts of the Arab Middle East even more so.

It’s not only directed by an extremist version of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi version, but it’s also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region. It establishes schools, mosques, clerics, all over the place, from Pakistan to North Africa.

An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam, the Saudi version, and the conflicts that were engendered by the US sledgehammer that smashed up Iraq and has now spread everywhere. That’s what Fuller means.

Saudi Arabia not only provides the ideological core that led to the ISIS radical extremism, but it also funds them. Not the Saudi government, but wealthy Saudis, wealthy Kuwaitis, and others provide the funding and the ideological support for these jihadi groups that are springing up all over the place. This attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source, where this thing originates. That’s what Fuller meant by saying the United States created ISIS.

You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they will become more extremist. The most brutal, harshest groups will take over. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of interaction. It’s almost automatic. That’s true in neighborhoods, it’s true in international affairs. The dynamics are perfectly evident. That’s what’s happening. That’s where ISIS comes from. If they manage to destroy ISIS, they will have something more extreme on their hands.

And the media are obedient. In Obama’s September 10 speech, he cited two countries as success stories of the US counterinsurgency strategy. What were the two countries? Somalia and Yemen. Jaws should have been dropping all over the place, but there was virtual silence in the commentary the next day.

The Somalia case is particularly horrendous. Yemen is bad enough. Somalia is an extremely poor country. I won’t run through the whole history. But one of the great achievements, one of the great boasts of the Bush administration counterterror policy was that they had succeeded in shutting down a charity, the Barakat charity, which was fueling terrorism in Somalia. Big excitement in the press. That’s a real achievement.

A couple of months later the facts started leaking out. The charity had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism in Somalia. What it had to do with was banking, commerce, relief, hospitals. It was sort of keeping the deeply impoverished and battered Somali economy alive. By shutting it down, the Bush administration had ended this. That was the contribution to counterinsurgency. That got a few lines. You can read it in books on international finance. That’s what’s being done to Somalia.

There was a moment when the so-called Islamic courts, they were called, an Islamic organization, had achieved a kind of a measure of peace in Somalia. Not a pretty regime, but at least it was peaceful and people were more or less accepting it. The US wouldn’t tolerate it, and it supported an Ethiopian invasion to destroy it and turn the place back into horrible turmoil. That’s the great achievement.

Yemen is a horror story of its own.

Going back to National Public Radio andMorning Edition, the host, David Greene, was doing an interview with a reporter based in Gaza, and he prefaced his interview with this comment: “Both sides have suffered tremendous damage.” So I thought to myself, does this mean Haifa and Tel Aviv were reduced to rubble, as Gaza was? Do you remember the Jimmy Carter comment about Vietnam?

Not only do I remember it, I think I was the first person to comment on it, and am probably to date practically the only person to comment on it. Carter, the human rights advocate, he was asked in a press conference in 1977 a kind of mild question: do you think we have some responsibility for helping the Vietnamese after the war? And he said we owe them no debt — “the destruction was mutual.”

That passed without comment. And it was better than his successor. When a couple years later George Bush I, the statesman, was commenting on the responsibilities after the Vietnam War, he said: there is one moral problem that remains after the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese have not devoted sufficient resources to turning over to us the bones of American pilots. These innocent pilots who were shot down over central Iowa by the murderous Vietnamese when they were spraying crops or something, they have not turned over the bones. But, he said: we are a merciful people, so we will forgive them this and we will allow them to enter the civilized world.

Meaning we’ll allow them to enter trade relations and so on, which, of course, we bar, if they will stop what they’re doing and devote sufficient resources to overcoming this one lingering crime after the Vietnam War. No comment.

One of the things that Israeli officials keep bringing up, and it’s repeated here in the corporate media, ad nauseam, is the Hamas charter. They don’t accept the existence of the state of the Israel, they want to wipe it off the map. You have some information about the charter and its background.

The charter was produced by, apparently, a handful of people, maybe two or three, back in 1988, at a time when Gaza was under severe Israeli attack. You remember Rabin’s orders. This was a primarily nonviolent uprising which Israel reacted to very violently, killing leaders, torture, breaking bones in accordance with Rabin’s orders, and so on. And right in the middle of that, a very small number of people came out with what they called a Hamas charter.

Nobody has paid attention to it since. It was an awful document, if you look at it. Since then the only people who have paid attention to it are Israeli intelligence and the US media. They love it. Nobody else cares about it. Khaled Mashal, the political leader of Gaza years ago, said: look, it’s past, it’s gone. It has no significance. But that doesn’t matter. It’s valuable propaganda.

There is also — they don’t call it a charter, but there are founding principles of the governing coalition in Israel, not some small group of people who are under attack but the governing coalition, Likud. The ideological core of Likud is Menachem Begin’s Herut. They have founding documents. Their founding documents say that today’s Jordan is part of the land of Israel; Israel will never renounce its claim to the land of Jordan. What’s now called Jordan they call the historical lands of Israel. They’ve never renounced that.

Likud, the same governing party, has an electoral program — it was for 1999 but it’s never been rescinded, it’s the same today — that says explicitly there will never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. In other words, we are dedicated in principle to the destruction of Palestine, period.

This is not just words. We proceed day by day to implement it. Nobody ever mentions the founding doctrines of Likud, Herut. I don’t either, because nobody takes them seriously. Actually, that was also the doctrine of the majority of the kibbutz movement. Achdut Ha-Avodah, which was the largest part of the kibbutz movement, held the same principles, that both sides of the Jordan River are ours.

There was a slogan, “This side of the Jordan, that side also.” In other words, both western Palestine and eastern Palestine are ours. Does anybody say: okay, we can’t negotiate with Israel? More significant are the actual electoral programs. And even more significant than that are the actual actions, which are implementing the destruction of Palestine, not just talking about it. But we have to talk about the Hamas charter.

There is an interesting history about the so-called PLO charter. Around 1970 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, published an article in a major Israeli journal in which he brought to light something called the PLO charter or something similar to that. Nobody had ever heard of it, nobody was paying any attention to it.

And the charter said: here’s our aim. Our aim is it’s our land, we’re going to take it over. In fact, it was not unlike the Herut claims except backwards. This instantly became a huge media issue all over. The PLO covenant it was called. The PLO covenant plans to destroy Israel. They didn’t know anything about it, nobody knew anything about it, but this became a major issue.

I met Harkabi a couple years later. He was kind of a dove, incidentally. He became pretty critical of Israeli policy. He was an interesting guy. We had an interview here at MIT, in fact. Incidentally, at that time there was material in the Arab press that I was reading saying that the Palestinians were thinking about officially throwing out the charter because it was kind of an embarrassment.

So I asked him, “Why did you bring this out for the first time just at the time when they were thinking of rescinding it?” He looked at me with the blank stare that you learn to recognize when you are talking to spooks. They are trained to pretend not to understand what you’re talking about when they understand it perfectly.

He said, “Oh, I never heard that.” That is beyond inconceivable. It’s impossible that the head of Israeli military intelligence doesn’t know what I know from reading bits and pieces of the Arab press in Beirut. Of course he knew.

There’s every reason to believe that he decided to bring this out precisely because he recognized, meaning Israeli intelligence recognized, that it would be a useful piece of propaganda and it’s best to try to ensure that the Palestinians keep it. Of course, if we attack it, then they’re going to back off and say: we’re not going to rescind it under pressure, which is what’s happening with the Hamas charter.

If they stopped talking about it, everyone would forget about it, because it’s meaningless. Incidentally, let me just add one more thing. It is now impossible to document this, for a simple reason. The documents were all in the PLO offices in Beirut. And when Israel invaded Beirut, they stole all the archives. I assume they must have them somewhere, but nobody is going to get access to them.

What accounts for the almost near unanimity of the Congress in backing Israel? Even Elizabeth Warren, the highly touted Democratic senator from Massachusetts, voted for this resolution about self-defense.

She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.

The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.

That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.

And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.

There’s a huge fuss now about children fleeing Central America, say, from Guatemala. Why are they fleeing from Guatemala? You can see a photo of one of them here in my office. They’re fleeing from Guatemala because of the wreckage of Guatemala, of which a large part was the attack on the Mayan Indians, which was really genocidal, in the early 1980s. That’s a Mayan woman in the photo, in fact. They’ve never escaped this, and many of them are fleeing.

Reagan, who was extremely brutal and violent and a terrible racist as well, wanted to provide direct support for the Guatemalan army’s attack, which was literally genocidal on the Mayan Indians. There was a congressional resolution that blocked him, so he turned to his terrorist clients.

The major one was Israel. Also Taiwan, a couple of others. Israel provided the arms for the Guatemalan army — to this day they use Israeli arms — provided the trainers for the terrorist forces, essentially ran the genocidal attack. That’s one of their services. They did the same in South Africa. Actually, this led to an interesting incident with the great hero Elie Wiesel.

In the mid-1980s, Salvador Luria, a friend of mine who is a Nobel laureate in biology and politically active, knew about this. It wasn’t a big secret. He asked me to collect articles from the Hebrew press which described Israel’s participation in genocidal attacks in Guatemala — not just participation, it’s a leadership role — because he wanted to send it to Elie Wiesel with a polite letter saying: as a fellow Nobel laureate, I would like to bring this to your attention. Could you use your influence — he didn’t ask him to say anything, that’s too much, but privately could you communicate to the people you know well at a high level in Israel and say it’s not nice to take part in genocide. He never got a response.

A couple of months later, I read an interview in the Hebrew press, where they really dislike Wiesel. They regard him as a charlatan and a fraud. One of the questions in the interview was, “What do you think about Israel’s participation in the genocidal assault in Guatemala?”

The report says Wiesel sighed and then said: I received a letter from a fellow Nobel laureate bringing to my attention these actions and asking me if I could say something privately to try to restrict them somehow, but, he said: I can’t criticize Israel even privately. I can’t say anything even privately that might impede Israel’s participation in genocide. That’s Elie Wiesel, the great moral hero.

Even this story is astonishing. Now children and many other refugees are fleeing from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Not from Nicaragua, about as poor as Honduras. Is there a difference? Yes. Nicaragua is the one country in the 1980s that had a way of defending itself against US terrorist forces — an army. In the other countries the army were the terrorist forces, supported and armed by the US, and its Israeli client in the worst cases. So that’s what you had.

There is a lot of upbeat reporting now saying the flow of children has reduced. Why? Because we’ve turned the screws on Mexico and told them to use force to prevent the victims of our violence from fleeing to the US for survival. So now they’re doing it for us, so there are fewer coming to the border. It’s a great humanitarian achievement of Obama’s.

Incidentally, Honduras is in the lead. Why Honduras? Because in 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras which overthrew the president, Zelaya, who was beginning to make some moves towards badly needed reform measures, and kicked him out of the country.

I won’t go through the details, but it ended up with the US, under Obama, being one of the very few countries that recognized the coup regime and the election that took place under its aegis, which has turned Honduras into an even worse horror story than it was before, way in the lead in homicides, violence. So, yes, people are fleeing. And therefore we have to drive them back and ensure that they go back into the horror chamber.

In the current situation, it seems that this is an opportunity for the Kurdish population of Iraq to realize some kind of statehood, some kind of independence, something that they’ve wanted for a long time, and which intersects, actually, with Israeli interests in Iraq. They have been supporting the Kurds, rather clandestinely, but it’s well known that Israel has been pushing for fragmentation of Iraq.

They are. And that’s one of the points on which Israeli and US policy conflict. The Kurdish areas are landlocked. The government of Iraq has blocked their export of oil, their only resource, and of course opposes their statehood bid. The US so far has been backing that.

Clandestinely, there evidently is a flow of oil at some level from the Kurdish area into Turkey. That’s also a very complex relationship. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leadervisited Turkey about a year ago, I guess, and made some pretty striking comments. He was quite critical of the leadership of the Turkish Kurds and was plainly trying to establish better relations with Turkey, which has been violently repressing the Turkish Kurds.

Most of the Kurds in the world are in Turkey. You can understand why, from his point of view. That’s the one outlet to the outside world. But Turkey has a mixed attitude about this. An independent Kurdistan in, say, northern Iraq, which is right next to the Kurdish areas of Turkey, or in the Syrian Kurdish areas, which are right by them, potentially, from the Turkish point of view, might encourage separatists or even efforts for autonomy in the southeastern part of Turkey, which is heavily Kurdish. They’ve been fighting against that ever since modern Turkey arose in the 1920, very brutally, in fact. So they have a mixed kind of attitude on this.

Kurdistan has succeeded somehow in getting tankers to take Kurdish oil. Those tankers are wandering around the Mediterranean. No country will accept it, except probably Israel. We can’t be certain, but it looks as though they’re taking some of it. The Kurdish tankers are seeking some way to unload their oil in mostly the eastern Mediterranean. It’s not happening at a level which permits Kurdistan to function, even to pay its officials.

On the other hand, if you go to the Kurdish so-called capital, Erbil, apparently there are high rises going up, plenty of wealth. But it’s a very fragile kind of system. It cannot survive. It’s completely surrounded by mostly hostile regions. Turkey is sort of unclear because of the reasons that I mentioned. So, yes, they do have that in mind. That’s why they took Kirkuk as soon as they could.

There are a couple of questions I want to close with, actually from our latest book, Power SystemsI ask you, “You’ve got grandchildren. What kind of world do you see them inheriting?”

The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.

This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.

The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.

So September 21, the day of the march, which was a very positive development, an indication that you can do things, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to wipe everything out, that same day one of the major international monitoring scientific agencies presented the data on greenhouse emissions for the latest year on record, 2013. They reached record levels: they went up over 2 percent beyond the preceding year. For the US they went up even higher, almost 3 percent.

The Journal of the American Medical Association came out with a study the same day looking at the number of super hot days that are predicted for New York over the next couple of decades, super hot meaning over ninety. They predicted it will triple for New York, and much worse effects farther south. This is all going along with predicted sea-level rise, which is going to put a lot of Boston under water. Let alone the Bangladesh coastal plan, where hundreds of millions of people live, will be wiped out.

All of this is imminent. And at this very moment the logic of our institutions is driving it forward. So Exxon Mobil, which is the biggest energy producer, has announced — and you can’t really criticize them for it; this is the nature of the state capitalist system, its logic — that they are going to direct all of their efforts to lifting fossil fuels, because that’s profitable. In effect, that’s exactly what they should be doing, given the institutional framework. They’re supposed to make profits. And if that wipes out the possibility of a decent life for the grandchildren, it’s not their problem.

Chevron, another big energy corporation, had a small sustainable program, mostly for PR reasons, but it was doing reasonably well, it was actually profitable. They just closed it down because fossil fuels are so much more profitable.

In the US by now there’s drilling all over the place. But there’s one place where it has been somewhat limited, federal lands. Energy lobbies are complaining bitterly that Obama has cut back access to federal lands. The Department of Interior just came out with the statistics. It’s the opposite. The oil drilling on federal lands has steadily increased under Obama. What has decreased is offshore drilling.

But that’s a reaction to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Right after that disaster, the immediate reaction was to back off. Even the energy companies backed off from deep-sea drilling. The lobbies are just pulling these things together. If you look at the onshore drilling, it’s just going up. There are very few brakes on this. These tendencies are pretty dangerous, and you can predict what kind of world there will be for your grandchildren.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements.

 


After seeing the impact of 20 years worth of NAFTA
The political theorist and linguist slams the agreement that has little to do with free trade.

Noam Chomsky: America, Moral Degenerate

Democrats and Republicans alike embrace torture and assassination policies that are an attack on 800 years of civil rights law.

Noam Chomsky and Eric Bailey of Torture Magazine discuss America’s human rights record under President Obama, and the military intervention policies that have seen increased use during the Arab Spring.

Eric Bailey: The last four years have seen significant changes in American federal policy in regards to human rights. One of the few examples of cooperation between the Democratic and Republican parties over the last four years has been the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. This bill has given the United States military the power to arrest American citizens, indefinitely, without charge, trial, or any other form of due process of law and the Obama administration has and continues to fight a legal battle in federal court to prevent that law from being declared unconstitutional. Obama authorized the assassination of three American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, admittedly all members of Al Qaeda — all without judicial review.

Additionally, the Guantanamo Bay prison remains open, the Patriot Act has been extended and the TSA has expanded at breakneck speeds. What is your take on America’s human rights record over the past four years and can you contrast Obama’s policies with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush?

Noam Chomsky: Obama’s policies have been approximately the same as Bush’s, though there have been some slight differences, but that’s not a great surprise. The Democrats supported Bush’s policies. There were some objections on mostly partisan grounds, but for the most part, they supported his policies and it’s not surprising that they have continued to do so. In some respects Obama has gone even beyond Bush. The NDAA, which you mentioned, was not initiated by Obama (when it passed Congress, he said he didn’t approve of it and wouldn’t implement it), but he nevertheless did sign it into law and did not veto it. It was pushed through by hawks, including Joe Lieberman and others.

In fact, there hasn’t been that much of a change. The worst part of the NDAA is that it codified — or put into law — what had already been a regular practice. The practices hadn’t been significantly different. The one part that received public attention is what you mentioned, the part that permits the indefinite detention of American citizens, but why permit the indefinite detention of anybody? It’s a gross violation of fundamental human rights and civil law, going all the way back to the Magna Carta in the 13th century, so it’s a very severe attack on elementary civil rights, both under Bush and under Obama. It’s bipartisan!

As for the killings, Obama has sharply increased the global assassination campaign. While it was initiated by Bush, it has expanded under Obama and it has included American citizens, again with bipartisan support and very little criticism other than some minor criticism because it was an American. But then again, why should you have the right to assassinate anybody? For example, suppose Iran was assassinating members of Congress who were calling for an attack on Iran. Would we think that’s fine? That would be much more justified, but of course we’d see that as an act of war.

The real question is, why assassinate anyone? The government has made it very clear that the assassinations are personally approved by Obama and the criteria for assassination are very weak. If a group of men are seen somewhere by a drone who are, say, loading something into a truck, and there is some suspicion that maybe they are militants, then it’s fine to kill them and they are regarded as guilty unless, subsequently, they are shown to be innocent. That’s the wording that the United States used and it is such a gross violation of fundamental human rights that you can hardly talk about it.

The question of due process actually did arise, since the US does have a constitution and it says that no person shall be deprived of their rights without due process of law — again, this goes back to 13th-century England — so the question arose, “What about due process?” The Obama Justice Department’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, explained that there was due process in these cases because they are discussed first at the Executive Branch. That’s not even a bad joke! The British kings from the 13th century would have applauded. “Sure, if we talk about it, that’s due process.” And that, again, passed without controversy.

In fact, we might ask the same question about the murder of Osama Bin Laden. Notice I use the term “murder.” When heavily armed elite troops capture a suspect, unarmed and defenseless, accompanied by his wives, and then shoot him, kill him, and dump his body into the ocean without an autopsy, that’s sheer assassination. Also notice that I said “suspect.” The reason is because of another principle of law, that also goes back to the 13th century — that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Before that, he’s a suspect. In the case of Osama Bin Laden, the United States had never formally charged him with 9/11 and part of the reason was that they didn’t know that he was responsible. In fact, eight months after 9/11 and after the most intensive inquiry in history, the FBI explained that it suspected that the 9/11 plot was hatched in Afghanistan (didn’t mention Bin Laden), and was implemented in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and of course, the United States. That’s eight months after the attack and there’s nothing substantive that they’ve learned since then that does more than increase the suspicion.

My own assumption is that the suspicion is almost certainly correct, but there’s a big difference between having a very confident belief and showing someone to be guilty. And even if he’s guilty, he was supposed to be apprehended and brought before a court. That’s British and American law going back eight centuries. He’s not supposed to be murdered and have his body dumped without an autopsy, but support for this is very nearly universal. Actually, I wrote one of the few critical articles on it and my article was bitterly condemned by commentators across the spectrum, including the Left, because the assassination was so obviously just, since we suspected him of committing a crime against us. And that tells you something about the significant, I would say “moral degeneration,” running throughout the whole intellectual class. And yes, Obama has continued this and in some respects extended it, but it hardly comes as a surprise.

The rot is much deeper than that.

Bailey: It has been just over 10 years since the publication of the Bush administration’s “torture memos.” These memos provided a legal justification for the torture of detainees held by the CIA in connection with the “war on terror.” The contents of the memos are chilling and have created new debate on torture internationally. Despite all of the promises given by President Obama to close those illegal detention centers, it seems that “black site” activities still occur. What are your views on these detention centers and CIA torture? Also, what do you think about Obama’s promise of CIA reforms in 2008 and how has the reality of his presidency stacked up to those promises?

Chomsky: There have been some presidential orders expressing disapproval of the most extreme forms of torture, but Bagram remains open and uninspected. That’s probably the worst in Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open, but it’s unlikely that serious torture is going on at Guantanamo. There is just too much inspection. There are military lawyers present and evidence regularly coming out so I suspect that that’s not a torture chamber any more, but it still is an illegal detention chamber, and Bagram and who knows how many others are still functioning. Rendition doesn’t seem to be continuing at the level that it did, but it has been until very recently.

Rendition is just sending people abroad to be tortured. Actually, that’s barred as well by the Magna Carta – the foundation of Anglo-American law. It’s explicitly barred to send somebody across the seas to be punished and tortured. It’s not just done by the United States, either. It’s done all over Western Europe. Britain has participated in it. Sweden has participated. It’s one of the reasons for a lot of the concerns about extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden. Canada has been implicated as was Ireland, but to Ireland’s credit it was one of the few places where there were mass popular protests against allowing the Shannon Airport to be used for CIA rendition. In most countries there has been very little protest or not a word. I don’t know of any recent cases so maybe that policy is no longer being implemented, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was still in effect.

Bailey: Moving beyond the US, the Middle East has always been rife with human rights abuses, but the turmoil of the Arab Spring has intensified such abuses in many countries.While the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt were toppled without resorting to civil war, countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen have seen heavy fighting. For America and NATO’s part, there has been yet another military intervention with the Libyan cvil war and only the stubbornness of Russia and China have prevented a similar intervention in Syria. In both cases, rebel forces have asked, even begged for American and European help in their war efforts, but have proven to be absolutely uninterested in negotiated settlements with their dictatorial adversaries, even when outside help is not forthcoming.

What is your take on military interventions, both the intervention that did occur in Libya and the one that is being called for in Syria? Is it morally justifiable to send Texans and Louisianans into harm’s way to fight in the internal conflicts of Libyans and Syrians? Conversely, can refusing to intervene be justified when entire cities, such as Misrata, Benghazi, Aleppo, and Homs were or are being threatened with utter destruction and tens of thousands of civilians are being killed?

Chomsky: Well, let’s start with Syria. The one thing I disagree with in what you said is that I doubt very much that Russia and China had anything to do with the lack of US or Western military intervention in Syria. In fact, my strong suspicion is that the United States, Britain and France welcomed the Russian veto because that gave them a pretext not to do anything. Now they can say, “How can we do anything? The Russians and the Chinese have vetoed it!”

In fact, if they wanted to intervene, they wouldn’t have cared one way or the other about a Russian or Chinese veto. That’s perfectly obvious from history, but they didn’t want to intervene and they don’t want to intervene now. The military and intelligence strategic command centers are just strongly opposed to it. Some oppose it for technical, military reasons and others because they don’t see anyone they can support in their interests. They don’t particularly like Assad, although he was more or less conformed to US and Israeli interests, but they don’t like the opposition either, especially their Islamist elements, so they just prefer to stay on the sidelines.

It’s kind of interesting that Israel doesn’t do anything. They wouldn’t have to do much. Israel could easily mobilize forces in the Golan Heights (Syrian territory that Israel illegally annexed). They could mobilize forces there, which are only about 40 miles from Damascus, which would compel Assad to send military forces to the border, drawing them away from areas where the rebels are operating. So that would be direct support for the rebels, but without firing a shot and without moving across the border.

But there is no talk of it and I think what that indicates is that Israel, the United States, and their allies just don’t want to take moves that will undermine the regime, just out of self-interest. There is no humanitarian interest involved.

As far as Libya is concerned, we have to be a little cautious, because there were two interventions in Libya. The first one was under the auspices of the United Nations. That’s UN Resolution 1973. That resolution called for a no-fly zone, a ceasefire, and the start of negotiations and diplomacy.

Bailey: That was the intervention for which the justification was claimed to be the prevention of the destruction of Benghazi?

Chomsky: Well, we don’t know if Benghazi was going to be destroyed, but it was called to prevent a possible attack on Benghazi. You can debate how likely the attack was, but personally, I felt that was legitimate – to try to stop a possible atrocity. However, that intervention lasted about five minutes. Almost immediately, the NATO powers( France and Britain in the lead and the United States following) violated the resolution, radically, and became the air force of the rebels. Nothing in the resolution justified that. It did call for “all necessary steps” to protect civilians, but there’s a big difference between protecting civilians and being the air force for the rebels.

Maybe we should have been in favor of the rebelling forces. That’s a separate question, but this was pretty clearly in violation of the resolution. It certainly wasn’t done for a lack of alternative options. Gaddafi offered a ceasefire. Whether he meant it or not, nobody knows, because it was at once rejected.

Incidentally, this pact was strongly opposed by most of the world. There was virtually no support for it. The African Union (Libya is, after all, an African country) strongly opposed it, right away, called for a ceasefire, and even suggested the introduction of African Union forces to try and reduce the conflict.

The BRICS countries, the most important of the developing countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) happened to be having a conference at the time and they strongly opposed the NATO intervention and called for moves towards diplomacy, negotiations, and a ceasefire. Egypt, next door, didn’t participate. Within NATO, Germany refused to participate. Italy refused too, in the beginning, though later they joined the intervention. Turkey held back. Later on they joined, but initially they opposed intervention. Generally speaking, it was almost unilateral. It was the traditional imperial powers (France, Britain and the United States) which intervened.

In fact it did lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but it certainly led to that, especially in the end with the attacks on Bani Walid and Sirte, the last pro-Gadaffi holdouts. They are the main center of Libya ‘s largest tribe, the Warfalla tribe. Libya is a highly divided tribal society, they are a major tribe, and this was their home center. Many of them were pretty bitter about that. Could it have been resolved through diplomacy and negotiations the way the African Union and BRICS countries suggested? We don’t know.

It’s also worthy of note that the International Crisis Group, which is the main, non-state element that deals with continuing conflicts and crises throughout the world, and is very highly respected, opposed intervention too. They strongly supported negotiations and diplomacy. However, the African Union and others’ positions were barely reported on in the West. Who cares what they say? In fact, if they were reported on at all, they were disparaged on the grounds that these countries had had close relations with Gaddafi. In fact, they did, but so did Britain and the United States, right to the end.

In any event, the intervention did take place and now one hopes for the best, but it’s not a very pretty picture. You can read an account of it in the current issue of the London Review of Books by Hugh Roberts, who was, at the time, the North African director of the International Crisis Group and a specialist on the region. He opposed the intervention and described the outcome as pretty hopeless chaos that is undercutting the hopes for an eventual rise of a sort of sensible, democratic nationalism.

So that wasn’t very pretty, but what about the other countries? Well, the countries that are most significant to the United States and the West, generally, are the oil dictatorships and they remain very stable. There were efforts to try and join the Arab Spring, but they were crushed, very harshly, with not a word from the Western powers. Sometimes it was quite violent, as in eastern Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain, which were Shiite areas, mostly, but it resulted in at most a tap on the wrist by the western powers. They clearly wanted the oil dictatorships to remain. That’s the center of their power.

In Tunisia, which had mostly French influence, the French supported the dictatorship until the very end. In fact, they were still supporting it after demonstrations were sweeping the country. Finally, at the last second, they conceded that their favorite dictator had to go. In Egypt, where the United States and Britain were the main influences, it was the same. Obama supported the dictator Mubarak until virtually the last minute – until the army turned against him. It became impossible to support him anymore so they urged him to leave and make a transition to a similar system.

All of that is quite routine. That’s the standard operating procedure for dealing with a situation where your favorite dictator is getting into trouble. There is case after case like that. What you do in that case is support the dictator to the very end, regardless of how vicious and bloody he is. Then when it becomes impossible, say because the army or the business classes have turned against him, then ease him out somewhere (sometimes with half the government’s treasury in his pocket), declare your love for democracy, and try to restore the old system. That’s pretty much what’s happening in Egypt.

Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is a print and online magazine published by the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong and the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY) in Denmark. Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is a new initiative which focuses on torture and its related issues globally. Writers interested in having their research on this subject published may submit their articles to: torturemag@ahrc.asia.


‘It is not a war. It is murder.’
John Glaser

Here is Noam Chomsky’s statement on Israel’s latest aggression in Gaza:

“The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense.”

Chomsky recently visited Gaza, writing about ‘the world’s biggest open-air prison’ at length upon return.

Contrary to how it is being portrayed, aggression does accurately describe what Israel is doing. Israel initiated this conflict. Israel had several opportunities to pacify the situation and re-establish a cease-fire, and chose instead to escalate. Civilian and government infrastructure is being targeted. As of the time of this writing, the number killed in Gaza has surpassed 80, 22 of them children, 9 of them elderly; 709 have been wounded, 230 of them children, 50 elderly. Three Israelis have been killed by Hamas rocket-fire.

Obama is still acting as a vocal advocate of Israel’s actions in Gaza. And Israel continues attack Gaza with an impunity granted them by American tax dollars, American support, American depravity.


Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war

Fifty years ago, Arkhipov, a senior officer on the Soviet B-59 submarine, refused permission to launch its nuclear torpedo

 Vasili Arkhipov

Vasili Arkhipov, who died in 1998

If you were born before 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov saved your life. It was the most dangerous day in history. An American spy plane had been shot down over Cuba while another U2 had got lost and strayed into Soviet airspace. As these dramas ratcheted tensions beyond breaking point, an American destroyer, the USS Beale, began to drop depth charges on the B-59, a Soviet submarine armed with a nuclear weapon.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, had no way of knowing that the depth charges were non-lethal “practice” rounds intended as warning shots to force the B-59 to surface. The Beale was joined by other US destroyers who piled in to pummel the submerged B-59 with more explosives. The exhausted Savitsky assumed that his submarine was doomed and that world war three had broken out. He ordered the B-59’s ten kiloton nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing. Its target was the USS Randolf, the giant aircraft carrier leading the task force.

If the B-59’s torpedo had vaporised the Randolf, the nuclear clouds would quickly have spread from sea to land. The first targets would have been Moscow, London, the airbases of East Anglia and troop concentrations in Germany. The next wave of bombs would have wiped out “economic targets”, a euphemism for civilian populations – more than half the UK population would have died. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s SIOP, Single Integrated Operational Plan – a doomsday scenario that echoed Dr Strangelove‘s orgiastic Götterdämmerung – would have hurled 5,500 nuclear weapons against a thousand targets, including ones in non-belligerent states such as Albania and China.

What would have happened to the US itself is uncertain. The very reason that Khrushchev sent missiles to Cuba was because the Soviet Union lacked a credible long range ICBM deterrent against a possible US attack. It seems likely that America would have suffered far fewer casualties than its European allies. The fact that Britain and western Europe were regarded by some in the Pentagon as expendable pawn sacrifices was the great unmentionable of the cold war.

Fifty years on, what lessons can be drawn from the Cuban missile crisis? One is that governments lose control in a crisis. The worst nightmare for US defence secretary Robert McNamara was the unauthorised launch of a nuclear weapon. McNamara ordered that PAL locks (Permissive Action Links) be fitted to all ICBMs. But when the PALs were installed, the Strategic Air Command had all the codes set to 00000000 so that the locks would not impede a quick launch in a crisis. Nuclear weapons security will always be a human issue – at all levels. On one occasion, Jimmy Carter, the sanest of US presidents, left nuclear launch codes in his suit when it was sent to the dry cleaners.

The cold war has ended, but the thermo-nuclear infrastructures of the US and Russia are still in place. And the risk of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers remains very real. In 1995 Russian early warning radar mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a ballistic missile launched from an American submarine. An emergency signal was sent to President Yeltsin’s “Cheget”, the nuclear suitcase with launch codes. Yeltsin, presumably with vodka close at hand, had less than five minutes to make a decision on a retaliatory strike.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, the chances of survival of the human species are quite slight.” Every study of long-term risk analysis supports Noam Chomsky’s claim. Ploughshares estimates there are 19,000 warheads in the world today, 18,000 of which are in the hands of the US and Russia. Whatever the exact numbers, the American/Russian nuclear arsenals are the only ones capable of totally destroying all human life. As security analysts Campbell Craig and Jan Ruzicka point out: “Why should Iran or North Korea respect non-proliferation when the most powerful states lecturing them possess such enormous arsenals?”

Most of all, the Cuban missile crisis showed that the weapons themselves are the problem. Britain is now in pole position to lead a “nuclear disarmament race”. In a 2009 letter to the Times, Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Generals Lord Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach denounced Trident as “completely useless”. Ditching the system may be a no-brainer for the generals, but not for politicians afraid of a public opinion that equates nuclear weapons with vague notions of “being strong”. And yet getting rid of Trident would gift the Treasury a windfall of more than £25bn – enough to finance a million affordable homes.

The decision not to start world war three was not taken in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the sweltering control room of a submarine. The launch of the B-59’s nuclear torpedo required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Arkhipov was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov’s reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998. So when we raise our glasses on 27 October we can only toast his memory. Thank you, Vasya.