Prof. Chomsky interviewed by Iran’s Press TV on the recent election of Obama, the ‘Bush legacy of catastrophe’, protectionism disguised as capitalism, propaganda, current events in the Middle East.
25 Apr 09 | Press TV
The following is a Press TV interview with sociopolitical analyst and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky on the policies of the new US administration and the chances of ‘change’ under President Barack Obama. (8:06):
Press TV hasn’t posted the second half of the interview on YouTube yet. Here’s that last half transcribed:
Press TV: Is this almost a loophole? The protectionism that that we are seeing on the part of the government…. Is it a loophole towards nationalization?
Chomsky: It has just…. It has always been like that. As I say, the HI-TECH economy is, to a large extent, publicly subsidized. No, that is protectionism; it is just not called protectionism. The terms are used in such a way that they do not really describe…. They have ideologically tinged the terms that we use.
PTV: Why are Western societies intimidated by these terms?
Chomsky: They are not intimidated. They act the same way. I mean, that is for economic history. The reason that there is a First World and a Third World…, the large reason, part of the reason, is that, from the 18th century, the European societies and their offshoots like the state the United States relied on a very high level of state intervention. Protectionism, subsidy worked in such a way in which the powerful states intervened and they had their economy developed. The colonist societies…, they were subjected to free market principles and they declined, they stagnated. Those are some of the major principles of economic history. I mean, let us take look…outside of the European-US world. There is one country that developed, Japan, and that is the one country that was not colonized.
Is that accidental? No, in fact, if you look at the East Asian growth system, you know one of the miracles of took place in the 20th century, they ruled by following pretty much the kinds of policy that the Europe and the United States had followed in their own development. They rejected the rules of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and developed through various kinds of state intervention.
So, it has changed with time. After the Second World War, when the economy allowed much more hi-technology innovation, the government role increased substantially. And so that is why you have places like MIT. Public-funding mostly extended from funding to develop what became a new economy.
So, these are just general features of the economic history. In fact, it is kind of dramatic right now….it is interesting that nobody notices it… Suppose that a Third-World country has an economic, national crisis, say, Indonesia. The IMF comes in….
They come in. They tell…. They give lectures and instructions to Indonesia as to how to deal with the crisis. First, pay off your debts to us. Second, raise interest rates which lower the crippling economy. Third, the population has to pay for the structural adjustment. And fourth, privatize so we can pick up your assets….
Those are the instructions given to the third world uniformly…. If fact they are given right now, Suppose we had the crisis as we do now. The instructions are the opposite. Forget about the debts…. Lower the interest rates. Just do everything to stimulate the economy. Do not suffer as long as you can and do not privatize. Nationalize, but do not call it nationalization. Just help the public to move a couple of bad assets and subsidize.
So, exactly the opposite prescriptions. Now, all this passes without comment. And, I think, the reason is deeply ingrained in the imperial mentality that we act one way and our subjects act the different way and that traces back through modern economic history and it is a large part of the reason for the split between first world and the rest of world.
PTV: You have constantly warned of propaganda and how the mainstream media is essentially employed to coy the population into submission, if you may. What role do you think the mass media plays in the current American political system?
Chomsky: They pretty much represent the standard ideological framework that grows from the structure of power in the society. I do not think they are being deceptive…. It is their belief. It is their understanding. I mean, if you had a religious theocracy, the media perfectly honest with you and repeat the claims of the religious theocracy. They may do it by force. They may do it because they believe it…. It is not deception. That is what educated, cultivated people believe and that is deeply rooted in the imperial mentality and has developed over hundreds of years. And the class mentality the rich are supposed to do well and the poor have to pay for it. No, it is pretty natural, belief of a part of privileged people.
PTV: Moving on to the Middle East, do you think that a two-state solution is possible in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, considering the fact that Israel has a new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and the recent widespread attacks in Gaza? Are we expecting too much when we ask a two-state solution?
Chomsky: I don’t think we are asking too much and in the short term I do not think that there any other alternatives, other than just destruction of Palestine.
For Palestinians now there are now two options; one is they are just going to be destroyed. The second is that there will be a two-state settlement.
What is blocking the two-state settlement is not Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact oddly enough if you look back, his government was the first one that even mentioned the possibility of a Palestinian state. Shimon Peres was considered a “dove” and his last words were: there will never be a Palestinian state. We will never allow it. Netanyahu came in later and made some weak remarks about maybe we can have it.
What is crucial is the attitude of the United States. The United States is a renowned world power. In the Middle East it is overwhelmingly dominant. The US has, for over thirty years now, rejected and blocked a diplomatic settlement. Now there has been an overwhelming international consensus since the 1970s on a two-state settlement and on the international border perhaps with minor mutual modifications. It came to the Security Council in January 1976 brought by the Arab states and secured a US veto. And I will not run through the records here but it goes right through to the present…
PTV: Why? Why did the United States do this?
Chomsky: Well, Israel is a valuable asset. Compare Israel with the Palestinians. Israel is a rich, Western, industrial society…and it provides the United States…it is essentially an offshore military base…in fact during the Gaza attack the US was shipping arms to Israel and not just for them to be used in Gaza but to be pre-positioned there for eventual US use. And that has been going on for years. They have formed very close intelligence connections and their advanced industries are very close to the US hi-tech industry. The major ones like Intel and Microsoft and practically all of them are investing heavily in Israel.
For the united States it is just valuable…Take for example the military industry. Obama has just announced that he is increasing US military aid to Israel over Bush, and in fact for a ten-year period. So they are planning over the next ten years to provide something like USD30 billions of military ware. Now for the American military industry that is just a bananza in many ways. For one thing, they will get the sales but for another thing that it helps them sell the less sophisticated arms to the Arab states.
So if you sell fighter planes to Israel, you can then sell some of the less fancy fighter planes to Saudi Arabia. It is just a public gift to the military industry, which has a huge lobby far beyond the Israeli lobby.
In many respects…Israel provides many services to the United States.
But what about the Palestinians? They are weak, they are poor, they are oppressed, and they have no powerful support. I mean leaders of the Arab states may say nice words that is to calm their own populations and they do not do anything for them.
So they offer nothing to the United States. This is elementary basics of the state pariah that tells you that people have human rights to the extent that it is useful for them.
PTV: What about the United Stats’ relations with Iran. There has been talk of the betterment of ties. Any prospects of hope there?
Chomsky: Well here is of the issues on which the American public and the leadership are very sharply divided. There was a major poll taken by the world’s leading polling agency about a year ago, maybe two years ago, which studied both Iranian and American public opinion and interestingly they turned-out to be very similar.
Large majorities in both countries agreed that Iran has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes; about 75% of Americans, because they are members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty but not nuclear weapons.
In Iran the same majority, roughly 75% agreed that a nuclear weapons Free Zone should be established in the region, which would include Israel, Iran and any American forces deployed there.
The larger majority felt that the United State aught to live up to the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and take steps to eliminate its nuclear weapons.
Another majority believed that there should be no threats against Iran but normal relations. There was not a hint of that in the political system. It is maybe 75% of the population but the not a word in the political system.
PTV: What about the recent announcements and messages on the part of Barack Obama. Do you think that actions speak louder than words in this case?
Chomsky: The words themselves are interesting. Obama, very politely, it is not like Bush…he was polite ad friendly and respectful,…what he said was that we would like Iran to have a place in the family of nations, in order to do so it has to turn to peaceful means…away from arms, violence and terror.
If somebody was watching this from Mars, they would crack up in ridicule. The United States is telling Iran to turn away from arms and violence? I mean, the United States spends as much in arms as the rest of the world combined. It is occupying some countries adjacent to Iran. Iran is not occupying Mexico and Canada.
The whole idea is just catatonical but I have not heard a word in the West that is critical, the of the absurdity idea here that describes a very forthcoming gesture. Well, it is forthcoming by western standards but by any other standards that were not tinged by extreme imperialogy it would be an absurdity.
It has been reiterated by others, for example Joe Bidden, the vice-president. He also made a speech about Us and Iranian relations and he said that we would be very willing to negotiate with Iran if they stop their illicit weapons programs and their terror.
Now what are their illicit weapons programs? Now maybe they exist, I do not know.
But US intelligence says they do not exist. Now the Obama administration when it came to office said that we are rejecting the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimates, when they admitted they had no evidence.
And what is the terror. The terror is support for Hezbullah and Hamas. That is support for, you can have whichever opinion you like about them, terrorists or in fact a resistance, because they defended Lebanon from a US-Israeli attack. Now Hamas, if their actions were criminal we do not know…
PTV: With a look at your long and distinguished career as a scholar, activist, thinker and an intellectual, is there anything that you done more of, or are you pretty much satisfied?
Chomsky: I think I should have done more of lots of lots of things. You pick the issue…
PTV: Political activism?
Chomsky: There have been a lot more. There have been changes over the past 40 years, in fact positive changes not due to me but due to a lot of people. But, the basic problems still remain, modified but not overcome. Which means there hasnot been enough activism, and its through me too.
PTV: What about the field of linguistics?
Chomsky: Same. Actually political activism takes a lot of time away from work I would really like to do. If these would go away I would be happy to work on the problems and the nature of the mental processes, cognitive processes, and language. There is lots that can be done there…it is interesting…I had a class on it this morning.
But I have done much less than I would have liked to…
PTV: What is next for Noam Chomsky?
Chomsky: pretty much the same.
PTV: More books?
Chomsky: Yes. Articles, talks, reviews, books. Whatever comes. Then there is other things. Family. And so on…