The United Nations Society of Writers and Artists this week presented MIT professor of linguistics and author Noam Chomsky with the Award of Excellence. We hear Chomsky responding to reporters’ questions after the award ceremony. [Includes transcript]
We turn now to famed linguist and political activist: Professor Noam Chomsky.
On Tuesday, The President of the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists Hans Janitschek presented Chomsky with the Award of Excellence at the UN Correspondents Association Club in New York.
Chomsky is an institute professor and professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance, 9-11, Power and Terror and many other books.
After the awards ceremony, Chomsky addressed a large crowd talking about US imperialism, Iraq, space travel and more. He then took questions from reporters.
- Noam Chomsky, speaking at the United Nations Correspondents Association Club in New York after being presented the Award of Excellence by the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the famed linguist and political analyst and activist Professor Noam Chomsky. On Tuesday, the president of the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists, Hans Janochek presented Noam Chomsky with the Award of Excellence at the U.N. Correspondence Association Club, in the United Nations in New York.
HANS JANECK: Professor Chomsky, it is a great honor for us that you accepted our invitation, but even more so that you accept this, our Award of Excellence, which the Society of Writers has been giving annually to outstanding literary and political figures for their contribution to peace and understanding. In fact, over the past 15 or 17 years, so far, and it was previously awarded to international statesmen such as Mikhail Gorbachev and great writers like Norman Mailer. The members of the society, founded in 1989, are diplomats and journalists accredited to the United Nations, as well as individual staff members with a distinguished literary record. We deeply believe that there is a link between politics or diplomacy on one hand, and literary art on the other. Because so many things that you cannot say in a political or diplomatic fashion, you need a literary element. So, this is one of the things that we have admired about you for many years. It’s not only what you say it’s, how you say it. And you can see what the response that you have. You never raise your voice, you never swear, and you never hit the table with your fist. You always keep calm, but are always persuasive. Persuasive, indeed. This is why the citation for the award, which is a medal on a blue ribbon, on a with an inscription that translates as "from the spirit of the world." There are other interpretations, but what it means really, is the conscience of mankind. That’s what it’s all about. Professor Chomsky, we honor you today in gratitude. You have kept the flame of reason and common sense alive when they were threatened. You stayed calm in the clash of civilizations, but recorded the conflict in a uniquely somber and persuasive style. Your voice is heard all over the globe. You have earned the respect of millions, eager to find the truth in a troubled world. There is no better place to express our respect you to than here at the United Nations, whose spirit and principles you represent.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Hans Janecek, presenting Noam Chomsky with the Award of Excellence at the United Nations Correspondents Association Club in New York. Noam Chomsky is an institute professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, 9-11, Power and Terror, and many other books. After the awards ceremony, Chomsky addressed the large crowd at the United Nations talking about US hegemony, Iraq, space travel, and many more subjects. He then took questions from reporters.
REPORTER: Mr. Chomsky, I want to ask you two brief questions. One is, in your view, what is the risk of four more years of Bush, both inside the United States and for international systems, what the impact will be. And secondly, do you think that Kofi Annan should cede to U.S. pressure and send U.N. personnel back to Iraq, and does he have any room to say no?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to predict the weather, and predicting human fate is difficult. But there is a fair possibility, a possibility beyond what I think any rational person would accept, that another four years of the same policies, could be extremely dangerous for the country, and the world, and could cause, maybe, irreparable harm. Remember, we have a lot of evidence. It’s not just the past four years. The same people, essentially, were in office for 12 years from1981 to 1992, and there is a rich record of what they accomplished. It is not discussed in the United States because we have a kind of a principle here that you’re not supposed to look into the mirror. That’s not unique to the United States, but very striking here. So, anything that happened in the past didn’t happen. Because we have changed course, or some miracle has taken place. We are, therefore, not permitted to carry out the rational approach that we would to anyone else. And if Saddam Hussein appears in a trial and says, well, why are you bringing up all of that old stuff from the 1980’s...It doesn’t mean anything now, I’m a nice guy, I just had a born-again experience and I’m going right to heaven...We wouldn’t even bother laughing. But when that is done year after year after year, as it is by our own leaders, we applaud. That’s what it means to be a disciplined intellectual. If we don’t want to accept that discipline, we can treat the matter just as we would in the case of Saddam’s crimes or Stalin’s crimes or anyone else’s. We can ask, well, what did they do during those 12 years, and what have they been doing in the last four years. It’s a reactionary selection from the first 12 years. It’s clear enough, they have a domestic agenda, which is not hidden. They’re trying to unravel the progressive legislation of the past century to overcome the achievements of popular struggles, hard ones, to gain some benefits for people, what we call minimal welfare state... To transfer power into the hands of unaccountable private tyrannies in one-way or another. Every aspect of the program is like that. Internationally, they have the programs that I have described. They may back off from them because they may find them unfeasible, but the programs are clear, and that’s only part of them. I mean, there are also programs about international economic arrangements. I think these could be very dangerous. In fact, the kinds of programs that I just talked about could literally lead to destruction of the species. Again, you cannot put a probability on that. We all know what the likelihood was of a devastating nuclear war in 1962, when the world was literally one word away from a nuclear exchange. One Russian submarine commander countermanded and — an order to shoot off nuclear-tipped torpedoes during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which very likely would have led to a devastating nuclear response. And then on and on, and then Eisenhower’s destruction of the northern hemisphere. One word. That was 1962. January, 1959, 1995, was much more dangerous, far greater destructive capacity. At that point, we were two minutes away. As these threats are being increased, the militarization of space alone is increasing the threats significantly. And you know, rational people don’t take chances like that. No matter what their subjective probability is, but it will increase.
REPORTER And about Kofi Annan and the U.N.?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Basically no one has a right to be in Iraq but Iraqis’. So, they should take the lead in determining what happens. The invasion has left such wreckage that —- how Iraqis might decide to deal with what remains, you know, I cannot say. I mean, we know what they say in polls. You can make your own judgments from that. In recent Iraqi polls, the most favorable rating for a foreign leader is Jacques Chirac—- by about five to one. They regard the U.S. and British forces as occupiers, not liberators. Right after Bush made his speech about how we’re changing course once again and going to bring democracy to the world, that’s reiterating what Reagan had said 20 years earlier and everyone else. After that speech, which was greeted with the usual reverential awe in the United States, there was a poll in Iraq about asking Iraqis why they thought the U.S. was in Iraq, and some agreed with President Bush and the commentators here. 1% thought that the goal was to bring democracy to Iraq. About 70% thought it was to control Iraq’s resources ,and to reorder the Middle East consistently with the goals of the United States and Israel. Actually, their responses were more nuanced and sophisticated. When it went further, it turned out about half, although 1% thought the U.S. was trying to bring democracy, about half thought that the United States wanted democracy, if the U.S. could control it. Now, that’s the sophisticated response. The one that’s based on history. The one that is understood by everyone in Latin America, for example.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking this week at the United Nations after he was given the Award of Excellence, by the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists.