Another free update today...and as always you can add and remove
addresses at www.zmag.org/weluser.htm .

Today's article is an extensive contextual interview done with Noam
Chomsky in the Indian newspaper Frontline. The Interviewer is VK

First, however a report. The We Stand for Peace and Justice statement
(at http://www.zmag.org/wspj/index.cfm) is now at 47,778 signers and
will probably be over 50,000 by the time you read this. Have you signed
it yet? If not, do you have reservations about the content of the
statement? If that's the case, at the risk of a deluge, I'd be
interested in hearing about serious differences you may have with it.

And here is the interview...

Iraq Is A Trial Run
By Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky , University Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, founder of the modern science of linguistics and political
activist, is a powerhouse of anti-imperialist activism in the United
States today. On March 21, a crowded and typical - and uniquely
Chomskyan - day of political protest and scientific academic research,
he spoke from his office for half an hour to V. K. Ramachandran on the
current attack on Iraq.

V. K. Ramachandran : Does the present aggression on Iraq represent a
continuation of United States' international policy in recent years or a
qualitatively new stage in that policy?

Noam Chomsky : It represents a significantly new phase. It is not
without precedent, but significantly new nevertheless.

This should be seen as a trial run. Iraq is seen as an extremely easy
and totally defenceless target. It is assumed, probably correctly, that
the society will collapse, that the soldiers will go in and that the
U.S. will be in control, and will establish the regime of its choice and
military bases. They will then go on to the harder cases that will
follow. The next case could be the Andean region, it could be Iran, it
could be others.

The trial run is to try and establish what the U.S. calls a "new norm"
in international relations. The new norm is "preventive war." Notice
that new norms are established only by the United States. So, for
example, when India invaded East Pakistan to terminate horrendous
massacres, it did not establish a new norm of humanitarian intervention,
because India is the wrong country, and besides, the U.S. was
strenuously opposed to that action.

This is not pre-emptive war; there is a crucial difference. Pre-emptive
war has a meaning, it means that, for example, if planes are flying
across the Atlantic to bomb the United States, the United States is
permitted to shoot them down even before they bomb and may be permitted
to attack the air bases from which they came. Pre-emptive war is a
response to ongoing or imminent attack.

The doctrine of preventive war is totally different; it holds that the
United States - alone, since nobody else has this right - has the right
to attack any country that it claims to be a potential challenge to it.
So if the United States claims, on whatever grounds, that someone may
sometime threaten it, then it can attack them.

The doctrine of preventive war was announced explicitly in the National
Security Strategy last September. It sent shudders around the world,
including through the U.S. establishment, where, I might say, opposition
to the war is unusually high. The Security Strategy said, in effect,
that the U.S. will rule the world by force, which is the dimension - the
only dimension - in which it is supreme. Furthermore, it will do so for
the indefinite future, because if any potential challenge arises to U.S.
domination, the U.S. will destroy it before it becomes a challenge.

This is the first exercise of that doctrine. If it succeeds on these
terms, as it presumably will, because the target is so defenceless, then
international lawyers and Western intellectuals and others will begin to
talk about a new norm in international affairs. It is important to
establish such a norm if you expect to rule the world by force for the
foreseeable future.

This is not without precedent, but it is extremely unusual. I shall
mention one precedent, just to show how narrow the spectrum is. In 1963,
Dean Acheson, who was a much respected elder statesman and senior
Adviser of the Kennedy Administration, gave an important talk to the
American Society of International Law, in which he justified the U. S.
attacks against Cuba. The attack by the Kennedy Administration on Cuba
was large-scale international terrorism and economic warfare. The timing
was interesting - it was right after the Missile Crisis, when the world
was very close to a terminal nuclear war. In his speech, Acheson said
that no "legal issue" arises when the United States responds to a
challenge to its "power, position, or prestige", or words approximating

That is also a statement of the Bush doctrine. Although Acheson was an
important figure, what he said had not been official government policy
in the post-War period. It now stands as official policy and this is the
first illustration of it. It is intended to provide a precedent for the

Such "norms" are established only when a Western power does something,
not when others do. That is part of the deep racism of Western culture,
going back through centuries of imperialism and so deep that it is

So I think this war is an important new step, and is intended to be.

Ramachandran :Is it also a new phase in that the U. S. has not been able
to carry others with it?

Chomsky : That is not new. In the case of the Vietnam War, for example,
the United States did not even try to get international support.
Nevertheless, you are right in that this is unusual. This is a case in
which the United States was compelled for political reasons to try to
force the world to accept its position and was not able to, which is
quite unusual. Usually, the world succumbs.

Ramachandran :So does it represent a "failure of diplomacy" or a
redefinition of diplomacy itself?

Chomsky : I wouldn't call it diplomacy at all - it's a failure of

Compare it with the first Gulf War. In the first Gulf War, the U.S.
coerced the Security Council into accepting its position, although much
of the world opposed it. NATO went along, and the one country in the
Security Council that did not - Yemen - was immediately and severely

In any legal system that you take seriously, coerced judgments are
considered invalid, but in the international affairs conducted by the
powerful, coerced judgments are fine - they are called diplomacy.

What is interesting about this case is that the coercion did not work.
There were countries - in fact, most of them - who stubbornly maintained
the position of the vast majority of their populations.

The most dramatic case is Turkey. Turkey is a vulnerable country,
vulnerable to U.S. punishment and inducements. Nevertheless, the new
government, I think to everyone's surprise, did maintain the position of
about 90 per cent of its population. Turkey is bitterly condemned for
that here, just as France and Germany are bitterly condemned because
they took the position of the overwhelming majority of their
populations. The countries that are praised are countries like Italy and
Spain, whose leaders agreed to follow orders from Washington over the
opposition of maybe 90 per cent of their populations.

That is another new step. I cannot think of another case where hatred
and contempt for democracy have so openly been proclaimed, not just by
the government, but also by liberal commentators and others. There is
now a whole literature trying to explain why France, Germany, the
so-called "old Europe", and Turkey and others are trying to undermine
the United States. It is inconceivable to the pundits that they are
doing so because they take democracy seriously and they think that when
the overwhelming majority of a population has an opinion, a government
ought to follow it.

That is real contempt for democracy, just as what has happened at the
United Nations is total contempt for the international system. In fact
there are now calls - from The Wall Street Journal ,people in Government
and others - to disband the United Nations.

Fear of the United States around the world is extraordinary. It is so
extreme that it is even being discussed in the mainstream media. The
cover story of the upcoming issue of Newsweek is about why the world is
so afraid of the United States. The Post had a cover story about this a
few weeks ago.

Of course this is considered to be the world's fault, that there is
something wrong with the world with which we have to deal somehow, but
also something that has to be recognised.

Ramachandran :The idea that Iraq represents any kind of clear and
present danger is, of course, without any substance at all.

Chomsky : Nobody pays any attention to that accusation, except,
interestingly, the population of the United States.

In the last few months, there has been a spectacular achievement of
government-media propaganda, very visible in the polls. The
international polls show that support for the war is higher in the
United States than in other countries. That is, however, quite
misleading, because if you look a little closer, you find that the
United States is also different in another respect from the rest of the
world. Since September 2002, the United States is the only country in
the world where 60 per cent of the population believes that Iraq is an
imminent threat - something that people do not believe even in Kuwait or

Furthermore, about 50 per cent of the population now believes that Iraq
was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. This has
happened since September 2002. In fact, after the September 11 attack,
the figure was about 3 per cent. Government-media propaganda has managed
to raise that to about 50 per cent. Now if people genuinely believe that
Iraq has carried out major terrorist attacks against the United States
and is planning to do so again, well, in that case people will support
the war.

This has happened, as I said, after September 2002. September 2002 is
when the government-media campaign began and also when the mid-term
election campaign began. The Bush Administration would have been smashed
in the election if social and economic issues had been in the forefront,
but it managed to suppress those issues in favour of security issues -
and people huddle under the umbrella of power.

This is exactly the way the country was run in the 1980s. Remember that
these are almost the same people as in the Reagan and the senior Bush
Administrations. Right through the 1980s they carried out domestic
policies that were harmful to the population and which, as we know from
extensive polls, the people opposed. But they managed to maintain
control by frightening the people. So the Nicaraguan Army was two days'
march from Texas, and the airbase in Grenada was one from which the
Russians would bomb us. It was one thing after another, every year,
every one of them ludicrous. The Reagan Administration actually declared
a National Emergency in 1985 because of the threat to the security of
the United States posed by the Government of Nicaragua.

If somebody were watching this from Mars, they would not know whether to
laugh or to cry.

They are doing exactly the same thing now, and will probably do
something similar for the presidential campaign. There will have to be a
new dragon to slay, because if the Administration lets domestic issues
prevail, it is in deep trouble.

Ramachandran :You have written that this war of aggression has dangerous
consequences with respect to international terrorism and the threat of
nuclear war.

Chomsky : I cannot claim any originality for that opinion. I am just
quoting the CIA and other intelligence agencies and virtually every
specialist in international affairs and terrorism. Foreign Affairs,
Foreign Policy , the study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
and the high-level Hart-Rudman Commission on terrorist threats to the
United States all agree that it is likely to increase terrorism and the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The reason is simple: partly for revenge, but partly just for

There is no other way to protect oneself from U.S. attack. In fact, the
United States is making the point very clearly, and is teaching the
world an extremely ugly lesson.

Compare North Korea and Iraq. Iraq is defenceless and weak; in fact, the
weakest regime in the region. While there is a horrible monster running
it, it does not pose a threat to anyone else. North Korea, on the other
hand, does pose a threat. North Korea, however, is not attacked for a
very simple reason: it has a deterrent. It has a massed artillery aimed
at Seoul, and if the United States attacks it, it can wipe out a large
part of South Korea.

So the United States is telling the countries of the world: if you are
defenceless, we are going to attack you when we want, but if you have a
deterrent, we will back off, because we only attack defenceless targets.
In other words, it is telling countries that they had better develop a
terrorist network and weapons of mass destruction or some other credible
deterrent; if not, they are vulnerable to "preventive war".

For that reason alone, this war is likely to lead to the proliferation
of both terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Ramachandran :How do you think the U.S. will manage the human - and
humanitarian - consequences of the war?

Chomsky : No one knows, of course. That is why honest and decent people
do not resort to violence - because one simply does not know.

The aid agencies and medical groups that work in Iraq have pointed out
that the consequences can be very severe. Everyone hopes not, but it
could affect up to millions of people. To undertake violence when there
is even such a possibility is criminal.

There is already - that is, even before the war - a humanitarian
catastrophe. By conservative estimates, ten years of sanctions have
killed hundreds of thousands of people. If there were any honesty, the
U.S. would pay reparations just for the sanctions.

The situation is similar to the bombing of Afghanistan, of which you and
I spoke when the bombing there was in its early stages. It was obvious
the United States was never going to investigate the consequences.

Ramachandran :Or invest the kind of money that was needed.

Chomsky : Oh no. First, the question is not asked, so no one has an idea
of what the consequences of the bombing were for most of the country.
Then almost nothing comes in. Finally, it is out of the news, and no one
remembers it any more.

In Iraq, the United States will make a show of humanitarian
reconstruction and will put in a regime that it will call democratic,
which means that it follows Washington's orders. Then it will forget
about what happens later, and will go on to the next one.

Ramachandran :How have the media lived up to their propaganda-model
reputation this time?

Chomsky : Right now it is cheerleading for the home team. Look at CNN,
which is disgusting - and it is the same everywhere. That is to be
expected in wartime; the media are worshipful of power.

More interesting is what happened in the build-up to war. The fact that
government-media propaganda was able to convince the people that Iraq is
an imminent threat and that Iraq was responsible for September 11 is a
spectacular achievement and, as I said, was accomplished in about four
months. If you ask people in the media about this, they will say, "Well,
we never said that," and it is true, they did not. There was never a
statement that Iraq is going to invade the United States or that it
carried out the World Trade Centre attack. It was just insinuated, hint
after hint, until they finally got people to believe it.

Ramachandran :Look at the resistance, though. Despite the propaganda,
despite the denigration of the United Nations, they haven't quite
carried the day.

Chomsky : You never know. The United Nations is in a very hazardous

The United States might move to dismantle it. I don't really expect
that, but at least to diminish it, because when it isn't following
orders, of what use is it?

Ramachandran :Noam, you have seen movements of resistance to imperialism
over a long period - Vietnam, Central America, Gulf War I. What are your
impressions of the character, sweep and depth of the present resistance
to U.S. aggression? We take great heart in the extraordinary
mobilisations all over the world.

Chomsky : Oh, that is correct; there is just nothing like it. Opposition
throughout the world is enormous and unprecedented, and the same is true
of the United States. Yesterday, for example, I was in demonstrations in
downtown Boston, right around the Boston Common. It is not the first
time I have been there. The first time I participated in a demonstration
there at which I was to speak was in October 1965. That was four years
after the United States had started bombing South Vietnam. Half of South
Vietnam had been destroyed and the war had been extended to North
Vietnam. We could not have a demonstration because it was physically
attacked, mostly by students, with the support of the liberal press and
radio, who denounced these people who were daring to protest against an
American war.

On this occasion, however, there was a massive protest before the war
was launched officially and once again on the day it was launched - with
no counter-demonstrators. That is a radical difference. And if it were
not for the fear factor that I mentioned, there would be much more

The government knows that it cannot carry out long-term aggression and
destruction as in Vietnam because the population will not tolerate it.

There is only one way to fight a war now. First of all, pick a much
weaker enemy, one that is defenceless. Then build it up in the
propaganda system as either about to commit aggression or as an imminent
threat. Next, you need a lightning victory. An important leaked document
of the first Bush Administration in 1989 described how the U.S. would
have to fight war. It said that the U.S. had to fight much weaker
enemies, and that victory must be rapid and decisive, as public support
will quickly erode. It is no longer like the 1960s, when a war could be
fought for years with no opposition at all.

In many ways, the activism of the 1960s and subsequent years has simply
made a lot of the world, including this country, much more civilised in
many domains.


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