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Noam Chomsky: U.S. Might Face “Ultimate Nightmare” in Middle East Where Shiites Control Most of World’s Oil

StoryFebruary 09, 2005
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One of the country’s leading dissidents, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, gives a major new address on the Iraq war, the re-election of President Bush and imperialism. On Iraq’s elections, Chomsky predicts what a Shiite-controlled Iraq may look like: “The first thing they’ll do is reestablish relations with Iran…The next thing that might happen is that a Shiite-controlled, more or less democratic Iraq might stir up feelings in the Shiite areas of Saudi Arabia, which happen to be right nearby and which happen to be where all the oil is. So you might find what in Washington must be the ultimate nightmare-a Shiite region which controls most of the world’s oil and is independent.” [includes rush transcript]

In her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice called for a new chapter in transatlantic relations to repair a growing rift with Europe over the Iraq war. Rice deliberatedly chose to deliver the address in France, one of the most vocal opponents of the Iraq invasion Speaking at the renowned Paris university Science Politique, Rice continued President Bush’s inaugural and State of the Union themes of spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking at the Sciences Politiques University

Two weeks earlier, another leading figure in American politics gave his first major speech of President Bush’s second term: and that is Noam Chomsky. A professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky is the author of “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance”, “9-11”, “Power and Terror” and dozens of other books. He is regarded as one of the leading dissidents and scholars in the United States. On January 26th, he spoke at a forum sponsored by the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The forum was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the International Relations Center, of which Chomsky is a board member. Today we spend the hour hearing his address. He spoke about imperialism, the elections in Iraq and much more. This is Noam Chomsky.

  • MIT professor Noam Chomsky speaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico on January 26.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking at the renowned Paris University Science Politique, Rice continued President Bush’s inaugural and State of the Union themes of what he called spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: America and Europe have stood firm in the belief that the fundamental character of regimes cannot be separated from their external behavior. Borders between countries cannot be peaceful if tyrants destroy the peace of their societies from within. State where corruption and chaos and cruelty reign invariably pose threats to their neighbors, threats to their regions, and potential threats to the entire international community. Our work together has only begun. In our time, we have an historic opportunity to shape a global balance of power that favors freedom, and that will therefore deepen and extend the peace. And I use the word power broadly. Because even more important than military and indeed economic power is the power of ideas, the power of compassion, and the power of hope. I am here in Europe so that we can talk about how America and Europe can use the power of our partnership to advance our ideals worldwide.

AMY GOODMAN: Condoleezza Rice delivering her first major address as Secretary of State in Paris on Tuesday. Two weeks earlier, another leading figure in American politics gave his first major speech of President Bush’s second term: Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is the author of Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, also wrote the best seller, 9/11: Power and Terror, and dozens of other books, regarded as one of the leading dissidents and scholars in the United States. On January 26, Chomsky spoke at a forum sponsored by the Lannan Foundation in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The forum was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the International Relations Center. Today we spend the hour hearing his address. Chomsky spoke about imperialism, elections in Iraq, and much more. This is Professor Noam Chomsky.

NOAM CHOMSKY: My last visit to New Mexico was five years ago for the — to join in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of IRC. I’m very pleased to be able to participate in the 25th anniversary celebration. Since that time, as you know, the name has changed, the scope has broadened, but the mission remains. The central component, as they put it, is to make the United States a more responsible global partner, and to engage citizens in that endeavor. Well, that task was urgent enough five years ago. Even at that time there were warnings from right at the heart of the establishment that — I’m quoting — “much of the world regards the United States as a rogue state and the greatest threat to their existence.” That happens to be Samuel Huntington, Harvard Professor, at — in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. And he was not alone. Shortly after the president of the American Political Science Association repeated the same message in very similar words. That was five years ago. Since then, the situation has become far worse. It’s now not much of the world that regards the US as a rogue state and the greatest threat to their existence, but most of the world, almost all of it, in fact. George Bush has — his administration has succeeded in a few years in making the United States the most feared and often hated country in the world.

Well, one reason for this, obviously, is the invasion of Iraq, which against extraordinary international opposition — in fact, I cannot think of a historical parallel to that. That incidentally includes the so-called “Coalition of the Willing.” So, at the summit meeting announcing war, declaring the war, virtually, George Bush and his — I’ll say, politely —- associate Tony Blair, were joined by Prime Minister Aznar of Spain to announce that the war was going to start in a couple of days. At that point, Aznar had support of 2% of the population of Spain for joining in the US-British war. And he was therefore hailed as a great leader of what was called the New Europe, the grand hope for democracy. In fact, the performance about New Europe and Old Europe was a very enlightening one. There was very sharp cri—- you remember it, of course. New Europe, were the good guys, the hope of the future, the leaders of the democratic crusade and so on; Old Europe were the bad guys, stuck in their old ways, don’t have democratic credentials. The criterion to distinguish them was extremely sharp. Old Europe, bad guys, were the country as where the governments took the same position as the large majority of their population. New Europe were the countries like Spain where the government overruled even larger majorities of their population — huge ones in the case of Spain and Italy — and followed orders from Crawford, Texas. So, they were — therefore, they understood the nature of democracy. Perhaps the most extraordinary case was Turkey, which to everyone’s surprise — mine, too — the government actually followed the — took the same position as 95% of the population, and rejected Washington’s orders. And they were bitterly condemned by the US leadership, by intellectuals. Paul Wolfowitz, who is identified by the Washington Post as the — what they called the “idealist-in-chief,” leading the democracy crusade — he went so far as to berate the Turkish military because they didn’t force the government to overrule 95% of the population, and take their marching orders from the boss. And he ordered them to apologize to the United States for this and to make it clear that their task is to help America. Well, that performance was doubly interesting, first because it took place, and second, because nobody seemed to notice it and what it meant. What it means about the elite conceptions of democracy shouldn’t require any comment. What it means is democracy is fine as long as you do what we say. We, of course, doesn’t mean you and me or the people of the United States, it means the political and economic leadership. And that conception is so deeply ingrained that even in an incredible case like this, it literally can’t be noticed.

Well, one reason for the deterioration in the position of the United States in the eyes of the world is, of course, the invasion of Iraq. For most of the world, that was the supreme international crime encompassing all of the evil that follows — the wording of the Nuremburg Judgment, trying the Nazi criminals, including people like the Nazi Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, who was accused and hanged in fact for such crimes as preparing the diplomatic background for Hitler’s preemptive strike against Norway, which I’ll leave the consequences of the conclusion from that to you. The evil that followed was — only increased the fear and the hatred. That’s, first of all, the fate of Iraqis, as Tariq [Ali] mentioned. The most probable estimate of deaths done on a careful study several months ago was about 100,000 mostly violent deaths since the US invasion. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition has doubled. It’s now at the level of Burundi, lower than Haiti and Uganda. These matters were barely reported in the United States, and insofar as they were even mentioned, quickly dismissed. In England there was enough other response so that the British Government had to release a pathetic and embarrassing answer. Here, not even that. That’s a rather important fact that has to be borne in mind for people here who care about their country.

Following — that’s just the beginning of it. What followed were really serious outright war crimes. We have just seen one in the last few months: the invasion of Fallujah. In this case, the crimes were not concealed, which may be worse than passing them over in silence. They were openly reported, and then, in fact, proudly reported. You could see on the front page of the New York Times a big picture of the first victory in the conquest of Fallujah. The first target was the Fallujah General Hospital, and the Times featured a big picture on the front page of a soldier standing guard over people lying on the floor in hospital gowns with their hands tied behind their backs. The story explained that the American forces that went in forced patients from their beds, forced them to lie on the floor, and manacled them with their hands behind their backs. The story went on to say that this had had to be done because the Fallujah General Hospital was serving as a propaganda weapon for the insurgents by releasing casualty figures. The Times added, of course, these are inflated casualty figures. They knew they were inflated because our dear leader had announced that, which is apparently enough.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking at the Lensic Theater in Sante Fe, New Mexico. We’ll come back to this speech in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to M.I.T. professor Noam Chomsky, speaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The foundation of contemporary modern post-second World War humanitarian law, in fact, part of the supreme law of the land of the United States is the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions explicitly and unambiguously state that any medical facility must be protected by any combatants in any conflict. Anything other than that is a major war crime, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. Under current U.S. law, the War Crimes Act of 1996 passed by a Republican congress, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions carry a sentence of possible death penalty. Maybe our coming Attorney General had that kind of a thing in mind a couple of years ago when he was legal counsel to President Bush, and advised him in that capacity that he should rescind the — effectively rescind — the Geneva Conventions to reduce the likelihood of prosecution. Well, again, you can draw the conclusions yourselves. All of this was passed over very lightly here, mostly without comment, but not elsewhere.

The evil that followed the invasion and is encompassed in the supreme international crime didn’t only include Iraq, there are consequences for the rest of the world, too, including Americans. One of the consequences is an increase in terrorism, the kind of terrorism that passes through our doctrinal filters, namely terrorism by others against us. The other kind is not recognized. But that category of terrorism, as anticipated, increased. Before the invasion, there were warnings from specialists, people knowledgeable about the area; Tariq was one of the early ones. In fact, even the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, that the invasion of Iraq would be likely to increase the threat of terrorism. And in fact, those warnings were realized. It did increase the threat. The national intelligence estimate in the United States that was presented to George Bush a month before the invasion, released recently, warned that the invasion would very likely increase the threat of terrorism. Just a few weeks ago, the National Intelligence Council, the coordinating body of intelligence agencies, released its projections for the next 15 years, and one of them is that Iraq will now become a training — is becoming and will continue to be — a training ground for Jihadi terrorists, Islamic terrorists, much in the way that Afghanistan was in the past.

They didn’t go on to say when Afghanistan was a training ground for terrorists, so let’s add that. It was in the primarily — at first in the 1980s, when the CIA and its associates, pretty much the present administration or their mentors, organized radical Islamist terrorists from around the world for their own state purposes, created the foundation of what is now called al Qaeda, and other related organizations, and then again, Afghanistan became a major training ground for terrorists after Clinton bombed the Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998. That led to warmer, closer relations between Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban, previously cool, and turned Afghanistan into a training ground for terrorists again. Now Iraq is taking its place. Well, these are — this carries consequences for everyone, and very threatening ones. Sooner or later, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are going to be united, and the consequences could be pretty awful.

There are other sources of global concern and fear and anger with regard to the United States, which were evident even before the Iraq invasion. Primarily, the stance of brazen intent for the entire framework of international order that has been laboriously constructed since World War II, and is simply dismissed with contempt by the administration. Just to take one of many examples related to terror, the National Intelligence Council report that I just mentioned predicts that one of the major threats to the United States will be biological weapons. Now, that threat can be reduced, and we know how to reduce it. There is a bioweapons treaty, but it has no enforcement mechanisms. There have been negotiations going on for several years to add enforcement measures to the bioweapons treaty, which would certainly have the effect of monitoring, controlling and reducing the threat of biological terror that the National Intelligence Council warned against. However, that’s not going to happen. In September of 2002, right after the Bush administration released its national security strategy, which sent plenty of shivers around the world, a couple of days later, its point man, John Bolton, informed Europe that there would be no further negotiations to introduce enforcement measures into the bioweapons treaty. The reasons that were given was that inspection — of course, that would involve inspection — and inspection might harm the interests of U.S. pharmaceutical corporations. There are also suspicions that Washington wants to conceal illegal bioweapons research and development that it’s carrying out. Therefore, the National Intelligence Council is quite right to warn of the increasing threat of biological warfare terror here. However, there are much worse threats than biological weapons. Far worse. Nuclear weapons and militarization of space are surely the most serious threats. All of this is of particular significance in New Mexico, because New Mexico is, as I’m sure you know, one of the major centers in enhancing these threats to survival, and in this case, we are literally talking about survival of the species.

Well, these threats are leading to much more dire warnings than those that I quoted, again, from the heart of the establishment. So, last summer, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is very sober and respectable and not given to hyperbole, ran an article by two prominent strategic analysts, John Steinbrenner and Nancy Gallagher, in which they pointed out, these are mostly quotes, that the military programs and aggressive stance of the administration, carry in their words, “appreciable risk of ultimate doom,” and they go on to say that you have to look very hard — in fact, I can’t think of a case where such words have ever been pronounced in establishment — respectable establishment circles. They go on to say that, “If the United States is to remain a democracy worthy of the name, the political system will have to acknowledge that the United States is now the dominant threat to everyone else.” Their words. The “super outlaw state.” They go on to explain that the terrifying technology that is being developed in Donald Rumsfeld’s transformation of the military will “assuredly defuse to the rest of the world. There will be a competition in intimidation and action/reaction cycle creating rising dangers, potentially unmanageable ones, for Americans as well,” and, in fact, that’s already been happening. Russia, a year ago had its first military — serious military exercises in 20 years. They deployed new offensive weapons, more sophisticated missiles, nuclear arms aimed at the United States. U.S. military analysts estimate that Russia may have tripled its military expenditures since the Bush administration came in with its militaristic stance. They have officially adopted the Bush administration’s so-called preemptive war strategy, meaning asserting the right of a first strike, even the first nuclear strike, without pretext of defense. Washington’s aggressive stance is compelling the Russians, who are much weaker, of course, to transfer missiles thousands of miles from one part of their territory to another repeatedly. This is over very lightly defended areas.

Nuclear arm missiles are a very tempting target for terrorists. Their offensive nuclear system has been placed on hair-trigger alert computer controlled firing. We know about how the U.S. systems work. Lots known about that. Our systems are also computer controlled, and there are regular occurrences, frequent occurrences of the computer systems giving a warning that a missile — that the U.S. is under attack, and must respond. The rules are that when such a warning comes, and it is very frequent, there are three minutes for human intervention to determine whether it’s an authentic attack, and then there’s a time for presidential authorization, 30 seconds. That’s the way our systems work. The Russian systems are far worse, furthermore deteriorating. The threat is being very consciously enhanced, and it’s a very serious one. Senator — former Senator Sam Nunn, one of the leading figures in arms control, wrote a couple of weeks ago that it is madness for human survival to depend on the hope that regular computer errors will be caught in time. The threat is severe, and he says, may well be increasing.

Well, we know that there have been very close calls in the past. The most dangerous was discovered in October 2002 on the 40th anniversary of the missile crisis. There was a conference in Havana of high-level participants, those who were still a life in the original missile crisis from the United States, Cuba and Russia, and they had already known that the missile crisis, was as Arthur Schlesinger put it, Kennedy advisor, was the most dangerous moment in history, but they’re shocked at what was learned at this 40th anniversary meeting. It turned out that the world was literally one word away from nuclear war. The details if you like. Two of the leading scholars of the missile crisis who helped organize that meeting, James Blight and Phil Brenner, commented that it is miraculous that the world escaped nuclear war on that occasion. It had unusual contemporary relevance in another respect. The missile crisis was in large part a consequence of a major international terrorist campaign. John F. Kennedy’s Operation Mongoose, the goal of which was to bring the terrors of the earth to Cuba. Those are the — that’s again Arthur Schlesinger’s words in his biography of Robert Kennedy describing Robert Kennedy’s goal. He was in charge of these operations, which he made the highest priority for U.S. intelligence agencies. That led pretty directly to the missile crisis and to the miraculous escape. Well, this was the most important news in many years. It was barely reported, literally, and all ignored. Few people even know about it, which raises further questions about the viability of American democracy, and reasons why the world should be frightened. We should be, too.

Without saying so explicitly, the two strategic analysts I mixed, Steinbrenner and Gallagher, express a very deep despair about American democracy. After outlining the policies that they say carry an “appreciable risk of ultimate doom,” they express hope that the policies will be changed, but not from within the United States. Apparently, they don’t consider that an option. They hope that the policies that — that there will be a coalition of peace-loving states which will counter American militarism and aggressiveness, which they hope will be led by China. We have come to a pretty pass when leading analysts in the most respectable journals hope that China can save us from the collapse of American democracy. What that implies about ourselves is pretty shocking.

Why did they pick China? Well, they explain, first reason is that China has been in the forefront of international efforts at the United Nations to preserve space for peaceful purposes. That has been blocked unilaterally by Washington, actually since the Clinton years. Not reported, incidentally, though of extreme importance. It became much worse since Bush took over. Right after the national security strategy was announced, which essentially declared the U.S. intention to dominate the world by force and prevent any threat to that dominance, right after that, part of the implementation of it was a program announced by the Air Force space command shifting policy from Clinton’s to a new policy. Clinton’s policy was control of space for military purposes. The new announced policy was ownership of space for military purposes. Meaning, as they said, the possibility of instant engagement anywhere, with highly lethal offensive weapons, which can strike anywhere on earth without warning. The whole world is under surveillance by sophisticated satellite and other systems. Sophisticated enough that they can tell if a truck is crossing a street in Damascus or any other place that you pick. So, the world is at constant risk of instant destruction. That’s ownership of space, and that’s a natural spelling out of the national security strategy. This also was, as far as I know, not reported at all. Certainly not much. The — a lot of this is called “missile defense,” but as everyone knows on every side, missile defense is not a defensive system, it’s a first strike weapon. That’s understood by U.S. analysts, understood by the Chinese, and other potential targets. And we know how the U.S. reacted when Russia installed a very small missile defense system around Moscow back in 1968. The U.S. classified immediately reacted by sharply increasing the offensive nuclear military force so as to overwhelm it and destroy all radar positions and there’s very little doubt that potential targets will react to our so-called missile defense system in the same way. It’s apparently being deployed in early stages right now. There’s a lot of debate and discussion about the so-called missile defense. A lot of criticism on grounds that it hasn’t been tried, and probably won’t work and so on. That may be true or may not be true, but it’s kind of missing the point. The system is far more dangerous if there’s some appearance that it might work, that is going — that’s what’s going to impel potential targets to do exactly what the United States did in the case of a much more primitive and insignificant missile defense system in 1968. Namely, to expand their offensive military capacities to overwhelm it.

AMY GOODMAN: M.I.T. professor Noam Chomsky speaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico several weeks ago. We’ll come back to the speech in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to the conclusion of the speech of M.I.T. professor, Noam Chomsky, author of Hegemony or Survival, speaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the election of last November strongly reinforced that feeling in much of the world. It also led to a good deal of despair and sometimes hopelessness among Americans, at least those who are concerned about the fate of their country and the world, and the concerns are very real. They include the likelihood of terminal war, terminal nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, the enhanced threat of terror, plenty of domestic concerns, the very dedicated effort to dismantle the achievements of the past popular struggle in the past century, and now being systematically dismantled in an exercise of fraud that is truly awesome. The con game about Social Security is a pretty striking, stunning even, example of sheer audacity and contempt for the population, and faith in the enormous power of public relations as an instrument of deceit. Run through the details. I assume you know them. But it is pretty stunning, well, that faith in public relations as an instrument of deceit may well be warranted. After a few weeks of intense propaganda, a fair — a large part of the population, particularly young people, have come to believe that the Social Security system is in fact in crisis, which is too ridiculous to discuss.

The war in Iraq was sold in the same way. In September, 2002, and that is a month that will go down in history, if history continues. In that month, there was a huge propaganda campaign, initiated by our next Secretary of State, who warned that the next thing we’ll hear from Saddam Hussein is a mushroom cloud over New York. Within a couple of weeks of government media propaganda, the American population was simply driven entirely off the spectrum of world opinion, fearing Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, ties to al Qaeda, probable involvement in 9/11, and so on. Saddam Hussein was hated almost everywhere, certainly in the countries that he had invaded, Kuwait and Iran, but he was feared only in the United States, not in those countries. And that, incidentally, remains true. Some striking recent statistics on that; right now, it turns out that about 75% of the American population think that the United States should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda. Well, the belief, nevertheless, roughly 50% think the U.S. should have gone to war. Even after the government’s own report, the Kay and Dulfer report, have completely exploded those charges. There’s actually no contradiction there. People still believe it. Despite the refutation, roughly half the population still believes that, yes, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or programs to develop them, and ties to al Qaeda terrorism. And it’s not surprising that they do.

If you read the report of yesterday’s committee hearings on the Rice nomination, the Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, gave a statement justifying the war, and he said, “Outlaw regimes must be confronted, nuclear weapons proliferation must be stopped, terrorist organizations must be destroyed. Therefore, we were right to invade Iraq.” Didn’t matter that we had known beyond dispute they were not involved in nuclear weapons proliferation and that they had no ties to terror, though now they’re a terrorist haven. As for confronting outlaw regimes, a few thoughts come to mind, but I’ll leave it there.

The faith in the power of deceit is shared in the places that matter, in policymaking centers, in particular, in the business world. We all know that corporations spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year in advertising, which is not an effort to inform but it’s an effort to deceive, as we all know. If you want to find out the characteristics of, say, the cars that Ford is going to produce next year, or of drugs or other commodities, you don’t turn on the television set to see ads. The goal of the ads, hundreds of billions of dollars, is to project imagery, first of all, to create artificial wants, and secondly, to delude you into satisfying those created wants with one commodity rather than another more or less identical one. The commitment to deceive is pursued with real fanaticism. That’s demonstrated not only by the scale, literally hundreds of billions a year, but also in other ways.

So, recently, though it wasn’t reported here, there were negotiations with Australia to establish what’s called a free trade agreement. Nothing to do with free trade and certainly not an agreement, but that’s what those things are called. But the negotiations were held up for some time because the United States was objecting to Australia’s highly efficient health care system, maybe the most efficient in the world. The prices of drugs are a fraction of what they are in the United States. Very same drug produced by the same corporation, which makes a ton of money in Australia, but makes maybe ten times that much for the same drug here. Why was the U.S. objecting to the Australian system? Well, because the Australian system is evidence-based. It’s the phrase that was used. That means if a pharmaceutical corporation wants to advertise, you know, by showing sports heroes saying, you know, ask your doctor if this drug is good for you, it’s good for me, or something like that, often not even telling you what it is, they’re not allowed to do that. They have to provide evidence that the drug actually does something, that it is better than some cheaper thing that’s already on the market. That evidence-based approach, the U.S. negotiators argued, is interference with free markets, because corporations must have the right to deceive. That’s crucial. Australia sort of backed off on that, but the claim itself is kind of amusing, I mean, even if you believe the free market rhetoric for a moment. The main purpose of advertising is to undermine markets. If you go to graduate school and you take a course in economics, you learn that markets are systems in which informed consumers make rational choices. That’s what’s so wonderful about it. But that’s the last thing that the state corporate system wants. It is spending huge sums to prevent that, which brings us back to the viability of American democracy.

For many years, elections here, election campaigns, have been run by the public relations industry and each time it’s with increasing sophistication. And quite naturally, the industry uses the same technique to sell candidates that it uses to sell toothpaste or lifestyle drugs. The point is to undermine markets by projecting imagery to delude and suppressing information, and similarly, to undermine democracy by same method, projecting imagery to delude and suppressing information. The candidates are trained, carefully trained, to project a certain image. Intellectuals like to make fun of George Bush’s use of phrases like “misunderestimate,” and so on, but my strong suspicion is that he’s trained to do that. He’s carefully trained to efface the fact that he’s a spoiled frat boy from Yale, and to look like a Texas roughneck kind of ordinary guy just like you, just waiting to get back to the ranch that they created for him to, you know, throw a cow over his shoulder or whatever you’re supposed to do on a ranch, but, all of this is careful training. Ordinary guy. Meanwhile, Kerry is trained to be a goose hunter and a motorcycle rider and so on and so forth. The other imagery seemed to work marginally better, but the important thing to do is to keep people from knowing the stands and positions of the candidates on any issue or the parties. And it sort of works. Take a look at the last election. Right before the election people were asked — potential voters were asked, on what — what are the grounds for your vote going to be? About 10% said they were voting on the basis of the candidate’s stands on issues, agendas, policies and ideas. 6% for Bush voters, 13% for Kerry voters. The rest are voting for what are called qualities or values in the P.R. industry, which is, of course, all meaningless.

Let’s go back to Spain for a minute. In March, 2003, Spain was very highly lauded for leading the marvelous new Europe because Aznar took his orders from Crawford, Texas, with the support of 2% of the population. In March, 2004, an election came along, and Aznar was voted out. Spain was bitterly denounced for appeasing terrorism. What was the position of the new government? Well, the position of the new government was that Spain should not have troops in Iraq, unless they’re under U.N. authorization, which happens to be the position of about 75% of Americans at the same time. But there’s a difference between Spain and the United States. In Spain, people know what public opinion is. In the United States, it takes an individual research project to determine what it is, because it wasn’t reported. Furthermore, in Spain, they could vote on it, not in the United States. Neither political party would touch such an opinion and that’s why Spain was denounced, because voters took the same position as the large majority of the American public. Well, that tells us something, too. I couldn’t find any comment on that.

Well, there seems to be something paradoxical about all of this. The facts of the matter of which this sort of example seem to conflict with the grand contemporary theme, namely, that the mission of the United States is what’s called democracy promotion. In particular, what the liberal press calls the president’s messianic vision, to bring democracy to Iraq. That’s a vision that suddenly surfaced as the cause, the reason for the war, after all of the other pretexts for the invasion have disappeared, but people were polite enough, commentators polite enough not to notice that, and in fact there was near unanimous awe for the president’s messianic vision. Critics said, well, maybe it’s noble and inspiring, but maybe we can’t carry it off, because of their cultural failings and so on and so forth. Actually, there was one sector of opinion, I should say, that didn’t agree with this, the only one I could find, namely, Iraqis. At about the same time that the president announced his messianic vision with enormous awe and acclaim, I couldn’t find a word here questioning that this was the reason for the invasion after it was announced. Right at the same time — this was last November a year ago, the Washington Post did report a poll taken in Baghdad where people were asked what they thought the reason for the U.S. invasion was, and some agreed with 100% of articulate opinion here, that it was to bring democracy to Iraq. 1%, 5% thought that the goal was to help Iraqis. The rest said the unspeakable here that the goal was to take control of Iraq’s resources and reorganize the region in U.S. interests, the large majority.

Iraqis did agree with American commentators in seeing a cultural problem, but they didn’t see it in Iraq. They saw it here. It’s a cultural problem here where people are willing to believe the word of their dear leader without any other evidence. That is a problem. They’re right about that. Actually, Iraqi opinions were somewhat more nuanced. The same poll showed that although 1% thought that the goal of the invasion was to bring democracy, about half said the United States wants democracy in Iraq, but the U.S. will make sure that it will influence and determine its course. And that’s correct. That’s what democracy means. Democracy means you can have elections; you can do anything that you would like, but you better do what we say. Iraqis apparently understand that. And we choose not to, and the word choose has to be emphasized because there’s plenty of evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: M.I.T. professor, Noam Chomsky speaking at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at an event sponsored by the Lannan Foundation.

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