Human Rights in the New World Order*
Speech delivered at Liberty's Human Rights Convention, Central Hall, Westminster, 16th June 1995
Taken with their permission from the transcription provided by Liberty
(was: National Council for Civil Liberties)
21 Tabard St, London SE1 4LA.
|Includes Q&A session.|
Plus my own endnotes with full links - Rae West.
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Back to Contents of BigLies.org which is Rae Wests' site
Speech by Noam Chomsky If we want to investigate the topic of human rights in the world of today and tomorrow, the announced topic,1 if we want to discuss that in a serious way, we have to begin obviously by focusing attention on the major actors in the world arena and their practices and their guiding values and goals, and these of course we determine not by listening to the words, which are cheap, but by looking at their consistent practice. So we therefore focus attention primarily on the worlds dominant power and the principal architects of policy within it - I am borrowing a phrase from Adam Smith referring in his day to the merchants and manufacturers of England who mobilised state power. He pointed out that they ensured that their own interests were most peculiarly attended to, however grievous the impact to others, including the people of England.2 Now that is a truism and remains true. It was restated earner in this century by the leading American philosopher, John Dewey.
Paraphrasing the truism, he pointed out that politics is the shadow cast by big business over society and that there are only limited possibilities for advancing human rights or freedom or democracy if we pay attention only to the shadow and refuse to look at the substance - again a truism.
Well, I will adhere to the truism and also follow the reasonable course of focusing attention on be worlds most powerful and dominant nation, without intending to suggest or imply that anyone else is any different, just less independent and less influential and therefore less destructive, usually. So I will start by looking at the power that fifty years ago assumed, out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system. I am quoting noted diplomatic historian Gerald Haines, who also happens to be the senior historian of the CIA. This is a highly regarded monograph on the US takeover of Brazil in 1945. That is when the US was finally powerful enough to expel its main enemies,3 France and Britain, from the Western hemisphere and to take over the colossus of the South, as it was called, in recognition of its extraordinary riches and potential. So the US took over the colossus of the South and, quoting Haines again, turned it into a testing area for modern scientific methods of industrial development.
In fact we learn quite a lot about the tonight's topic by seeing what was achieved by close American tutelage for half a century in this optimal testing area. Couldnt get a better test: enormous resources, tremendous potential, no interference, just perfect to see how the testing area works.4 Well, there were achievements. One of the most dramatic was the installation of the first neo-Nazi national security state in the hemisphere in the early 1960s.5 It is a big country, so there was a quick domino effect. The purpose was to ward off the threat of parliamentary democracy, which was beginning to get out of control. And indeed it was considered a great achievement. It was described by Kennedys ambassador, Lincoln Gordon, as the single most decisive victory for freedom in the mid-twentieth century. Really important. He then went on to become the president of a great university. The regime and the resulting terror were welcomed not only by liberal democrats but particularly by the business world, which was awed by what was called the economic miracle that resulted. Brazil was described as the Latin American darling of the business community by Business Latin America, the main business journal for Latin America. In 1989, when Haines wrote, he described the outcome as a real American success story. Americas Brazilian policies were enormously successful, bringing about impressive economic growth based solidly on capitalism.
So there is a good testimony to our goals and values and a very good indicator or what lies ahead under near optimal conditions with no interfering factors, like the Cold War, to obscure our guiding values. There was not a Russian in sight, of course.
Well, the success is quite real. US Investors and a tiny elite6 profited enormously, meaning it was an economic miracle in the technical sense of the word, kind of like Mexico in the last few years. Mexico is a recent economic miracle until December 1994. The number of billionaires in Mexico went from one in 1987 to 24 in 1994,7 mostly cronies of the president who benefited from what is called privatisation, which means the giving away of public resources to your rich friends and family. From 1993 to 1994 praises were rising to the skies. The number of billionaires went from 13 to 24, rising just about in parallel with poverty. According to the Mexican government, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty increased from 13% to 24% in the same years, 1990 to 1994. Wages fell about 50% for the population during the economic miracle. Starvation increased; misery increased; billionaires increased. It was terrific, a real economic miracle. Of course, profits for Western investors were going through the roof as well. That was until December 19th. Then something happened. In fact, what happened was perfectly obvious in advance to everyone, except apparently the economists in the World Bank who either were or pretended to have been surprised,
Going back to Brazil, during its period of economic miracle, 1970 to the time that Haines wrote, the numbers were really good. The growth rate was about twice that of much lauded Chile under Pinochet and its successors. That is now the star pupil, Brazil, suffered a collapse, like Mexico, and automatically shifted from triumph of capitalism to illustration of evils of statism, if not Marxism. That is a transition that takes place quite effortlessly in the intellectual culture and, indeed, routinely as circumstances require.
Meanwhile at the peak of the miracle, the overwhelming majority of the population, maybe 80% or so, were living in utter misery, some of the worst conditions in the world. There is no doubt that they would have regarded Eastern Europe in the same years as an absolute paradise. That is a fact that also teaches some obvious lessons, which are not drawn with quite impressive discipline, because they are the wrong lessons. US aid and support during the period of the worst terror and torture also teaches some lessons, as does the same story while the other dominoes were falling, and murderous neo-Nazi regimes5 were being established throughout the hemisphere, always with enormous US support and aid. By that time the Russians were indeed involved, becoming the leading trading partners of the Argentine neo-Nazi generals5 and in general consorting quite happily with the worst killers and torturers everywhere, being junior managers in the process of bringing democracy and freedom to the region.
This success story for foreign investors and a small elite, that is a fraction of the population, reflects the guiding values of the tutors and the designers. Exactly as in Adam Smiths day, it does not matter how grievous is the impact on the lower orders. The implications for the future are pretty obvious, particularly when we discover that there is nothing unusual about that, in fact it is absolutely routine and in fact virtually exceptionless, maybe totally exceptionless.8 That is the way the goals and the values guide policy quite generally and in fact at home as well, a rather important fact. Ill come back to it.
These fundamental values were recognised quite clearly about 350 years ago by very lively and independent working class press in the United States in mill towns a couple of miles from where I live, the centre of the American industrial revolution, which incidentally happens to have been achieved as has invariably been the case by radical violation of the market discipline that is rammed down the throats of the poor. The factory girls and the mechanics - that is what they were called - of Lowell Lawrence, in their press deplored what they called the New Spirit of the Age, Gain Wealth forgetting all but Self - something which they regarded as a degrading and depraved doctrine, which they bitterly condemned and resisted, as indeed they have been doing after almost two centuries of intensive effort to instil the new spirit of the age.
These efforts to institute the New Spirit of the Age, reached extraordinary levels in the past few decades. That is probably the most important feature of the modern era. I will come back to this.
Well, the masses, as they are commonly called in the business press and in internal government documents, pose continuing problems, both abroad and at home. Abroad they pose the problem that was recognised by Winston Churchill in 1914, when he reminded his cabinet colleagues that we have got all we want in territory, but our claim to be left in unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seems less reasonable to others than to us, for some reason. That requires regular doses of terror as in Brazil during the Kennedy, Johnson years - recall that was the peak period of American liberalism - or today, again revealing the substantial irrelevance of the Cold War.
To take the favourite example, instead of my picking an example, lets let the Clinton administration pick its example. Their example is Haiti. They now put that forth right now, as the prime example, I am quoting, of the immense opportunities of the new world opening before us, as we consolidate the victory of democracy and markets. That is the National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, who is kind of the intellectual of the administration. speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations right after the American troops landed in the restored democracy.
Ill spare you the shameful history, including one of the prime examples of what is known technically as Wilsonian idealism - Wilsons murderous invasion of Haiti, which killed several thousand people, re-established slavery, established the rule of the National Guard to control the people, while turning the whole country into an American plantation, later into an export platform for assembly plants where workers, mostly women, try to survive on 5-10 cents an hour, working 12 hour days under impossibly miserable conditions. That is also what is called an economic miracle. In fact, during the 1980s, when this was going on, USAID described Haiti as becoming the Taiwan of the Caribbean. Meanwhile real wages were dropping 50%. What was let of the agricultural system was being destroyed by the usual development policies, as they are called.
In fact everything was going just fine until 1990, when Washington committed a tactical error. They allowed a free election. The reason was that they were confident, as was everyone, that their own candidate, with enormous resources and so on - their candidate was Mark Bazin, a World Bank official - everybody assumed he would just walk away, win easily and continue with the economic miracle. Well, the problem is nobody was paying attention to what was going on in the hills where the peasants live and the slums of Port-au-Prince and so on. What was going on there was something pretty remarkable. The peasants in the hills and the slum dwellers had created a very vigorous and lively civil society, with grassroots movements and unions and all sorts of other things, and in fact it was powerful enough to sweep into office their own candidate, with an overwhelming majority, just shocking everybody. The standard line these days is that we have to go back to Haiti and teach them democracy, because these backward people dont understand it. Outside of a real commissar culture,9 anyone would just crack up with laughter watching this. We could go to Haiti and go up to the hills and learn something about democracy.
The US turned at once to undermining the elected Aristide government in every possible way to correct the error. Seven months later it was overthrown in a military coup. That set off three years of brutal terror. The Organisation of American States called an embargo. Washington at once undermined the embargo, namely by exempting US firms, saying they were doing this for the benefit of the people in Haiti. The only way to benefit the people of Haiti is to exempt the US firms from the embargo. The New York Times had an article where they described how they were fine-tuning the embargo, because of our human rights interests. So they exempted US firms. Trade in the first year of the military regime was not much below the norm. It increased 50% under Clinton, when he took over. The Bush and the Clinton administrations both informed the Texaco Oil Corporation that the US government would allow their illegal shipments of oil. They informed them that the shipments were illegal, but they said they could do it with impunity, because nobody would do anything about it. Oil is of course the major factor in an embargo. So the oil kept flowing happily to the junta and the rich coup supporters.
You could sort of see it but it was not known that it was authorised by the Bush and the Clinton administrations until Sunday, the day before the troops landed. There was a Justice Department leak of an inquiry into the authorisation. It was no secret. I was monitoring the AP wires that day, because it was obvious that something was going to happen in Haiti. That was when Jimmy Carter was there, meeting General Cedras and his slim attractive wife - I dont know if you have read all that stuff. But while this was going on, the Justice Department leaked the story. It was all over the AP wires. It was the main story of the day. It was impossible to miss. They kept repeating it, big story, never been any embargo, never been any sanctions. Both administrations had told the oil companies: you keep shipping oil illegally, were not going to do anything about it.
I wrote an article the next day about Haiti, but my article was going to come out in six weeks or so. I wrote it in the past tense, as if everybody knew all this, because it was obviously the big story of the week. I was wrong. It was totally suppressed. On Monday, the day of the invasion, there was nothing. I got interested, so I did a databank search on it. On Tuesday, the second day, it hit a newspaper: Pratts Oilgram, a professional journal of the oil industry, which reported it. On Wednesday, the next day, there were about ten lines somewhere in the Wall Street Journal totally obscure and meaningless, and it started to get into the small newspapers, like Dayton Ohio and things like that where the editors really arent all that sophisticated and they dont quite understand what has to be suppressed. It has yet to make it to the New York Times and the Washington Post after months. Now, that was obviously the biggest story of the week, when the troops were landing. Biggest story of the week, big headline, any free press would have had a story saying: there never was an embargo, there never were sanctions, were landing troops for some other reason. Well wait a long time for that one.
By then the popular organisations had been pretty well decimated. The threat of democracy was removed. The US forces landed with a great fanfare.10 The killers and torturers were sent off to lives of luxury, courtesy of the American taxpayer - I guess their slim, attractive wives are fine. But Jimmy Carter doesnt seem to be getting his Nobel Prize11 - probably pretty upset about that. There was great self-adulation all over the place about how we were bringing democracy and freedom back to Haiti. However, there was much less attention - as far as I can determine flat zero attention - to the only important fact, namely that the United States had provided President Aristide with a very specific economic plan, which is public, you can read it if you can find it. The economic plan - here is the crucial passage of it, it says: the renovated state must focus on an economic strategy centered on the energy and initiative of Civil Society, especially the private sector, both national and foreign. That means the core of Haitian civil society is US investors and the super rich coup supporters. That is Haitian civil society. They have to get the benefits of any foreign aid that is coming in, not the peasants in the hills and the people living in the miserable slums, who made the mistake of trying to enter the public arena.
Well, Haiti is back on track,10 following the principles of Washington and its defeated candidate, Mark Bazin, and it is well on its way to becoming an economic miracle in the usual sense once again.
All of this has been suppressed with pretty impressive discipline, here too as far as I am aware, in favour of a different story, namely the story that Anthony Lake gave, which I quoted before, which is uniform in the press and the intellectual culture. That makes sense on certain assumptions. It makes sense on the assumption that was perhaps expressed most lucidly by one of my favourite sources of quotes. I think he is there for my benefit in fact, the guy who holds the chair of Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard, Samuel Huntington. He wrote recently that the United States must maintain its international primacy for the benefit of the world, because alone in history its national identity is defined by a set of universal economic and political values, namely liberty, democracy, markets and equality. Now notice that that is a definition, so the science of government teaches. Since it is true by definition, there is no need to look at annoying facts.4 You dont do experiments to find if two plus two equals four, everybody understands that. So you dont have to look at the facts of history past and present, you dont have to look at what was happening in Haiti. And since the US by definition stands for equality, you dont have to look at the fact that as he wrote, the US had reached by far the highest levels of inequality in any industrial society, in fact the highest level since 1929, right before the stock market crash, when the level of inequality was artificially inflated by the stock market bubble which soon broke. That is where it is now, higher than the rest of the century, by far the highest level in the world, twice that of England. The top one per cent of the population has 40% of the wealth, twice England. All that increased in the 80s. Take, say, New York, the richest city in the world. Inequality is higher than in Guatemala, and going up. But that doesnt matter because by definition, we are committed to equality like all other good things, so you dont have to look at those facts.
Meanwhile there are soaring profits, double digit growth for the Fortune 500, for the last four years. Half the population suffered an absolute decline in wealth, right through the glorious 1980s. Real wages have been declining steadily since 1980, continuing right through the Clinton recovery.
There are consequences, like Oklahoma City.
Ill come back to that. Take another striking example in our little region over here as Secretary of War, Henry Stimpson described the Western Hemisphere in 1945 while explaining that all regional Systems were to be dismantled apart from our own, which were to be extended. Half of US Military aid to the hemisphere now goes to Colombia, increasing under Clinton; the training program for Colombian officers is also the largest in the hemisphere. Colombia is regularly hailed for its democratic structures, which, notwithstanding inevitable flaws, are among the most solid on the continent, and model of well-established political stability (John Martz in Current History), a refrain that is constant in the press. Among the inevitable flaws are the murder of more than 2000 activists of the one Independent party by the security forces and their paramilitary associates since its founding in the mid-80s, including Presidential candidates, Mayors and others. But that is only a footnote to the most horrendous human rights record in the hemisphere, amply documented by international human rights monitors, the Church, and other independent sources, and virtually ignored in the media. Colombias last President, César Gaviria, was a particular US favourite, rammed through as Secretary-General of the OAS in a power play that aroused much resentment. He has been very forward-looking in building democratic institutions in a Country where it was sometimes dangerous to do so, the US representative of the OAS explained - not inquiring into the reasons for the dangers, however: for example, the fact that Gaviria presided over a significant escalation of the terror.
The terror continues right now, as we meet. The Bishop and priests of the Diocese of Apartadó in the northwest region have just issued a Communiqué to Public Opinion about the moment of terror in which the people are living, caused by homicides and disappearances. The paramilitary groups have mercilessly decimated entire towns, they charge, and have in recent times deliberately focused their destructive efforts upon the settlements of the banana growing areas, while the authorities, facing the tragedy of the people, remain indifferent without opposing the advance of this macabre plan of death and destruction. Their charges are backed by the Major of Apartadó, who alleges that the paramilitary groups are virtually running wild with an escalation of murders and horrible mutilations while the tens of thousands of military and police watch in silence. As does the world, in particular, the country that provided the arms and training. The Communiqué to Public Opinion will reach a few people in the solidarity groups, but once again, will not find its way through the usual filters, for the usual reasons. It is the wrong story: the responsibility lies in the wrong hands, and the atrocities could readily be stopped if public opinion were altered. If the efforts to expose the use of half of US military aid cannot be entirety ignored, they can be dismissed with yawns and snide remarks about old stories and routine America-bashing. The devices are manifold. and every well trained intellectual knows them.
The current upsurge of military-paramilitary atrocities, and their focus, seems to be a part of the land-grab efforts related to a multibillion dollar development project scheduled for the region. The paramilitaries are closely linked to the landowners, ranchers, and narcotraffickers, one of the most important of whom has recently been selected as supreme commander of the paramilitary units of the Magdalena Medio region, long known for the close co-operation of the military, drug lords, landowners, and paramilitary forces. The agents of this macabre plan of death and destruction are the usual ones, and so are the targets: grassroots civic and popular organisations and their leaders, peasants, indigenous people and the Black population. In fact anyone who gets in the way of the plans of the alliance of government drug markets, and legitimate economic powers. All of this continues a regular pattern, including the suppression of the facts. US aid has long been correlated with torture and other atrocities, another fad from which we can learn something about tonights topic, if we choose.
In the case of Colombia, nobody pretends that it is the cold war. The pretext there is that it is the war against drugs, which is a total fraud. The military are in bed with the narcotraffickers, the cartels and the landlords. In fact, almost all the military aid goes to parts of the military that arent even formally involved in the so-called drug war - nothing to do with it. The military aid is going to those parts of the military forces and indirectly the paramilitary forces that are involved in counter-insurgency: massacres of peasants, independent political figures, union leaders, religious activists, human rights activists, the usual business. It is a classic pattern, as is the impossibility of seeing what it implies about human rights and the new world opening before us. This is half of US military aid for the hemisphere right now.
Well, another standard pretext for years has been that this consistent record can be attributed to the cold war, so it really doesnt reflect the real values and goals. That is easily verifiable, as in the example of Haiti from Woodrow Wilson up until today, or Colombia, or Brazil, and on and on. Case by case the claims completely collapse4 on examination, except in one sense. Targets of US attack did sometimes turn to the Russians for support, just as the Afghans resisting the Russian invasion turned to the Americans for support, for the same reasons. In both types of cases the support was sometimes given, for equally cynical reasons. But apart from that there is no cold war element involved.
However, although the Russians were not involved and the cold war was not involved, communists were. That is correct. But we have to understand what the term means.12 The term has been explained repeatedly, primarily in internal documents. It is a very free society,13 so we have a lot of them and we know a lot if we want to. So, for example, back in about the late 50s, there was a conversation between President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles about this topic. Eisenhower had observed kind of ruefully that indigenous communists all over the world can appeal directly to the masses. That is an appeal that we have no capacity to duplicate, Dulles added. He also explained the source of this unfair advantage of theirs. He said, The poor people are the ones they appeal to, and they have always wanted to plunder the rich. That is the same problem that was noted by Winston Churchill and numerous others. The trouble is it is kind of hard to appeal to the masses on the basis of our goals and values, which are that the rich should plunder the poor. Somehow it doesnt sell. It is kind of a public relations problem that nobody has really figured out a way to deal with. And it arises constantly.
Eisenhower and Dulles were particularly concerned at that time about Indonesia, where there were no Russians, as Eisenhower vehemently insisted in internal meetings. But there were communists. There was even a political party, the PKI, which had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of the poor within the existing system. I am quoting from the Australian Indonesian scholar Harold Crouch. who is suitably conservative. Nobody can accuse him of being anywhere but properly conservative. There are recently released US government documents on this. The US embassy reported at that time that the PKI could not be beaten by ordinary democratic means in elections, so it is necessary to proceed to gradual elimination of the communists by the police and military. The Joint Chiefs of Staff urged such covert measures as required to suppress pro-communist elements of the parliamentary government. Eisenhower at the time initiated a major effort to overthrow the government by force, or at least strip off the outer islands where the big oil fields were. The scale of that has only recently been discovered and in fact it is still being hidden in the documentary records, which is a little bit unusual.
The State Department publishes every year released documents from 30-40 years ago. They passed this period but they dont have a hint about it. It has come up from other internal sources. That is part of the general attack on democracy in the last 10 or 15 years. They have stopped releasing documents accurately. It got so bad that the State Department historians, who are a very conservative lot, quit in protest under the Reagan administration and have just written an angry letter again publicly denouncing the Clinton administration for refusing to release documents from this period and the early Kennedy period, which is what is supposed to be coming up. So maybe in the future we will know less than we do today.
Well, this US backed military coup didnt work and then the United States turned to support for the army, the existing army. They dismantled the political system, the parliamentary system, which was considered a great victory. They did not have to worry about the elections that they were going to lose to this party of the poor, the Communists. That set up a conflict between the US backed army and the PKI. That conflict was finally resolved in 1965, when a military coup took place, vigorously supported by Washington. That led to the slaughter of maybe half a million people, mostly landless peasants, in four months. It wiped out the communist party. The New York Times described it as a staggering mass slaughter with much pleasure. I should say, they shared in the extraordinary euphoria that swept the whole West as people were exulting over a massacre that the CIA at the time compared to the exploits of Stalin and Hitler. This really has to be read to be believed. If you really want to learn something about Western civilisation, I would urge looking at that. It still goes on, The London Economist recently described the guy who presided over the slaughter and 20 years of terror since as at heart benign- probably thinking of his attitude to foreign investors, which was indeed benign. As I say this tells you a lot about Western civilisation and our elite culture and our goals and values, if you want to learn. I have reviewed the American record in a recent book, just the press, it is unbelievable, or maybe not. Anyway, the example is a typical one and rather striking illustration of the operative goals and values and also of the actual relevance of the cold war which was zero in that case - and of the meaning of the term Communist and the attitude toward democracy. Remember that the Brazilian coup overthrowing the parliamentary regime occurred at just the same time.
The basic problem, which is persistent, also happens to underlie the founding of the American Republic. I have to recall that the United States was then and still is in many non-trivial respects the most free and democratic society in the world.13 If you go back to the debates on the federal constitution, the debates in 1787, James Madison, the leading framer of the constitution, observed that in England if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place and to ward off such injustice he said: our government ought to ensure the permanent interests of the country against innovation, establishing various devices, so as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. That is the first principle of government, he stressed to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority, to prevent these communists from plundering the rich. There was no one to call communists in those days, but it is the same point.14
Well, that indeed has been the guiding principle at home and abroad, to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. It inspired the efforts to instil the New Spirit of the Age a century and a half ago and very dramatically since, including now.
The methods differ from place to place and time to time, as contingencies change. They are different where there are very few impediments, so the operative goals and values are revealed with particular clarity, places like Brazil and Guatemala, Indonesia, Haiti, Colombia and so on through quite an impressive record of atrocities, ranging from torture and extermination to mass starvation and disease. At home the methods have necessarily been somewhat different. There is plenty of violence, labor history in the US has no parallel in the industrial world.15 That evoked constant astonishment, even in the right wing British press, right through the early part of this century. In the 1930s, American workers finally won the standard labor rights that had been achieved elsewhere decades earlier. That caused complete horror in the business community. They had assumed, as they do now, that this cancer had been excised by Woodrow Wilsons Red Scare, another exercise of Wilsonian idealism, and other methods which seemed to have suppressed the labor movement completely and put the country under business control. Then they got out of hand again in the 30s and won labor rights.
The business world immediately launched a campaign to undermine what they called the rising political power of the masses, which is the greatest hazard facing industrialists. In fact, the post-war period has been marked by an enormous propaganda campaign to undermine unions, to contain and to roll back labor rights and the whole array of human rights that had been won in a century of often bitter struggle. The scale of this is really remarkable, it is only just being discovered and it is important to discuss - I wish I had time for it, quite interesting. All of this is accelerating dramatically now.
Well, the basic policy goal, since James Madison until today, is to undermine the more democratic aspects of government. Right now that means to increase the power of the executive, of the courts, the security apparatus and the whole system that funnels public funds to advanced sectors of industry, basically the Pentagon, and also to transfer decision making as far as possible out of government altogether and into the hands of private tyrannies, which are unaccountable, unregulated, totalitarian in their internal structure, international in scale. They were given the rights they now have early in this century. It is not graven in stone. These are recent forms of totalitarianism, and they are crucially free from the threat of popular participation that is kind of a lingering danger in parliamentary systems.
After four years of double digit growth and reduction of wages and benefits, the Fortune 500 now control about two-thirds of Gross Domestic Product. In May the annual issue of the Fortune 500 came out absolutely exulting over these stupendous results. So they now control about two-thirds of Gross Domestic Product, that is more than the total Gross Domestic Product of Germany and the UK.16 They also control a huge part of the world economy, that is a degree of concentration of power in the hands of totalitarian institutions which I dont think has any counterpart. They are running a system of corporate mercantilism17, as some economists call it, linked to state power. It is not even a caricature of a free market, and is increasingly immune to the threat of democracy. It is therefore in a good position to carry out the policies that are now called tough love. Tough love is the term for cutting out support systems and any assistance for the poor, on the basis of a principle that goes back to David Ricardo, who explained that you only harm the poor by helping them. The real way to help them is with tough love, take away everything. There is an argument that those of you who are studying economics know how to fill in that leads to that confusion
The term actually isnt bad, tough love, if you understand it properly. What it means is love for the rich and tough for everybody else. That is exactly what it is.
In the past 20 years there have been big changes in the world order. The big change started about 25 years ago, for a lot of good reasons. There has been a growing assault on democratic institutions, on human rights. It escalated considerably as conditions have allowed social policy to be designed to eliminate support systems for families and children. So, for example in The United States the main welfare system for mothers and children which goes back to the New Deal is Aid for Families with Dependent Children. That has been cut about 50% since 1975. Talk about welfare dependency is total nonsense. Support systems have been cut way back and the effect has been, in fact, family disintegration and so on, just as you would expect. Pretty much the same is true in England. Support systems have been cut back and meanwhile wages and benefits have been dropping. The state-corporate alliance have been undermining and have virtually destroyed unions.
They are also increasing the transfer of public funds to the rich by the familiar methods. There are two: one is regressive fiscal measures: so for example the sharp cutback in capital gains taxes. Current plans are to cut back capital gains taxes to zero, and you have to bear in mind that for the top one per cent of the population, 50% of income is capital gains, so that is radically regressive. It means for the top one per cent, half your income is not taken at all. That is only one example, there are a hundred others.
The other means, aside from regressive fiscal measures, is outright subsidy. The main one is never talked about at all. The main subsidy is the Pentagon system. It was designed that way. It was designed consciously in the late 1940s to be a way of transferring public funds to the rich, to advanced industry.
If you want to understand how it works, just take a look at cases, say Newt Gingrich, The Speaker of the House, who is described as the leading spokesman for individual entrepreneurial values, the independent business man, hatred of the nanny state, and so on. Newt Gingrich represents Cobb County, Georgia, a very wealthy county outside of Atlanta, which he describes as a Norman Rockwell world of jet planes and fibre optics, which it is indeed. It also happens to get more federal subsidies than any other suburban county in the country with the exception of Arlington, Virginia, which is part of Washington, where the Pentagon is and so on, and Brevard County, Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is, another one of those scams to get poor people to fund rich people, through man on the moon extravaganzas18 and things like that.
Cobb County is the corporate headquarters of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. It used to be the Lockheed Corporation, but the Clinton administration thought it would be a good idea to merge the two. And to pay them for the indignity of being merged, the taxpayer gave them over a billion dollars, plus another $33 million to the top executives, including 8 million to the Chief Executive Officer last year. Lockheed Martin is now getting a $77 billion programme to build F22s. We need F22s, the new advanced fighter planes. They explain why. They explain that its a dangerous world with a lot of people out there who have advanced weapons, like advanced aircraft and we therefore need a more advanced aircraft to defend ourselves. A small question, where are they getting the advanced aircraft? From Lockheed, it turns out. Lockheed say so, they dont hide it. They warn the public that Lockheed is selling F16s, the current state of the art planes, to all sorts of third world dictators and other unreliable folk. What if a friend or ally turns against us and threatens us with the sophisticated weapons we are sending them? To fend off that threat, the taxpayer has to cough up another $77 billion to develop F22s to defend ourselves in this dangerous world. In the small print it is pointed out that this is dual use technology, which means it goes straight off into corporate profits.
That is Newt Gingrich standing up for individual entrepreneurship. That is exactly why Cobb County is very rich. That is where its money comes from, in fact, that is why Atlanta is rich. The jet planes and fibre optics in this Norman Rockwell world are paid for by the public.
Just to see how precisely the thing works, you might look at the Congressional debates that have been going on. You may recall there was a Congressional debate about cutting roughly $7 billion for aid for lunches for poor children in schools. It was cut. Right in the middle of that debate there was an amendment proposed by Democrat David Obey to restore the $7 billion by delaying the deployment of F22s for five years. Not stopping it, just delaying it. Well, the spokesman for individual entrepreneurship made sure that that one did not even come to a vote, it was so ridiculous.
Things like that tell you very clearly what is going on. The Pentagon system was established for this reason, in large measure. Incidentally for years we needed to have a Pentagon because we had to defend ourselves from the Russians. Its hard to sell that one now. in March 1990, right after the fall of the Berlin wall, a new defense posture statement came out from the White House. It was the same as the old ones. We still need a huge Pentagon, the military industry must be maintained and so on, but now it was because of the growing technological sophistication of third world powers - that is why we need it. And in fact the Pentagon says that we have got to make sure they have it, we have to be the leading arms supplier in the world, selling them advanced F16s.
All of this goes by without anybody noticing, or at least pretending not to notice it. People talk about defense and the free world, and these impressive things. The Heritage Foundation, the right wing foundation that sort of does the thinking for the Gingrich army, they just came out with their budget proposals, which are to cut everything that might help anybody, but to increase the military budget. Yes, because that goes into the pockets of the conservatives of Cobb County so they can rail against the nanny state. They understand that.
Well, all of this has pretty complicated effects on the public, especially because of the lack of any coherent discussion of it. These are not trivialities, these are not subtle points, they are major facts about the modern era, but almost nobody knows about them.19 The effects are quite complex. Remarkably, (it surprises me), the basic social democratic attitudes that people had at the end of the Second World War, like most of the world, remain pretty much intact. If you look at polls, people still believe about what they did. So there is a lot of talk about how everybody wants a balanced budget, so we just have to balance the budget. If you look at the actual data that is below those headlines, it is a little different.
If you ask people: do you want a balanced budget? people say sure. I would say so too, sure why not, Id rather have a balanced budget. If you ask people: would you like to have a balanced budget if it involves cuts in education, 22% say yes; if it involves cuts in health, 25% say yes; and so on across the board. In fact, people are overwhelmingly opposed to a balanced budget, as they are opposed by large majorities to just about every element of what is being rammed through Congress.
People want more spending for education, for health; more people think that the government has a responsibility to help the poor than in the 1960s, when the Great Society measures were introduced. But that doesnt matter, the public is irrelevant
So one thing that is happening is that the public attitudes remain about the same, but on the other hand people are completely confused. What you find over the county is something pretty amazing, I suspect you have to go back to Europe after the Black Death to find something similar. I am not joking, as a form of dissolution of a society. There is fear and anger, hostility and cynicism. Religious fanaticism is probably beyond anywhere in the world, I expect it is higher than in Iran. There is a tremendous proliferation of cults, which range to anything you can imagine. There is Beast 666 and the Illuminati and Lucifer, the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission, secret teams that have assassinated JFK and that stole the state, extra-terrestrials and UN troops who are being brought in black helicopters by the federal government to commit genocide against the population. That is why people are going into the hills with rifles. They believe these things. If I make fun of them in a talk, I get letters from people with actual pictures of the black helicopters that they took. So they saw those extra-terrestrials coming. There is just about anything you can think of. There is nothing crazy enough that there is not a big cult about it.20
One striking feature of all this is what is called the mood of anti-politics, which is real. There is a Gallup poll taken every year, in which people are asked who do they think runs the government. For years about 50% said a few big interests looking out for themselves. This year, 1994, that went up to 82%. 82% of the population (they changed the wording slightly) said the government is run for the benefits of the few and the special interests and not for the people. 83% think that the economic system is inherently unfair, The majority want both political parties disbanded. This mood is fertile ground for demagogues and fiercely anti-democratic elements, like the Gingrich army in fact, who took over Congress, not with any landslide. They barely had 52% of the vote, a slight change from two years before. That is with under 40% of the electorate participating. The non-voters, many poor people, have voting profiles pretty much like the democrats. Of the actual voters, in exit polls, one out of six expressed any interest at all in the alleged issues. Even after four or five months of intensive propaganda under 40% of the population has ever heard of Gingrichs Contract with America. That is about the same as the number of people who say they are spending most or all of their time watching the O J Simpson trial. Very few of these people, virtually none of them, read Fortune magazine, or Business Week, where they could learn about what they call the dazzling increase in profits with stagnant sales growth and labor costs dropping in what is called a more flexible labor market, untroubled by such rigidities as contracts and benefits and unions and job security. It is the same here. I just read in the London Times the other day that under half of British workers now have contracts. In the US it is worse.
This is supposed to be good, incidentally. You are supposed to have flexible labor markets. Any economist can explain it to you. It is good for the health of the economy if people dont know when they go to sleep at night, whether they are going to have a job the not day. You can prove it. There is a theorem.21 So that is all good.
Since nobody believes in the free market, except for someone else,22 plenty of public funds are pouring into the pockets of folks in Cobb County and others like them, so that they can rail against the nanny state with great pleasure.
The fact of the matter is that the country is absolutely awash in capital, super rich. This business about the lean and mean times is pure propaganda, directed to the people who are getting the tough part of the tough love, that is maybe three-quarters of the population, since about the 1980s.
In this kind of context, Oklahoma City becomes quite understandable. Also understandable is the considerable groundswell of support for the paramilitary groups, even after the bombing,
Before going on I should say there is something extraordinarily racist about the way this bombing is described, both in the US and in England and everywhere else as far as I know. The big headlines after Oklahoma City, were, Big Tragedy, Oklahoma City Starting to Look like Beirut, mid-America starting to look like Beirut. Really bad. Everybody is talking about how we have to bomb the Middle East and so on. True, Oklahoma City looked like Beirut. Of course Beirut has looked like Beirut for quite a long time, something that didnt occur to anyone apparently. In particular, since we like anniversaries so much, Beirut looked like Beirut exactly 10 years before the Oklahoma City bombing when the biggest car bomb in history went off right outside a mosque, timed to kill the maximum number of people, when they were coming out of the mosque. It killed 50 people, wounded 260 or so, mostly women and children. Infants were torn to shreds in their beds. The whole story. Its Oklahoma City. Well, we know who did that one. It is pretty easy to bomb them, since we like to bomb people. It was done by the CIA with the help of British intelligence.23 You cant bomb the guy who ran it, he happened to have died, William Casey. But there are still a couple of other people around you can bomb. I suppose the US air force has the capacity to bomb California and Texas and Washington, maybe a couple left for London. Interestingly, this whole story never was mentioned. The fact that Oklahoma City looked exactly like Beirut just 10 years before when the US set off the biggest car bomb, an atrocity virtually identical to Oklahoma City, that is totally censored out. It is not a secret. The 1985 bombing was reported in the Washington Post and places like that. It was specifically brought to the attention of plenty of reporters. I know that because I did it myself. But the analogy is unthinkable. You cannot think that you cannot see it and the reason is pretty obvious. There is no comparison. Those were just dirty Arabs.24 It is OK if Beirut looks like Beirut and we make it look like Beirut, but Oklahoma City should not look like that. That is the point. And that attitude is so deeply ingrained that people dont see it. That tells you something else about Western civilisation and the prospects for the future.
Going back to Oklahoma City. The bombing turned out not to be traceable to the Middle East, so people like A M Rosenfeld, former Chief Editor of the New York Times and now a regular columnist,25 were kind of disappointed. They didnt get chance to bomb Libya or something amusing like that. It turned out to be homegrown. Assuming the FBI is correct now, it is what they call angry white males. Now those people, like Timothy McVeigh, are mostly high school graduates, about 75% of the workforce. These are people whose income has declined over 20% since 1950. They were only joined by college graduates in 1987, since then college graduate wages have been going down. Not everybodys wages are going down. CEOs, their wages increased 60% during this period. This is the highest in the world except for one, the UK, where CEO wages went up 123% during this period, while wages went down. Although England has not yet caught up with the US in the gap in the relative wages of CEOs and working people. You have to work a little harder on this to catch up. United States are the highest in the world, but England is trying. General wages went down about 10% during this period.
People like Timothy McVeigh, this is a sector of the population that has a certain picture of the way life is supposed to be: I am supposed to go to work, I have a decent job, I bring home the money, my wife stays home and takes care of the kids, the kids listen to me, I am a role model, we buy a station wagon and go out and camp, and stuff like that. Nothing like that has happened. He cant get a job. Wifes got to go to work. They both have to work 50 hours a week. He cant take care of the kids because there are no support systems, no daycare, hopelessly expensive. The children are left alone, they watch TV for supervision, with the obvious effects: substance abuse, violence by children and against children, and so on. It is all pretty well documented, there has been a good UNICEF report about it, which is never mentioned.26
All of this has been carried out under the guise of family values. That is what is particularly impressive. The guys who are carrying it out are standing up for family values while carrying out a war against children and families, and they get away with it. In a well disciplined society you can get away with it. That is true of England and the United States, but not the rest of the industrial world
People like Timothy McVeigh, the guy who is charged with putting the bomb there, they are exactly the kind of people who 60 years ago would have been building the CIO. They had something constructive to do then. Now they dont know what is going on. They dont know about the profits of the Fortune 500, but they do know about the bad government and the extra-terrestrials and Lucifer and the other really serious threats. So why not bomb the federal building to protect themselves?27
That is not a justification, but it is an explanation. There is no building of the do now because the unions have been pretty much destroyed with the co-operation of the criminal state. That is going on right now, incidentally. with the help of Britain I should say. There is a big lockout in Decatur Illinois by a subsidiary of Tate and Lyle, which is participating in the destruction of one of the last industrial unions. Another participant is Caterpillar Corporation, which incited a strike by unfair labor practices, because they want it. They wanted to destroy the United Auto Workers. It is easy for them. They have explained to the business press their strategy. They have used their enormous profits to build up excess capacity in places like Brazil, Asia and so on, so they can supply their markets from foreign producers. Eastern Europe is also now available too, they can use that, Therefore they can undercut what the business press call the pampered Western European workers with their luxurious lifestyles and destroy the unions, That is happening. Caterpillar profits went up 46% last year: they just declared a 40% increase in dividends. There are huge profits. Meanwhile they are destroying the last remnants of the labor movement and creating people like Timothy McVeigh, people who some years from now are going to be doing similar things.
What is going on is really a very deliberate effort to turn the US and England, and dragging along with them the rest of the industrial world, into societies of a third world structure, with a small sector of wealthy, a big mass of poor maybe miserable people, and a growing superfluous population that they have to do something about. In the third world you send out the death squads and you do some cleansing and so on. That is the way it is done in Colombia or Brazil. Here in the West it is different. The counterpart in a rich society is to coop people up in urban slums which increasingly resemble concentration camps.28 Another technique now is what they call the war against crime. Crime has not increased for about 20 years, but the prison population has tripled through the eighties and is now shooting up, Here are some population figures: from 1930 to the mid-70s the rate of incarceration was about 100 per 100,000 which is roughly like England. In 1980 it had reached 139 per 100,000; 1986 210: 1994 it is up to 373 and going up. In comparison in Japan it is 47; Netherlands 40 and so on. In the Reagan years, the US gained the world record. But Russia has caught up again, now that they have absorbed Western values, so they are around the same level. In the industrial world the United States is unique. In fact, apart from Russia, it has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, which is going up, without an increase in crime.
The mechanism for this is mainly the drug war. The drug war has little to do with drugs. It is a class war, very explicit class war. About half the people arrested last year who went to federal prisons were for what are called drug crimes; about two-thirds for possession, about a third of them marijuana. Poor kid in the ghetto, find him with a joint. If you look at the laws you can see exactly what is going on. There are two kinds of cocaine. There is crack, which is the drug of choice in the ghetto, and there is powder cocaine, which is for the rich executives when they come home to the suburbs. They are the same in effects, but the criminal penalties are in a ratio of 100:1 all across the board for crack and powder cocaine.Furthermore the rich are of course rarely charged.29
The civil rights system is under attack. Congress actually repealed the Fourth Amendment not long ago, and they may get away with it. That is the exclusionary rule that blocks illegal search and seizure. The death penalty is going up. Appeals are being eliminated for the death penalty. You have to bear in mind that in the last 20 years about 50 people have been killed by the death penalty who turned out to be innocent, according to Senator Feingold. The death penalty is allowed for use against children. The United States is the only country outside of Iraq and Iran, and maybe Saudi Arabia and a few others like them, that officially allows children to be subjected to the death penalty. The United States just signed the International Convention for the Rights of Children. It was the 177th country to sign it. Usually the US does not sign any international conventions, but it did sign this one. That outlaws the use of the death penalty against children, but it does not matter, because the US, on the rare occasions when it signs an international convention, does it in a way which makes it what is called non-self-executing, which means it does not apply unless enabling legislation is passed, which of course it never is.
Another target is future generations. Society has got to be in the hands of private tyrannies, which dont care about the future. They are interested in Gaining Wealth, Forgetting all but Self. Someone else will worry about the day after tomorrow. The elimination of the regulatory apparatus, which is astonishing when you look at it, took place at exactly the same time as an announcement by the Commerce Department that they were closing the richest fishing area in the world: Georges Bank, right off New England, off Cape Cod. It had to be closed because during the 80s the Reagan administration had deregulated the fishing industry and subsidised it. It is like the S&L's [Savings and Loan Institutions]. When you do that something happens, namely they wipe out the fishing grounds. They have wiped out the ground fish, so we have to close the richest fishing area in the world. Cape Cod is now importing cod from Norway, which is like Australia getting kangaroos from Central Africa
Right in the middle of this, they dismantled the regulatory apparatus: that is on one page, this is on a different page. Remember these guys are conservatives. Massachusetts has a conservative governor, so as soon as they closed down the fishing grounds, he immediately went to Washington, hat in hand, saying: look taxpayer, bail us out. The excuse is that this had nothing to do with deregulation, it was a natural disaster. The federal government should declare a natural disaster, so federal funds pour into New England. Why was it a natural disaster? He explained that some new kind of predatory fish had come. It is so far invisible but we know it is there and it had eaten up all the ground fish. I am not joking that is the way it is reported. It sounds like a joke but it isnt and it isnt funny either.
This tells you exactly what free markets are all about. It is just like the S&Ls, just like the Goldman Sachs bail out after the Mexico collapse, just like the Chrysler Corporation30. In fact, it is like the whole history of industrial development back to England in the 18th century. Free markets are great for you, but we get state subsidy and protection. If anything goes wrong you come in and take care of it. We are the opulent minority which has to be protected.
There is little exception to this but it doesnt matter much because nobody knows, unless they undertake a research project.
Well, in my view this is a pretty ominous prospect. We are not talking about Algeria, or the Sudan. What happens in the United States is going to have a big effect on the world. In fact the prospects are so ominous that by now the corporate world is ambivalent about it. The business magazines are full of this. There is no time to talk about it, but the big corporations, their mood is rather reminiscent of Hitler Germany in the late '30s. They had mobilised this army of Nazis to destroy the unions and kill the socialists and communists, increase profits and so on, that was all great. But then it turned out that these guys had their own ideas, which the rich and powerful they didnt like very much, but it was too late. Pretty much the same happened in Iran round 1980, when the merchants in the bazaar mobilised their popular troops to overthrow the Shah, but then it turned out that the troops had a different idea and they ended up with Khomeini, which they didnt want. That is what the business press is worried about now. They have some reason for it. All of this fanaticism and hysteria. It has a streak of anti-corporate populism in it. They are very concerned about what is going to happen. They love the huge profits, they love the deregulation, destruction of the unions, the killing of children, all that stuff is fine, but the trouble is, what else do these guys have in mind? The CEOs are what are called liberals. They are militantly pro-abortion. They want opportunities for their daughters. They dont want their kids to be forced to pray in school, or to be forced to study creation science. They dont want them to learn about lucifer and extra-terrestrials taking over the country. They dont like guys running around with assault rifles. They dont want that society. They had something else in mind. Of course, they dont want the populist attack on corporate welfare, which is just about beginning and worries them. So they are kind of afraid of the troops they have mobilised. It is very visible in the business press.
These historical analogies, we probably dont want to take too seriously, but it would also be a serious error in my opinion to find security in the certainties that are expounded in the science of government and to refuse to look at what is going on in the real world.
Well, last comment I was asked to talk about some specific questions. I havent said anything about them yet, but Ill try to answer them briefly, because the answers fall out almost automatically when you think through what is going on, of which I have given a small sample. First question is: what about the problem of aid conditionality in human rights, conditioning aid on human rights. In my opinion you cant raise that question seriously in a world in which half of the US military aid for the hemisphere is going to Colombia, the hemispheres biggest human rights violator. That is part of a very consistent pattern. When that is the real world, you cant seriously raise questions about aid conditionality. Rather, there are different questions. Congress has just called for sharp reduction in aid to poor countries - they are leaving the aid to the rich countries. They have also called for a one-third cut in Congressional aid to UNICEF. That was timed very nicely. It was announced the same day as the announcement of the UNICEF report, the annual UNICEF report, with an American director I should say, that 13 million children are dying every year from easily preventable diseases, because the rich countries refuse pennies of aid.31 That was the same day as the decision to cut the aid for UNICEF, but it is no matter because it is unreported. At least by the time I had left the country a couple of days ago, none of this had made it to the national press yet. In those conditions, you really cant talk seriously about the problem of aid conditionality in human rights. We have a lot of ground to recover before we get to that question.
Second question is how could we move towards a constructive, non-imperialist model for international protection of human rights? Actually a very simple, and in my view correct answer to that was given in a carefully documented and reasoned article, a long study in the Inter-American Law Review by a University of Miami law professor. It is a study of US policy and human rights in the Western hemisphere. He concludes, in my view correctly, that a US commitment to promoting democracy and human rights in the Americas is unlikely to be forthcoming without greater democracy within the United States itself. I think that is an understatement, but the point is correct. Democracy at home does not guarantee decency either at home or abroad, but it is a prerequisite for it, and on that front, there is, to put it mildly a great deal to do.
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QUESTIONS Q1: My name is Steve Wilkinson. I am an executive member of an organisation called the Cuban Solidarity Campaign. We have been working very hard to raise material to support Cuba, which is facing a US blockade. I wonder if you would like to make some comments about US policy towards Cuba and if you have any words for Fidel Castro. What would you do if you were he?
Noam Chomsky: I dont give advice but let me talk about US policy towards Cuba. I could have given that example to illustrate what is happening in the world, it would be a perfect example. US policy toward Cuba goes back 170 years. It is the oldest issue in American foreign policy. Back in the 1820s Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams and others concluded that Cuba is the next country we ought to take over, for the rising American empire.32 It was a problem, somebody was in the way: Britain. Britain had a big navy, a big military force that was intimidating and they couldnt do it. So they concluded that they should wait until, by the laws of political gravitation, Cuba will fall into our hands like a ripe fruit. That is John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, predicting that British power would decline and US power would increase. That goes on until at the end of the last century. Cuba did liberate itself from Spain, but the US invaded very fast to make sure they took it over and the ripe fruit became a US plantation. The US kept intervening, through Roosevelt's Good Neighbour Policy. It kept overthrowing governments and so on. In 1959 Cuba became independent. That is unacceptable. In a few months, planes were bombing Cuba from bases in Florida. In March 1960, we now know this from the declassified records, The US government had formally decided to overthrow the government of Cuba. There were no Communists, no Russians. Castro was anti-communist. They knew that the population supported Castro. Well, you know what happened under Kennedy. He invaded, and when that didnt work they launched the biggest international terror campaign in history. A lot of interesting things about that. That campaign went on right through the missile crisis. In fact there was a big bombing in Cuba at one of the tensest moments of the missile crisis with apparently about 400 people killed, an Operation Mongoose bombing, which could have set off a nuclear war. Then it continued on, with further terror.
Cuba is the target of more international terror probably than the rest of the world combined, except for Nicaragua during the '80s. And there was also a strict embargo, this one real, unlike Haiti. Throughout all these years the story was the Cold War, what could we do? That is the version repeated recently by Kennedy Court historian Arthur Schlesinger, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal well, yes, it was a mistake, but it was the Cold War and the Russians were coming and we were kind of confused. Okay, the Cold War is over in 1989, so what do we do? What we do is tighten the embargo, tighten the stranglehold, now you have really got them by the throat, there is nowhere for them to turn. They are not getting any support from the Russians any more, Europe is too scared to help them, Latin America is not going to do much in the face of the Enforcer. So now you tighten the embargo. Now it turns out we werent really afraid of the Russians, we wanted democracy, that is why we were doing it. That is why we are putting half of our military aid into Colombia, because we like the way they handle democracy. So with a straight face we are now defending democracy, so we tighten the blockade.
Just to say something about the irrelevance of politics, Robert Torricelli, a liberal Democrat, put through the current tightening of the blockade. It was so blatantly illegal that George Bush vetoed it. He was then outflanked by Clinton from the right during the 1992 campaign and he let it go through. There is now more legislation coming to make it even tighter. To tell you a story: I was just in Italy at a big biology lab and some people there were describing to me how they had been trying to make biotech connections with Cuba. They have a flourishing biotechnology industry, but they cant sell anything, so these guys were trying to set up markets for them in Europe, where the technology is appropriate. They said that every time they set up something in a European country, a day later the company gets a visit from the State Department saying, cut that out or else you are going to lose all your markets in the United States. So they back off. Cuba cant sell its biotechnology because we are bringing them democracy. In fact the idea is to strangle them and to destroy them and to make it worse until finally the ripe fruit is back in our hands.
There is another feature to it. Part of it is something that is unintelligible to Western intellectuals, but is completely intelligible to every peasant in the third world. If you are the big mafia don and somebody in your area does not pay protection money, you are not satisfied with taking the money, you dont Just send a goon to pick the money, you have got to make an example of them, so that nobody else gets funny ideas, so you beat them up, and you torture them and so on. Now. that is completely intelligible and I dont think there are many people in the third world who dont understand that. It takes a good education not to be able to understand that. So it is not understood by people like us, who are lucky enough to have good educations. But that is a large part of what is going on. That is why you see exactly the same thing everywhere, Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Iraq, anybody who stands up to the Enforcer has to be taught a lesson, not for them, but for everybody else, so they know it. Haiti was another case in point.
So that is US policy toward Cuba. Will it continue? Actually this one is a problem for the American people really. If there is nothing done inside the United States, I dont know what can stop it. Europe can do a lot. So for example there is really no reason for European companies and governments to bow to this kind of pressure. The United States is powerful, but it doesnt own the world. It is possible to get around it with enough pressure. In fact if things happen here it will have a feedback effect to the United States. There is a lot of mutual reinforcement on these things. It is mainly a US problem, but there are a lot of things that can be done, including straight aid.
Cuba has amazingly maintained, so far succeeded in maintaining, the health system, astonishing, it still has the best quality of life statistics in the hemisphere outside the really rich countries, despite all of this. The US is trying to destroy it and probably they will get it destroyed. Maybe it will even be like Nicaragua. In Nicaragua since 1990, since the US took over, the increase in deaths from malnutrition among children under four has gone up by 35%. That is what is called a victory for democracy. They would like to have the same thing in Cuba, but it doesnt have to happen. They can get support and lots of things can be done. This is quite independent of what you think about Castro or anything else. I think he is a dictator and they should free up the system and there are human rights atrocities and so on, but that is kind of independent, it is a different issue. Those are not the factors that drive American policy. Whatever you think about Castro, he doesnt begin to compare with César Gaviria, the guy they love. Colombia is so much worse that you cant even say the words human rights, and it is not the only case. So Cuba ought to freed up and it would be good for the Cuban people to have a revolution, I believe that. But that was nothing to do with this issue. It needs survival at this point
Q2: I am speaking on behalf of a collective from Luton, the Exodus Collective. We wanted to ask you, I actually sent you a letter a couple of months ago, about the new bogey man you talked about in the new world order. You talked about the prohibition of drugs leading to a massive increase in prison population, so from that it follows that prohibition tends to a new licence, if you like, for internal security to come and oppress people in our country using prohibition of drugs as an excuse. On an international level, it seems to us that Muslim fundamentalism is being hyped as a new age bogey man in order to have tight internal controls as well as external controls internationally. What I wanted to ask you was: first, do you think that the prohibition of drugs, given that it is a licence for oppression and a reason to instil fear in people into manufacturing a consent for that, do you think that the prohibition of drugs should be changed, as a law; and second, given that we live in a country where in the 1970s the British security services allowed bombs to go off in Dublin in order to allow black propaganda to be used against the IRA, in order to erode their support, what are the chances of the Oklahoma bombing - given that internal security is something that the military strategists for the new world order have said is where the threat is going to come from, not from other nation states, but internal, what are the chances that the Oklahoma bombing was also something done by the security services in order to justify much more internal oppression?
Noam Chomsky: On the latter, I dont think it is a plausible possibility. It is conceivable, but it seems extremely unlikely that that was done by the security services. My guess is that it was done exactly the way it was described, that it was angry white males taking out their resentment against an oppressive system and the only way that seems plausible, the only oppressor they see is the federal government. They have been taught for 50 years not to see the substance behind the shadow. That is the goal of the massive corporate propaganda, so what people see is the shadow, and that is where they take out their anger.27 They dont know about the Fortune 500. They do know about the federal government, and the extra-terrestrials and all the rest. I suspect that is the answer.
On the other hand the Oklahoma City bombing is being used as a way to introduce highly repressive legislation. The latest omnibus anti-terrorism bill is pretty draconian. It was going to go through anyway, but now it will go through faster because they will use the Oklahoma city bombing for it. On the question of Islamic fundamentalism, the United States has absolutely nothing against Islamic fundamentalism. The most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state in the world is Saudi Arabia and I dont see anyone bombing Saudi Arabia. They are doing their job, they are making sure that the profits from oil go to the United States and from Kuwait to Britain and so on. As long as they do their job, they can be as fundamentalist as they like. On the other hand, if they move to anything that is independent, or unacceptable, well, then we kill them.
In fact the US is no more opposed to Islamic fundamentalism than it is to the Catholic church. In the 1980s this huge terrorist war in Central America was mostly a war against the church. The church had taken up what was called the preferential option for the poor.33 That makes them Communist by definition. They dont understand that you have to protect the opulent minority against the people, so therefore you murder them. The decade starts with the murder of an archbishop and it ends with the slaughter of Jesuit intellectuals. Yes, sure. That is like Islamic fundamentalism. What you believe in is totally irrelevant, the question is whether you obey orders.
On prohibition, I dont know the history here, but in the United States, there was no drug prohibition until after the end of prohibition of alcohol. That ended after having led to a big increase in criminal gangs, and so on, plenty of profits for everybody. Right after that, 1934 I think, marijuana became an illegal drug34 and later it became much harsher all across the board. The drug war is very carefully crafted. It is crafted in such away as to increase use of hard drugs, destructive drugs, and to decrease the use of soft drugs, like marijuana. As far as marijuana is concerned, I presume it is not good for you, but I dont think there are any really harmful effects known. For example, there is virtually no record of overdoses, maybe none. It is certainly much less harmful than tobacco. In fact, tobacco deaths alone way outnumber all drug deaths by a factor of something like 50.35 Marijuana is big and bulky so it is stopped. The effect is to drive people to high tech drugs which really are harmful, though still nowhere near tobacco. There is a lot to say about this. None of this has anything whatsoever to do with the drug war. If you want to stop drugs, there are places to go. The OECD just did a study on profits from drugs. Nobody knows the details, it is illegal, but the conclusions are interesting. They estimated close to half a trillion dollars a year of profits,36 of which more than half, about 60%, goes through American banks. Colombia gets 7%, that tells you how important they are in the drug trade. American chemical companies - the CIA had a study under the Reagan years saying that they were sending chemicals to Latin America way beyond any possible industrial use, and the chemicals they are sending are the ones that are used for drugs.
Bolivia is one of those famous economic miracles that everyone is very happy about. That is where Jeffrey Sachs won his laurels and he was sent off to show them how to do it in Poland and Russia. Indeed they got nice macroeconomics statistics, everything is fine. How? By raising the export of drugs to the major export, of coca leaves. So there are ways to stop drugs, you can go to the banks, you can go to the chemical companies, you can stop the programmes that are forcing peasants to produce coca instead of other things. Nobody is doing that. On the other hand, what about prohibition? Well, I tend to be rather conservative about this and a lot of things. I dont think you should tamper radically with social systems.37 We dont know enough. We dont know much about society. We know very little, so therefore radical tampering is a very chancy thing. I think what should happen is experimentation. So it seems to me to make good sense to do something, which in fact Britain did back around 1800, when the problem was alcoholism. Establish procedures and legislation of the kind that encourages less harmful alcoholic beverages, like beer, while discouraging the use of hard liquor.
In the case of marijuana, it is relatively inoffensive, so it can be more or less legitimised, I suppose. Hard drugs like heroin and cocaine I dont think should be available. On the other hand, the attitude should be much less punitive and it requires education, like tobacco. People should be driven off tobacco not by sticking a gun to their heads, but by education. In fact it is working. In the United States, at least, smoking is now a class issue. Wealthy educated people dont smoke. Poor people smoke. That is just a class issue. It has to do with understanding the consequences, tension in your life and all sorts of other stuff and I think that is the way to handle the problem. Now, exactly what the details should be about prohibition, I think we should be cautious about. You dont tamper with systems that we complicated, if you really dont understand them.
Q3: I was just wondering actually if you had heard the report that since the Oklahoma bombing that Gadaffi had made an offer to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton to offer them sanctuary, should they wish to escape the civil unrest. Also, I was just wondering where Ross Perot stands in this grand business consortium?
Noam Chomsky: Ross Perot is a curious figure, a strange phenomenon - he doesnt stand anywhere. But the Perot phenomenon is interesting. When Perot announced his candidacy in 1992, he was unknown. About his only qualification and the only reason he said for voting for me is that Ive got a billion dollars and big ears, or something like that. Within about two days his popularity rating was higher than either the two candidates. In fact you could run a puppet now and he would probably get a majority of the population. It is a reflection of the complete cynicism about the political system. He himself does not mean anything, except to reflect the enormous cynicism of political systems.38 I think it reveals something, what I said before. If a genuine, charismatic Hitler type shows up, not corrupt, does not just want sex, money and stuff, just wants power and is charismatic and is an effective demagogue they have got fertile territory. That is frightening, I should say.
Just to add to that the country is an organiser's paradise. When you have 83% of the population that says the economic system is inherently unfair, 82% says accurately the government is just working for special interests not for the people; 80% say working people dont have enough influence on what goes on; three-quarters say the government should give more help to the poor and on and on. If anything constructive was going on, you could have really substantial and significant changes, I presume the same is true here. So on the one hand you can see fascism coming, and on the other it is an organiser's paradise.39 The question is what you do with it.
Q4: I am an individual member of Liberty. I agree with much of what you have said today, and at the risk of being regarded as a heretic, let me paraphrase Karl Marx in my preamble. Marx once said philosophers have analysed the problems of the world, the important thing is to change it. You have told us that it would be wrong to link aid with human rights, especially in the third world and of course I agree with you that the American example in Colombia is a bad one. However, the abuse of human rights in some of the third world countries is totally unacceptable, in Africa, but what I dont accept is the naiveté of regarding what is happening in Rwanda purely in terms of ethnicity or tribalism. I am not asking you to make predictions, but can you tell us, what projections you can make and how best can we protect and increase human rights in the third world countries, particularly in Africa?
Noam Chomsky: I dont want to leave a misleading impression with regard to conditionally and human rights. I am not saying that aid should not be conditional on human rights. It should be. What I am saying is that it doesnt make much sense to ask that question in a society where aid is in fact correlated with human rights, namely with human rights abuses. Aid happens to be very closely correlated to human rights abuses40 and in that condition you dont ask seriously, should we condition aid on human rights. It is like asking in the Soviet Union in 1960, should we be supporting democracy around the world? It is a silly question. The question of the Soviet Union supporting freedom and democracy around the world did not arise. It was fighting democracy and freedom at home and wherever it could reach. There was something else to be done: change the Soviet Union. That is our problem.
I agree with you also about the Rwandan ethnicity. It has a lot to do with the history of colonialism, with the German missionaries and the Belgians,41 and so on, who firmed up the distinctions that are now turning into genocidal massacres. There is all sorts of history here. What can we do about Rwanda? I think you and I as human beings, there is a lot we can try to do. As societies the first thing we have to do is reform ourselves. We have got to make our own societies decent, honourable, liveable, democratic and so on, and then there is a chance that the institutions can do something. Meanwhile individuals can go ahead doing what they want. Somebody down here was talking about the Cuban Solidarity Campaign, you can do that as an individual, you dont have to wait for the government. The same is true with everything else.
So as human beings there is plenty we can do. When we think about the institutions, the primary thing we ought to do is to make them free and democratic as much as we can and then there is some chance that they will also do something decent. You cant talk about what oppressive, hierarchical, destructive institutions ought to do. You can pressure them in various ways, but you cant appeal to them to be nicer. That doesnt make sense.
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I've taken the liberty (so to speak) of adding my own endnotes - Rae West* New World Order. This phrase appears to have been first used by H G Wells.Back
1. 'If we want to investigate the topic of human rights in the world of today and tomorrow, the announced topic,..' In fact, Noam says very little about human rights in the abstract - what they are, or can be considered to be, and the attempts perhaps made e.g. by the UN to incorporate them into politics. His talk is rather a demonstration of the falsity of the often-made claim that human rights are a genuine political aim of the US. Most of his evidence is from the western hemisphere. On the legal side, he says little, though there's a hint at the very end of his talk. Back
2. '..grievous.. impact.. including the people of England'. In my view, this passage tends to suggest Chomsky is repeating a mistake from Marx, namely that the interests of classes are utterly opposed. In fact, in most cases workers partly share the interests of the bosses or their industry; for example, (1) workers in weapons industries often support those industries. (2) In early industrialism, British cotton workers benefited from the destruction of the Indian cotton industry, however much they may themselves have been exploited. (3) People in the west, even if they're poor, benefit from oil imperialism. And so on. So in Adam Smith's example, the impact may be more or less grievous, but nevertheless the victims may support it.
In my view this very simple error is a principal reason for the intellectual failure of the left. Back
3. '.. when the US was finally powerful enough to expel its main enemies, France and Britain, from the Western hemisphere and to take over the colossus of the South..' An American film (1943), Victory Through Air Power, is largely about a Russian pilot, Major Alexander P de Seversky, who says "there is now nowhere on the surface of the earth immune from air attack", and a 'disciple' of e.g. General Billy Mitchell. It has comic cartoons of the history of flight, then cartoon illustrations of German and Japanese lines of communication and raw materials. Thus Japan is shown with plunder flowing in, oil, copper, tungsten, tin, rubber.. And Germany is shown as a wheel with a hub; through air warfare the hub is destroyed.
'Confessions of a Nazi Spy' (1939) shows Germans with a map of South America, and lecturing on "markets for our manufactured products.. source of raw materials". Back
4. '.. Couldnt get a better test: enormous resources, tremendous potential, no interference, just perfect..' Controlled experiments, or at least observations, are important in Chomsky's work. E.g. the film 'Manufacturing Consent' compares atrocities in Cambodia with unreported atrocities in East Timor.
The empirical testing of theories, rather than just assertion, is illustrated by his comment on Huntingdon.
And by the case-by-case examination to see whether the cold war theory has any truth. Back
5. 'first neo-Nazi national security state in the hemisphere in the early 1960s...' &c. Neo-Nazi: this is not a precise term and there is the related problem that, if a state receives wholehearted US support, and that state is neo-Nazi, doesn't the US count as neo-Nazi too? Back
In practice the combination of myths about the Second World War, the evasion of the facts of the devastation caused by the First World War, and the damping-down of Spain, Japan and Italy from discussions on this topic mean it's another subject rarely raised. Back
6. 'US Investors and a tiny elite profited enormously..' Unfortunately, the dynamics of the process of supporting local elites isn't gone into; under a strict imperialist model, presumably an entire country would be impoverished, without bothering to leave local bosses. Cp. note 2. Back
7. 'The number of billionaires in Mexico went from one in 1987 to 24 in 1994..' Billionaires. Chomsky doesn't analyse what a 'billionaire' actually is; presumably this refers mostly to control of assets, but of course it could be 'liquid' currency, presumably in the electronic sense. Chomsky hints, but says little, about bank secrecy as an agency in propping up massive corruption. Nor does he discuss the way in which state power is presumably essential in propping up credit, since ultimately legal contracts, e.g. those involving modern currencies, have to be enforced in some way. Back
8. '.. in fact it is absolutely routine and in fact virtually exceptionless, maybe totally exceptionless.' It occurs to me the same remark can be made about many (all?) periods of history. Consider the 'harrying of the north' in England by William the Conqueror for example, leaving much of the countryside depopulated; I think it's still true that most UK school history barely mentions this event, even after nine centuries. Back
9. 'Outside of a real commissar culture..' .... Read John Pilger's interview on this site, where they consider the 'commissar class' or 'secular priesthood'. Chomsky gives an example: the book review editor of the Boston Globe vowed none of his books would ever be reviewed in that newspaper. Or 'newspaper'. Back
10. 'great fanfare..', 'Well, Haiti is back on track..' To illustrate the universality of this treatment, below are verbatim notes made from a BBC TV programme of 19 Sept 1994: 'Newsnight'.
Voiceover, uncredited in any way: "The first wave [sound track: applause] of American troops is still arriving in Haiti. And the welcome from an impoverished people [visuals: a few dozen blacks; plus helicopter with US troops lying prone] cowed for so long by their own army is plain to see. Within a week this occupation force will be 15,000 strong. Last night's deal removed that first obstacle, the need to invade, so now they're straight into the really hard part, keeping the peace and building democracy."
[Kissinger with absurd evasions]
Paxman: [Announcer] ... Professor Chomsky, you're a liberal, you're a believer in democracy, presumably you support the removal of these thugs in Haiti?"
Chomsky: Well, I'm a believer in democracy but not the kind of democracy that's being restored. What the U.S. has in fact restored as intended all along is the situation that existed prior to the election, the free election, of December 1990. The military remains effectively unchanged. Power is shifting back into the hands of the wealthy business sectors. An economic program has been imposed upon Aristide, he's been ordered to follow it, which guarantees that any world bank and other foreign funds will be used for improving investment opportunities for benefiting the business community and so on. ... .... Human rights are the same everywhere, and great power behaviour is the same, namely human rights are considered irrelevant. [Paxman laughs] So the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere, at the moment, alongside of Haiti, happens to be Colombia, which has a horrendous human rights record, described in great detail in Amnesty International reports and Human Rights Watch reports, and it happens to be receiving about 50% of US aid increasing in the hemisphere increasing under Clinton. Because human rights is an irrelevance.
Paxman: OK. If then American intervention under the GUISE of restoring democracy or protecting human rights IS an entirely cynical figleaf, where does that leave the United Nations?
Chomsky: "The United Nations is where it always was. It can act insofar as the great powers permit it to act, and right now there happens to be essentially one great power with a few client states like England and the UN can act pretty much within the framework that they permit. That's no change from.." [soon cut off] Back
11. 'But Jimmy Carter doesnt seem to be getting his Nobel Prize..' No doubt a reference to Henry Kissinger (and others?) Chomsky correctly inserts suspicions about the 'Nobel Prize' industry. Elsewhere I shall post material on the corrupting effect of Nobel prizes on science. Back
12. 'But we have to understand what the term means.' On this, cp. Russell writing (in 1963!) 'In the United States this suppression has become so complete that it has created the conditions for widespread fanaticism. Economic interests which ensure American support of dozens of feudal dictatorships around the globe make it necessary to propound a devil-theory about communism, and this results in an appalling self-righteousness which bears no relationship to the facts and cannot tolerate freedom of speech or independence of mind...' Back
13. 'It is a very free society,..' '.. still is in many non-trivial respects the most free and democratic society in the world. ..' It's difficult to know how much meaning to attach to such statements. It's hard to believe that Chomsky, or anyone else, has been able to objectively work out how much freedom there is in every human society. Probably 'freedom' is somewhat of an irrelevance - most people in the US have relative wealth, and it's hard to see them trading that for 'freedom'. Moreover, there's the question of the extent to which empires deliberately reduce other peoples' freedom. One might also add that there's plenty of freedom to do nothing much. Serious movements very soon find their 'freedom' impaired. Back
14. 'There was no one to call communists in those days, but it is the same point. ..' It's amusing to see that 'liberalism' in the 19th century was sometimes used in the way 'communism' has been in the late 20th, e.g. by the Catholic church. For example an 1860s whaling memoirs book says, on Mexico, '.. the People had been obliged to leave the Town. .. They told them that a gang of Men, calling themselves Liberals, came there to rob them and they left everything, not having time to go into their houses to save anything. .. these Liberals go around the country plundering such small places..' Back
15. '.. labor history in the US has no parallel in the industrial world.' US labor history violence; it's interesting to compare with pogroms in Russia about 1900, at the same time as much US labor violence, typically against Rockefeller interests; difficult to say which was the more violent. Back
16. 'Fortune 500 [companies] now control about two-thirds of Gross Domestic Product. .. that is more than the total Gross Domestic Product of Germany and the UK.' The transcript I'm using actually says 'Germany or the UK', but I presume this is a mistake Back
17. '.. concentration of power in the hands of totalitarian institutions which I dont think has any counterpart. They are running a system of corporate mercantilism as some economists call it, linked to state power. Mercantilism. As with many economics terms, the underlying power structures are kept unclear, and in any case this is not a very precise term. But it seems to be connected with the rise of empires - cp. The London Company of Merchant Adventurers, dating from 1407. In any case it seems obvious that merchants have no particular importance unless there's some exploitative possibility.
Technically: 'The Physiocrat school postulated that land was the sole basis of wealth. .. The Mercantile school considered that the prosperity of a country was determined by attracting.. an increasing quantity.. of bullion.' (1921 text). Reliable credit, and industrialism, naturally helped end this idea.
In 'The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many' (1993) NC wrote: 'If you studied the canon properly at the University of Chicago [home of Milton Friedman et al], you learned that Adam Smith denounced the mercantilist system and colonialism because he was in favor of free trade. That's only half the truth. The other half is that he pointed out that the mercantilist system and colonialism were very beneficial to the "merchants and manufacturers - the principal architects of policy" but were harmful to the people of England. In short, it was a class-based policy which worked for the rich and powerful in England. The people of England paid the costs. He was opposed to that because he was an enlightened intellectual, but he recognized it.' Back
18. '.. man on the moon extravaganzas..' The reason for Houston being 'mission control' seems to have been Texan lobbying for money rather than any serious scientific reason. Back
19. 'almost nobody knows about them'. This sort of thing is not new, of course; 'The French cannon at Waterloo were furnished by the City of London. After Elba Napoleon was able to negotiate a £4,000,000 loan at 8 per cent in London. ..' (H G Wells, in 1942) Back
20. 'There is nothing crazy enough that there is not a big cult about it...' Proliferation of cults: surely this is a bit unfair? It's possible that, with television, film, radio, cheap printing, and prolonged state education, people in the U.S. are the most intensively propagandised of any people in the whole of human history. There's endless censorship of important issues. For example, spokesmen for opposition views simply get no air time at all on US TV. Film companies get discreet subsidies for equipment etc. Advertising can get away with systematic lying. Absurd 'religious' views get official encouragement. And so on. It seems unreasonable to expect this process to have no effects; how can anyone expect a perfectly balanced nation, of fully rational people? Back
21. 'It is good for the health of the economy if people dont know when they go to sleep at night, whether they are going to have a job the not day. You can prove it. There is a theorem.' The application of mathematics to social subjects - an the scope it offers for introducing undeclared assumptions, approximation etc - is an unexplored but important field. For example, there's a theorem to show that Value Added Tax is a 'neutral' tax, which leaves an economy in 'perfect competition' structurally unaltered. This bit of calculus must have had its effect on tax policies.
A fascinating question is the extent to which economic models represent wishful thinking or over-simplification, but which nevertheless become part of peoples' unconscious mental life. This aspect of 'economics' is in my view surprisingly under-investigated by Chomsky, in view of his use of elaborate math-like linguistic structures. (There's a similar surprising lack in Russell). I have a reference somewhere to the effect that business games, and many economic and computer models, produce the feeling that any conclusion they seem to demonstrate must be true in practice; and furthermore, paradoxical results are often clung to all the more closely as being proved 'scientifically'. Back
22. 'Since nobody believes in the free market, except for someone else..' Thus Joan Robinson (Economic Philosophy, 1962) '..The point was, of course, that in the pre-1914 world Great Britain had everything to gain from other nations' adopting Free Trade and very little to lose from maintaining it herself. ..' See also note 41. Back
23. '.. biggest car bomb in history went off right outside a mosque, timed to kill the maximum number of people, ... It was done by the CIA with the help of British intelligence. ..' Z Magazine of May 1993 gives the source: ' .. The target was the Shi'ite leader Sheikh Fadlallah, who escaped unharmed. The attack was organized by the CIA and its Saudi clients with Lebanese and British assistance, and specifically authorized by CIA director William Casey, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book on Casey. That was not the worst terrorist act of the year, however. The prize was taken by the blowing up of an Air India flight, killing 329 people - the worst terrorist air attack ever. It was traced to a paramilitary camp in Alabama where terrorists were trained for actions in Central America and elsewhere. ..' Back
24. '.. just dirty Arabs.' Edward Said's 1981 Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World is an interesting book on this topic, mainly consisting of anecdotes from the U.S. media. It would be interesting to see a careful comparison with the coverage of Jews in inter-war Germany. Back
25. A M Rosenfeld: surprisingly perhaps, I could find nothing on him in a computer-search of my Chomsky files. Back
26. 'It is all pretty well documented, there has been a good UNICEF report about it, which is never mentioned.' The Noam Chomsky archives have many references to UNICEF passim, dealing e.g. with starvation of Iraqi children. However, I haven't been able to find out about this UNICEF report on deprivation in rich countries. Back
27. '.. Now they dont know what is going on. They dont know about the profits of the Fortune 500, but they do know about the bad government and the extra-terrestrials and Lucifer and the other really serious threats. So why not bomb the federal building to protect themselves?' It's possible to make a case that Chomsky seems surprisingly light on bombing the government, for an anarchist; as I understand it, Spanish anarchism developed largely as a result of the feeling that the 'government' was corrupt and vicious. Reviewing the record of U.S. government might make such action seem reasonable. Back
28. '.. resemble concentration camps.' Michael Foot [once Labour Party leader in UK]'s wife referred to tower blocks, when they were new, as "an insult to the working class", a rare view at the time. Back
29. '.. the criminal penalties are in a ratio of 100:1 all across the board for crack and powder cocaine, Furthermore the rich are of course rarely charged.' "white powder crime" is widely accepted as proof of legal bias, analogous to skewed penalties for white-collar fraud as opposed to ordinary theft). Back
30. 'Cape Cod; .. just like the S & Ls, just like the Goldman Sachs bail out after the Mexico collapse, just like the Chrysler Corporation..' And the Continental Illinois Bank. The Chomsky Archive has details e.g. in Chomsky's 1993 book 'Year 501'. Back
31. '13 million children are dying every year from easily preventable diseases, because the rich countries refuse pennies of aid.' It occurs to me that, if Dr Thomas McKeown and vaccination-revisionists and others are even remotely right, prevention of disease may need a radical environmental overhaul, which may be less cheap than promoters of remedies imply. Back
32. '.. 1820s Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams and others concluded that Cuba is the next country.. for the rising American empire.' On the American Empire, it's surprising how rarely this term is used; Gore Vidal is an exception, and there have been some historians who manfully stuck to the term. It's interesting to compare the 'British Empire', always in any case a rather ramshackle structure of different local arrangements, when weakened after the First World War; in 1922 the Statute of Westminster dissolved it, at least officially (This info from an article by H G Wells). The rather hypocritical change of name to 'Commonwealth' came later, I think after the Second World War. Back
33. The church had taken up what was called the preferential option for the poor. In view of the historical record of churches, my personal belief is that the policy of Catholicism in South America is to back both sides in the hope of doing their best out of any outcome. I can't recall any prolonged campaigning by any Popes for wider democracy. Cf. mentions of Catholics in the Russell Vietnam War Crime trials, where it's clear that Catholicism gave support to the U.S. invasion and war crimes. Back
34. '.. Right after that [Prohibition], 1934 I think, marijuana became an illegal drug. ..' The most interesting, and very likely true, conspiracy theory relating to marijuana is the suggested link with artificial fibres and cotton; for centuries 'hemp' was synonymous with rope, and hemp fibre was used where cotton is used now (e.g. jeans). It was also used for paper and the seeds in food. By banning marijuana, on more or less made-up grounds, this highly efficient source of good quality fibre was erased, and these other industries, e.g. Du Pont, were, and still are, benefited. See Reefer Madness film of 1936 as propaganda example against 'marihuana'. Much information is on Internet. Back
35. '.. tobacco deaths alone way outnumber all drug deaths by a factor of something like 50...' And alcohol related accidents & crime, though not mentioned by Chomsky, are of course astronomical. Unfortunately Chomsky seems to fall into the trap of comparing unlike things: if other drugs were as widely available as tobacco and alcohol, what would the results be then?
For evidence of diet-related effects to smoking and lung cancer, watch this site. Back
36. 'The OECD just did a study on profits from drugs. Nobody knows the details, it is illegal, but the conclusions are interesting. They estimated close to half a trillion dollars a year of profits, ..' Chomsky doesn't ask whether these figures are credible, or for that matter whether the whole concept of 'addiction' is credible. Assuming say an absurdly high 10% of the whole industrial world is addicted to drugs, the OECD figure gives a profit per head of about $10,000 per year! This seems utterly ludicrous; the sceptic is reminded of 'AIDS' figures. Back
37. 'I dont think you should tamper radically with social systems. We dont know enough. ..' On not tampering, Chomsky seems inconsistent here. In the film Manufacturing Consent with an interviewer from 'American Focus' he says: "In dealing with social and political issues, in my view, what is at all understood is pretty straightforward. I don't think, there may be deep and complicated things, but if so they're not understood. The basic ways, to the extent that we understand society at all, it's pretty straightforward, and I don't think that those simple understandings are likely to undergo much change." Back
38. 'He himself does not mean anything, except to reflect the enormous cynicism of political systems. ..' NC unfortunately says nothing about Perot's policies (if he had any - online voting is one thing I remember). It's difficult to reconcile this dismissiveness with enthusiasm for democracy; if people vote for Perot, rather than someone like Clinton, why is that undemocratic? On 'charisma' there's quite a nice comment by Robin Blackburn on 'Social Science': 'Concepts are fashioned which .. imply that all attempts to challenge the status quo are fundamentally irrational (e.g. 'charisma').
Furthermore, in my view, Chomsky has retained the view of Hitler current during the Second World War, without integrating in subsequent investigations and discoveries. To put it another way, if Hitler was uniquely evil, then nobody can be 'neo-Nazi'; if someone is neo-Nazi, then Hitler wasn't uniquely evil. Back
39. '.. Organiser's paradise. ..' People may be miserable or dissatisfied; but it doesn't seem to follow that organisers will have an easy time. For example, Chomsky himself, in a good position to 'organise', is a full-time academic. Would he find 'organising' a paradise? Back
40. 'Aid' and human rights abuses. Cf. The Political Economy of Human Rights (two vols) by Noam Chomsky & Edward Herman for detailed examination of dozens of dictatorships and their financial and other support. Christopher Hitchens says the first (1973) edition was suppressed by the publishers, Warner. It finally appeared in 1979. Back
41. Belgian Congo. On the Belgian Congo, the little-known but huge atrocities were exposed by E D Morel, despite intense opposition, partly caused, in the case of Britain, by Foreign Offices, to not annoy the French. [On this subject, click here for a longish account by Russell, a friend of Morel.] During the First World War, it was felt necessary to invent the myth of 'gallant little Belgium'.
A related subject: the Autobiography of the explorer of Africa, Stanley (put together posthumously by his wife) has this remark in the introduction: 'Accepting Free Trade as a policy, the blindness of the British nation to the value of additional colonies, and the indifference, not only of successive Governments, but of various Chambers of Commerce, and the industrial community generally, whose business instincts might have been expected to develop greater foresight, were a source of the deepest concern and disappointment to Stanley; for it meant the loss to England both of the whole of the Congo Free State, and, later, of the monopoly of the Congo railway, now one of the most profitable in the world. The determined opposition for long exhibited to the acquisition of Uganda and British East Africa was also, for a time, a great anxiety to him.' Back
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