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[casi] Chomsky on War/Iraq/Bush(s)

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Noam Chomsky Analyzes the Bushies

By Anthony DiMaggio, <A HREF="">The Indy</A>
December 6, 2002Radical professor and prominent social critic Noam Chomsky
teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of
more than 70 books, the most recent being "<A HREF="">Rogue State: The 
Rule of Force in
World Affairs</A>." In a recent interview, Chomsky discussed the first Gulf War,
Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration's current obsession with Iraq, and
the Republican sweep of the midterm elections.

Anthony DiMaggio: I've always believed that the Bush Administration's
proposed war on Iraq was for two main reasons: to secure the last oil
reserves in the Middle East that are not under U.S. control, and to divert
Americans' attention from the policies that Bush is conducting at home
against the common worker. In your opinion, how much of the war on Iraq has
to do with securing Iraqi oil reserves and how much has to do with diverting
American’s attention from the Bush Administration's war on the American
people? Is one more of a factor than the other? Noam Chomsky: It’s quite
widely assumed, right within the mainstream, that these are the two primary
reasons. I agree. Regaining control over Iraq’s oil resources (not access,
but control; a very different matter) is longstanding. 9/11 provided a
pretext for the resort to force, not only by the US: also Russia, China,
Indonesia, Israel, many others. And the need to divert the attention of the
population from what is being done to them accounts for the timing. [It]
worked brilliantly in the congressional elections, and by the next
presidential elections, it’ll be necessary to have a victory and on to the
next campaign.

Do you believe the Gulf War was primarily to secure American access to
Kuwaiti oil? Did it also have to do with teaching Saddam a lesson for his
aggressive behavior with Kuwait? Do you have any insight into which factor
was more of a determinant for the Bush Administration? I think the main
reason for the first Gulf War was what’s called “credibility”: Saddam had
defied orders; no one can get away with that. Ask any Mafia Don and you’ll
get the explanation. There’s good reason to suppose that a negotiated
withdrawal would have been possible, but that wouldn’t make the point; again,
ask your favorite Don. The reason for leaving Saddam in place was explained
very openly and frankly: As the diplomatic correspondent of the New York
Times, Thomas Friedman, explained when the US backed Saddam’s crushing of the
Kurds, “the best of all worlds” for Washington would be an “iron-fisted
junta” ruling Iraq just as Saddam did, but with a different name, because his
is now embarrassing, and since no one like that seemed to be around, they’d
have to settle with second-best, their old friend and ally the butcher of
Baghdad himself. You can find plenty of material about all of this in what I
wrote at the time, reprinted in "Deterring Democracy"; more has appeared

What makes the current Administration think they can secure Iraqi oil now as
compared to 10 years ago? It seems that the country is just as unstable now
as it was then. What’s changed in the minds of the members of the Bush
Administration since the Gulf War? At the time, the US was unwilling to risk
taking over Iraq. It has nothing to do with stability. The Iraqi dictatorship
is very stable. It had to do with the coalition and domestic support, not
willing then for a conquest, and as noted, there was no suitable replacement
in sight. Now it’s different.

I’ve heard that during the original Gulf War, George Bush had Colin Powell
draw up plans to nuke Baghdad. If it is true, how could Americans not realize
that American foreign policy doesn’t have even a small concern for
humanitarian democratic principles espoused by our “leaders?” There are no
known plans for nuclear bombing, and it wouldn’t have made sense. It was
known in advance that Iraq was virtually defenseless. The US preferred
biological warfare (what do you think would happen in Chicago if someone
destroyed the power, water, and sewage systems?), which is easier for editors
and intellectuals to pretend not to see.

Do you think that members of the Bush Administration really are concerned
that Saddam may have weapons of mass destruction/chemical/nuclear weapons?
Are they legitimately threatened (in their minds at least) by Iraq? I have no
idea what Bush believes, if anything, but Cheney and Rumsfeld know that the
external world is really there, and they understand very well why people and
governments of the region, though they despise Saddam Hussein, don’t fear
him; even Iran and Kuwait, which were invaded by Saddam when he was a favored
US friend and ally. No one wants Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction;
and no one sane wants Israel, Pakistan, India, the US, Russia, etc. to have
them either. The best way to deal with it is to implement Resolution 687,
which calls for disarming Iraq through inspections (which the US has been
desperately seeking to block), and also for implementing Article 14, always
excised when the resolution is brought up: It calls for moves towards
disarmament in the region, a code word for Israel’s huge arsenal of Weapons
of Mass Destruction, which frightens everyone, including the US Strategic

It seems Bush’s pretexts must be a fraud if control of oil is the real
motivation. If this is the case, how can Bush believe he has the right to
claim the moral highroad? Bush is probably irrelevant. But the people around
him have a record: They are recycled Reaganites. That’s why media and
intellectuals so scrupulously ignore what they did when they were running the
first “war on terror” that they declared 20 years ago. Better not to
remember the horror stories for which they were responsible. On human
behavior, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. Unless you’re an
unusually saintly figure, you’ve done things in your life that you knew were
wrong. Maybe when you were 7 years old you took a toy from your younger
brother, and when he ran crying to your mother, you told her – believing
every word – that it was really yours, and he’d taken it from you, and he
didn’t want it anyway, etc. Did you tell yourself that you’re stronger than
he is so you could take it and get away with it? It’s the same when you’re
running a country in the world. It’s interesting to read the archives of Nazi
Germany, fascist Japan, the Soviet Union. The leaders are acting from the
highest imaginable motives, and probably believed it. It is remarkably easy
to come to believe what it is convenient to believe. That’s the secret of
being a “responsible intellectual,” someone who serves power abjectly while
believing oneself to be an independent thinker.

Do you think the Bush Administration is bluffing about attacking Iraq?

Not at all. I think they are desperately eager to win an easy victory over a
defenseless enemy, so they can strut around as heroes and liberators, to the
rousing cheers of the educated classes. It’s as old as history.

Bush gave his state of the union address over half a year ago talking about
Iraq. Why has it taken him so long to move? Iraq wasn’t brought up as a
matter of immediate significance until September of this year, when the
election season started. In the State of the Union it was remote, along with
Iran and North Korea and the “world terrorist threat.”

Anthony DiMaggio is a junior at Illinois State University and a writer for
the Indy, an alternative weekly publication in Normal, Illinois.

Roger Stroope
"Ideas are more powerful than weapons"
Austin College, Sherman Texas

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national
obligations of obedience…Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to
violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from
occurring" -- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

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