Noam Chomsky Speech On State Terror and U.S. Foreign Policy

Default content image
Media Options

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak canceled a trip to the United States this weekend in which he was scheduled to meet with President Clinton. He had been scheduled to leave at midnight on Sunday for the U.S. [includes rush transcript]

This follows ten days of the bloodiest violence in two years to sweep the West Bank and Gaza. On Saturday, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded over 100 Palestinians in the West Bank after thousands demonstrated during a second “day of rage.” Thousands of protesters had taken to the streets in a show of solidarity with more than 1500 Palestinians they want released from Israeli jails. The prisoners have been on a hunger strike since May 1.

In the past 10 days, five Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 wounded. Well, today we turn to a recent speech by Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He gave a speech recently at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York on state terror, the corporate media and U.S. foreign policy.


  • Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Related Story

Video squareStoryApr 18, 2019Chomsky: By Focusing on Russia, Democrats Handed Trump a “Huge Gift” & Possibly the 2020 Election
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak canceled a trip to the United States this weekend in which he was scheduled to meet with President Clinton. He had been scheduled to leave at midnight on Sunday for the US.

This follows ten days of the bloodiest violence in two years to sweep the West Bank and Gaza. On Saturday, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded over 100 Palestinians in the West Bank after thousands demonstrated during a second “day of rage.” Thousands of protesters had taken to the streets in a show of solidarity with more than 1,500 Palestinians they want released from Israeli jails. The prisoners have been on a hunger strike since May 1.

In the past ten days, five Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 wounded. Meanwhile, Israel called home its envoys to unofficial peace talks in Sweden and barred travel by its citizens and foreign tourists to Palestinian-controlled territory, which will be a severe blow to the West Bank’s struggling economy.

Well, today, we’re going to turn to a recent speech by Noam Chomsky. We were able to play a segment of it last week, but want to continue with it. It’s a speech he gave just a few weeks ago to journalism students in New York at Columbia University, where he talked about corporate media, state terrorism, and US foreign policy.

NOAM CHOMSKY: I’ve discovered over the years when I’m asked to talk to journalists or to journalism school that it’s always a mistake to prepare. The reason is because this morning’s issue of the New York Times and the lead story always gives a better topic than anything I thought I was going to talk about. So I kind of wait until the morning issue of the New York Times comes out, and I usually talk about that. And, fortunately, it didn’t disappointment me. I just had time before I left this morning to pick it up off the web and read it on the airplane, and it’s a perfect example of what I’d like to talk about.

Since these remarks will be not very laudatory, let me add another proviso. If I had to read only one journal, and if I could only read one newspaper in the world, if that’s all I was able to do, I’d pick the New York Times for two reasons. One reason, you can learn a lot about what’s going on in the world if you pay attention, especially to the last paragraph of a story or something. But the — probably more than any other paper. Secondly, you learn quite a lot about the state of mind of the privileged and powerful people in the most powerful country in the world. And that teaches you a lot about the world right away. So there’s two good reasons for reading it regularly.

This morning’s first lead story, which I read on the plane, and it’s, you know, perfect. It’s just as good an example as anything else I might have picked. So this one’s by Judith Miller, who’s a, you know, kind of semi-academic specialist on the Middle East, and so on. It’s a report on the State Department just released its annual — or will release its annual report on terrorism, and it leaked it to the New York Times, and they’re publishing it a day early. And it makes her report — that’s her comment on it — makes interesting reading for itself. You can look at it.

There are several countries listed as leading terrorist countries: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. There are a couple of others who are listed, but not — you know, mentioned but not listed. One is Pakistan. And the reason it didn’t make it is because Pakistan is a friendly state that is trying to tackle the problem. So, therefore, it’s not a terrorist state, unlike, say, Cuba. Then it goes on to explain why these are terrorist states.

Incidentally, I should say that not — there’s — it says the problem is severe. It’s–you know, it says some good signs, so let me mention the good signs. One of the best, they say, positive sign is the positive experiences of Spain, Turkey and Algeria in combating terrorism. Well, you know, the positive experiences of Spain were just illustrated a couple of days ago when several top members of the government were sent to jail for torture and terrorism in their so-called anti-terrorist campaigns. Algeria is actually an interesting case. If you want, I’ll talk about it later.

But the most interesting is Turkey, because what are the positive experiences of Turkey in counterterrorism? Well, the positive experiences of Turkey are conducting some of the worst ethnic cleansing and atrocities of the 1990s, thanks to overwhelming US support pouring in from the Clinton administration, peaking in 1997 in operations that left two to three million refugees, about 3,500 villages destroyed — that’s seven times Kosovo under NATO bombing — tens of thousands of people killed, every imaginable kind of torture and massacre you can think of. 80% of their arms come from the United States, increasing under Clinton. In fact, he had to evade congressional legislation, because the arms shipments were mostly illegal. And that doesn’t mean, you know, pocket knives. It’s jet planes, napalm, you know, tanks. This is real mass murder.

In fact, if you look over US arms shipments to Turkey, it’s very revealing also. Turkey is, of course, a US military outpost and a strategic, you know, strategic ally. So it gets plenty of arms right through the late, you know, through the so-called Cold War. It stays pretty steady from about 1950 up ’til about 1984. In 1984, it shoots up and stays high. It peaks in 1997. In fact, in the single year 1997, arms transfers to Turkey are higher than the total from 1950 to 1984.

Now, what happened in 1984? It was like defending ourselves from the Russians or something? No, it had nothing to do with the Russians. Like most of the things attributed to the Cold War, it had nothing to do with the Russians or Chinese. It had to do with the fact that that’s when Turkey started its counterterrorism — that is, its massive state terrorism to suppress the Kurds in the southeast whose protests — who were under a regime considerably harsher than the Kosovar Albanians under Milosevic prior to the NATO bombing, and whose protests were always suppressed. You know, you can’t even talk about the right of Kurds to, you know, say, speak their own language without getting tossed in jail. And a guerilla insurgency started, and then the counterterrorism began with the consequences I mentioned. And the arms shipments had to go up, because, of course, the US — typically the US is very much in favor of state terrorism. In fact, Washington is the center of global state terrorism and has been for years.

So when a country has to suppress its own population by ethnic cleansing and massacre and village destruction and torture, you can be pretty sure that US arms are going to be flowing in, if it’s an ally. So, for example, Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, when he was just doing things like, say, gassing Kurds and torturing dissidents, he was an ally, so, you know, the US was supporting him with all sorts of aid, including military aid.

But Turkey has had a big insurgency, so we had to have major terrorism. And it succeeded. So by the end of 1997, the insurgency had been mostly suppressed, but not completely. Like right now, for example, at this moment, Turkish ground forces are carrying out another sweep in the southeast around the area of Tunceli, which was one of those most devastated by state terrorism. In fact, it was even called state terrorism by the Turkish government at the peak point. It was — it’s on the international wire services. It hasn’t been reported here. Turkish forces — it started April 1.

Turkish forces are also carrying out another invasion in northern Iraq. That’s into a region called the “no-fly zone.” The US keeps bombing Iraq to protect the Kurds in that area, to protect them from the temporarily wrong oppressor. But Turkey is a fine oppressor, so when Turkey invades to carry out more antiterrorism operations in northern Iraq under — in the no-fly zone, that’s fine. That hasn’t been reported either.

But it did more — but despite the fact that the operations still go on, it’s — they mostly succeeded. So Turkey’s position — Turkey had been the leading recipient of US arms. Israel and Egypt are in a separate category. It’s nothing to do with anything except US role in the Middle East. But aside from Israel and Egypt, Turkey was the champion in receiving US arms, because it had this major internal resistance to suppress with extreme violence.

Last year, it moved down to second place, and first place went to Colombia. The reason is — and you’re not supposed to notice this, because Colombia has been the leading recipient of US military aid and training through the 1990s, and it has the worst human rights record in the '90s — that's a very consistent correlation incidentally — but they have not succeeded in putting down their internal insurgency, which grows out of horrendous socioeconomic conditions and so on. They need more aid, so therefore they took first place. And next year it’s going to go up higher, in fact higher even than El Salvador in the 1980s. We’re supposed to believe that has to do with the drug war or something, which is ridiculous. But that’s terrorism.

So Turkey is praised for its positive experiences in suppressing terrorism, meaning it has carried out some of the worst state terrorism of the ’90s, like much worse than anything attributed to Milosevic in Kosovo. So everything is not bad.

And so, it’s inconceivable that Judith Miller doesn’t know this. This is the area that she specializes in. Of course, a reader of the New York Times wouldn’t know it, because it isn’t reported. I went through Times_’s reporting on this, and occasionally there’s a mention, phrase somewhere that says, you know, things aren’t beautiful, but what I just described you will rarely find. In fact, in the last couple of years, you’ll find it in one op-ed by Middle East specialist Nicholas Pope [_phon., who mentions some of these things.

So that’s Turkey, where there have been good things going on. Let’s look at the bad ones.

Well, as I say, Pakistan is not listed, because it’s a friendly ally. What about Iran and Syria? Well, they’re there, I mean, ugly places undoubtedly and surely terrorist states. There’s no doubt about Iran’s involvement in terrorism. In fact, its worst — the worst example was probably inadvertent — in fact, almost certainly inadvertent. Iran was implicated in the US-Contra war against Nicaragua, which was a major terrorist operation. That was a part of the Iran-Contra hearings. And Iran probably made — apparently made some inadvertent contribution to that, some funds to Iran got — from Iran got shifted over there. So that’s Iran’s major contribution to terrorism in the last twenty or thirty years, far beyond anything else that’s been attributed to them. But, of course, that’s not what they’re talking about.

What they’re talking about and they say is that Iran and Syria have been supporting regional terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which seek — and others, which seek to destroy the American-supported Middle East peace effort. So that’s terrorist. If you are trying to destroy the US Middle East peace effort by supporting Hezbollah, that’s terrorism. Hezbollah, of course, is also a terrorist.

Incidentally, why is Hezbollah a terrorist organization? Hezbollah is a Lebanese organization, which has been fighting for about fifteen years to try to drive an occupying army out of southern Lebanon. The occupying army is Israel, which is there in violation of Security Council directives from March 1978 to leave immediately and unconditionally. The US voted for it, but that was basically the US authorized it, so therefore it’s OK. So Israel is allowed to occupy part of southern Lebanon and carry out atrocities all over Lebanon. I mean, in the period since 1980, Israel has killed about close to 50,000 Lebanese in various bombings and other terror operations. And Hezbollah was organized in the mid-'80s to try to drive Israel out of Lebanon. And it partly succeeded. That's one big Israeli defeat. They were kind of forced out of parts, at least, of Lebanon by Israeli — by Hezbollah action, which is called here “terrorism.”

Well, is it terrorism? I mean, is it terrorism for people in some country to resist a foreign occupation, military occupation, in which the occupiers are carrying out bombing all over the country, and so on? There actually is an international position on this, though it wasn’t reported in the United States, except, you know, by bad guys like me. But it wasn’t reported in the press.

There is one UN resolution — several, actually — one major UN resolution on terrorism, December 1987, if you want to look it up. Remember, that was the period when terrorism was a huge issue, I mean, the biggest issue in the media. It won the top listing for AP every year, and so on. So they had a resolution on terrorism in which they denounced terrorism in all its forms, you know, plague of the modern age and all of that kind of stuff. And it passed almost unanimously. There was one abstention. Honduras, I guess, had a stomach ache or something. And there were two votes against: United States and Israel.

Now, why should the United States and Israel vote against the major UN resolution denouncing terrorism? Well, there was one paragraph in there that said that nothing in this resolution detracts from the right of people to fight against racist and colonialist regimes and foreign military occupation in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and to receive assistance from other countries for that end. And, of course, the United States doesn’t accept that. No one has a right to resist racist and colonialist regimes and foreign occupation. They probably had mostly South Africa in mind at the time, but it applies as well to Israel’s occupation and the various things that the United States does. So therefore the US and Israel voted against it.

And when a resolution in the General Assembly passes, you know, 150-to-1 or something, if the one is the United States, it’s vetoed — not technically, but practically. And it’s also vetoed from history. So this one wasn’t reported, and it’s unknown. You can have a look at the record.

But that 's the position of the international community, minus the United States, which is not the international community. The phrase “international community” refers to Washington. And here it just happens to be everybody else in the world, not Washington. So it's not the international community, and therefore Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and Iran and Syria are terrorist states, because they’re supporting that organization, which is only acting in accord with the non-international community — that is, every state except the United States and Israel.

So that’s Iran and Syria. But they do say that Syria could be — I’m quoting — “Syria could be removed from the list of terrorist organizations if it agrees to the Middle East peace agreement,” that is, if it signs onto the American-supported Middle East peace effort.

Well, next question, why does signing onto that peace effort make you a non-terrorist organization? For that, you have to look at a little history. The history is — I won’t give you the details, but there’s not really any dispute about this — from 1971 until the present, the United States has been alone in the world, apart from Israel, in rejecting any form of diplomacy or negotiations on the Israel-Arab conflict. Alone. That requires voting alone to veto Security Council resolutions, voting alone in the General Assembly year after year. And the reasons are very simple. The rest of the world, outside the United States, accepts UN 242.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky has written many books on Middle East policy, professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, speaking recently in New York City.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop