[I sent the following free update letter a couple of days ago. 
      But - we believe it did not go to more than half the update list. 
      Thus, I am sending it again. Apologies to those who received it, 
      who get it a second time. Just erase - there is nothing new if 
      you have already seen the first sentence, you have already 
      seen the whole message.]

====

Hello,

We have a new facility called The ZNet Action of the Week. 

Please take a look at it at:

http://www.zmag.org/ActionWeek/ActionWeek.cfm 

This new facility allows our users to propose, vote, comment, and report
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At the same time, it would clearly abuse our position for the ZNet staff
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So, the problem was, how can ZNet become a vehicle for shared activist
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participatory. It is entirely self-managing regarding what proposals
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We hope that a great many ZNet users will take seriously and address
carefully the opportunity to make proposals that hundreds of thousands
of other people can see, judge, and act on. The more people participate
in proposing, voting, and implementing proposals, the more people will
be encouraged to join in. Go first! Make it happen!

---

That said, below we offer you a recent interview with Noam Chomsky...

---

On Globalization, Iraq, and Middle East Studies 

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Danilo Mandic

Danilo Mandic: Could I please get your views on the recent World Social
Forum that was held a few months ago in Porto Allegre, Brazil. Over
150,000 people from 135 countries participated, an unprecedented number;
and they covered a wide range of issues including economic equality,
labor rights, war, and global corporate power. What has the social
justice movement done since the first forum five years ago? 

Noam Chomsky: The forum itself is a place for people to get together and
discuss and plan many activities from all over. For example, if you take
the first (the year 2000) Social Forum - which was more western
hemisphere oriented then the other ones which have been much broader -
one of the things that came from it was a massive popular program to try
to block or alter the so-called Free Trade Agreement of the Americas,
which is not free and is not about trade and was certainly not an
agreement, at least if people matter. And that lead to local activities
in many countries and to very large-scale demonstrations at the
hemispheric summit in Quebec in April 2001, which were sufficient to
derail the efforts to ram through a NAFTA-style program in the
hemisphere. Since then it has just continued. By now there are regional
social forums all over the world. There are local social forums. For
example, there is a Boston Social Forum, which is just in the Boston
area, that is one of many (I don't know how many) local forums that have
spun off of the central one. Now they are concerned with issues that are
of concern - in the United States, it's always going to be of global
concern too because of U.S. power - but also just plain and simple, you
know, serious jobs for justice programs locally, anti-corporate programs
locally, and so on. Now those happen in the regions where people are
involved. The concerns of people who are there, they integrate with the
international, regional (larger regional), international meetings and,
as you say, at the World Social Forum itself. There's a very wide range
of discussion - it didn't have to be at the last one but earlier ones -
typically quite serious discussion by activists and engaged people from
many different walks of life and parts of the world, on issues of
general concern. Out of them come some general programmatic ideas, some
ideas about actions, which are then implemented by people in their own
manner - you can't have a global program without local adaptation. 

DM: A lot of eminent scholars are fond of using the phrase
"anti-globalization movement." What do you think of that label? 

NC: As I've said repeatedly, including at the World Social forum, it's
just plain propaganda. I mean "globalization" used in a neutral sense
just means "international integration." The World Social Forum in fact
is a perfect example of globalization at the level of people. I mean you
have people from India, Africa, Brazil, Latin America, North America,
Europe, just about everywhere, from every walk of life, who have
somewhat common concerns and interests. That's globalization. In fact,
globalization itself has been the guiding vision of the workers'
movements on the left since their origins in the 19th century. That's
why every labor union is called an International even though they are
not international. That's the aspiration, and that's how the several
Internationals were formed, true internationals. In fact the World
Social Forum is probably the first time there has been any development
grassroots-up that merits the term "international." There is just no way
for these movements to be anti-globalization. They are perfect instances
of globalization. The term has come to be used in recent years as a kind
of a technical term which doesn't refer to globalization, but refers to
a very specific form of international economic integration ... 

DM: Right. 

NC: ... namely based on the priority given to investor rights, not
rights of people. So rights of investors, lenders, corporations, banks,
financial institutions and so on, within a general neo-liberal
framework, roughly the so-called Washington Consensus. That's a
particular doctrinal position, which has come to be called
"globalization" because the people who have that position have control
of concentrated wealth and power, so they can therefore impose their
terms on much discourse. It's kind of like saying that in the old Soviet
Union "democracy" meant the so-called People's Democracies. You know,
Czechoslovakia and Hungary. They had the power to use the term
"democracy" for those gross distortions of democracy. And the people who
pretty much own the world have enough power to distort the term
"globalization" to their highly specific and extremely doctrinary
position. But the people who are opposed to their version of
globalization aren't opposed to globalization. They're just calling for
other modes of globalization that prioritize rights of people, future
generations, the environment, etc., more than the rights of those with
concentrated wealth and power. The same is true of all of the agreements
(so-called, not really agreements, but treaties that are instituted
within that framework). Take say NAFTA - striking example - the North
American Free Trade Agreement. I mean, the one phrase in that that is
correct is "North American." It does indeed have to do with three North
American countries, counting Mexico as North American. Now beyond that,
every statement is false. It's not about free trade. It's highly
protectionist. It's certainly not, in many respects, an agreement. The
population in Canada and the United States, the majority is opposed and
probably in Mexico too, but we don't have good polls from Mexico. There
were alternative proposals. This was the executive version of the North
American Free Trade Agreement, which did have a very powerful elite
consensus behind it. So the corporate world was in favor; the media were
virtually 100% in favor. Now the population was mostly opposed, and
there were alternatives proposed. So for example there's a treaty in the
United States which requires that labor be consulted seriously on any
international economic agreement that affects workers, which this
obviously did. Well, the labor movement wasn't even notified. I mean
there is a Labor Advisory Council which is responsible for such things.
I think they were notified, given the text about 24 hours before it was
signed. It was Clinton that really, really loathed democracy and
freedom. That didn't get reported. Nevertheless, the Labor Advisory
Council even with that limited time was able to put forward a proposal,
a very constructive detailed proposal, for a North American Free Trade
Agreement, but one that was redesigned so instead of being directed to
low wage, low growth, high profit futures (as they correctly described
this one) it would be directed towards a high growth, high wage, more
egalitarian form of international integration. And that was presented.
Actually it turns out that their proposal was very similar to that
proposed about the same time by Congress's own Research Bureau and
Office of Technology Assessment, which also said they were opposed to
this version of the agreement, but they suggested a different version,
very much with a similar critique to that of the labor movement and
similar constructive proposals. None of that was ever reported. I mean
to this day, nobody knows about it, more than ten years later. It's just
suppressed. I mean there was discussion of the labor movement. They were
denounced. Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, who is about as far to
the left as you can get, condemned the labor movement for its brutal,
harsh, nationalistic tactics, on and on. He had a clue what the labor
movement position was, and it was anything but. But it simply could not
be reported. As far as I am aware, to this day it hasn't been reported.
Well it's kind of like globalization. There was no opposition to a North
American economic agreement, but there was opposition to this one, and
there were constructive alternatives but they never entered political
discussion and debate. I mean the media did enjoy Ross Perot because
they could make fun of him, you know, talk about sucking sounds, make
jokes, and so on and so forth. But the serious proposals that came
straight out of popular movements, like the labor movement and even
Congress's Research Bureau, they were off the agenda. And it's pretty
much the same with regard to globalization, which is sort of like the
use of the word democracy in the old Soviet Union. For other purposes,
but similar mechanisms. 

DM: On that note, let me turn briefly to Iraq if you don't mind. 

NC: Sure. 

DM: Democracy is another term that mainstream eminent scholars are found
of using when it comes to Iraq. The by-now-famous Lancet report counted
about 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq as a result of the Anglo-American
invasion. The Iraqi oil industry is becoming increasingly privatized
into Western corporate hands, and the Iraqi elections are being hailed
as proof of the success of the American endeavor. What do the elections
mean for Iraq? 

NC: Actually I agree that the elections were a success ... of opposition
to the United States. What is being suppressed - except for Middle East
specialists, who know about it perfectly well and are writing about it,
or people who in fact have read the newspapers in the last couple of
years - what's being suppressed is the fact that the United States had
to be brought kicking and screaming into accepting elections. The U.S.
was strongly opposed to them. I wrote about the early stages of this in
a book that came out a year ago, which only discussed the early stages
of U.S. opposition. But it increased. The U.S. wanted to write a
constitution, it wanted to impose some kind of caucus system that the
U.S. could control, and it tried to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal
rules, like you mentioned, which even Iraqi businessmen were strongly
opposed to. But there has been a very powerful nonviolent resistance in
Iraq - far more significant than suicide bombers and so on. And it
simply compelled the United States step by step to back down. That's the
popular movement of nonviolent resistance that was symbolized by
Ayatollah Sistani, but it's far broader than that. The population simply
would not accept the rules that the occupation authorities were
imposing, and finally Washington was compelled, very reluctantly, to
accept elections. It tried in every way to undermine them. So for
example, the independent press was kicked out of the country. Al
Jazeera, which is by far the most popular media in the country and most
of the region, was simply kicked out on spurious grounds. The U.S.
candidate (the U.S. had a candidate: Iyad Allawi) was given every
possible advantage: full state resources, access to any television, and
so on and so forth. He got creamed. Every party, including even the U.S.
government's party, was compelled to put in a plank, just by pressure of
popular opinion, calling for U.S. withdrawal, withdrawal of the
occupying forces. Even U.S.-run polls show that that's a very strong
majority opinion, among Shiites as well. They were forced to put it in.
Even thought they didn't want it, they just had to. The U.S. announced
at once after the election - in Britain, Blair, Bush and Rice announced
at once - that there would be no timetable for withdrawal. It doesn't
matter what the Iraqis want. The U.S. announced right away that the
troops would stay there at least until 2007, in fact as far as building
military bases to try to keep them there indefinitely. Not to occupy the
country, because for that they would much rather have Iraqi mercenary
forces. Just like Britain ran India or Russia ran Eastern Europe, not
with their own forces. But they have to be there to make sure things
stay under control. Then right now there's a struggle going on, as to
whether the United States will be able to subvert the elections that it
reluctantly accepted. I think you'll have a hard time finding a serious
Middle Eastern scholar or anyone who pays attention who won't agree with
this. In fact it's quite obvious just from reading the serious press
reports on this. Of course once the United States was forced into
accepting elections, the government and the media immediately pronounced
that it was a great achievement of the United States. But it was quite
the opposite. But it's a good thing that it happened, in opposition to
the U.S. In fact it's a major triumph of nonviolent resistance, and it
should be understood as such. And maybe it's a basis - now comes the
question of whether Iraqis can succeed, in reaching, moving towards a
stage where they will actually be able to run their own country, which
the U.S. is certainly going to oppose. There is no doubt of this. The
last thing the United States wants is a democratic, sovereign Iraq. To
see why, it's enough to think for five minutes about what its policies
are likely to be. Let's suppose there were a democratic Iraq with some
degree of sovereignty. The first thing it'll do is try to improve
relations with Iran. It's not that they love Iran particularly, but
they'd rather have friendly relations with the neighboring Shiite state
than hostile relations. So, they'll move towards improving relations
with Iran, especially because it has a Shiite majority. If they're
democratic enough, so the Shiite majority has a significant part. The
next thing that will happen - and it's already beginning to happen - is
that the victory of the Iraqis against the United States has begun to
stir up similar sentiments in the Shiite areas (mostly Shiite areas) of
Saudi Arabia, which is a neighbor. 

DM: ...and a US ally. 

NC: Yeah, but that's inside Saudi Arabia, and that happens to be where
most of the oil is. They have been excluded by the US and Saudi
leadership, but they're not going to be likely to accept that if there
is a sovereign, democratic Iraq next door. It's really a
Shiite-dominated Iraq. And it's already beginning to happen. Well, you
know, that'll lead towards a situation in which most of the world's oil
would be under the control of a relatively autonomous Shiite alliance.
The US won't tolerate that for a moment. The next thing that would
happen in a sovereign Iraq is that they would try to resume their very
natural position as a leading state in the Arab world. They're the most
educated country, the most advanced and so on. In many ways, it should
be the leader in the Arab world. Actually, those are factors that go
back to Biblical times. And they'll try to resume that position, which
means they'll try to rearm. They will confront the regional enemy,
namely Israel, which has virtually turned into a US military outpost.
They may even develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against
Israel's overwhelming advantage, both militarily and in weapons of mass
destruction. Those are very natural developments to be expected. Can you
see the US accepting any of this? I mean, those are the likely
consequences - not certain, but likely consequences - of a relatively
sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq. It's a nightmare for the United
States. It's no wonder it tried to prevent elections in any possible
way, and is now trying to undermine the results. What happens is gonna
be on a terrain of plenty of struggle, and we have a role in it. US
public opinion can be highly influential during the outcome. We don't
live in a dictatorship; we have plenty of freedom if we want to use it.
It can be used to help the Iraqis regain control of their own society. 

DM: Specifically, on that, our readers are especially interested in the
role of the university in this development that you are discussing. Let
me give you one example that is of concern: you have been writing
political works for more than four decades. Yet, I have been unable to
find a single undergraduate course in recent years here at Princeton
that has had any of your political works on its reading list. Does that
surprise you? 

NC: It would surprise me if it were any different. In fact, if you were
to mention my name to most of the faculty in the relevant areas, they
would probably react with screams of horror. I mean, we have a very
doctrinary intellectual class. They do not like deviation from a very
narrow party line. Now, in regional studies, it's very hard to control.
That's one of the reasons why Middle East departments are coming under
extreme attack from the more totalitarian forces in the country (like
Horowitz, Pipes and others), who can't stand the idea that there's some
independent - or partially independent - sector of the society that
isn't under tight...that isn't a wholly owned subsidiary of the business
world and the right wing. So, they're going berserk. And it's happened
in other areas. For example, in the 1980's, the main US preoccupation
was its wars in Central America - brutal, vicious, terrorist wars, and
to large extent wars against the church. The Latin American Association
of Professional Scholars just wouldn't go along. They were just pretty
much excluded. To give one example, Nicaragua was a big issue; the
leading academic historian on Nicaragua, Thomas Walker, regularly
(several times a year) wrote and sent op-eds to the New York Times - not
a single one was published. He just sent another one after this
outrageous government-media propaganda ploy about how the elections in
El Salvador were a model for Iraq. The elections in El Salvador were
just outlandish! It's true that the media praised them, that's their
job. Follow the party line. He wrote an Op-Ed - Thomas Walker, again,
leading Central American scholar - distributed it to newspapers all over
the country. They wouldn't touch it. They have a party line. You're not
allowed to deviate from it. It's not followed with 100% rigidity, of
course, but it's pretty substantial. And, yes, there is virtual terror
at the idea that anyone might deviate. If you want to get a good sense
of what it's like among the sort of left/liberal component of the
intellectual and academic world (not the far right), have a look at this
month's issue of the American Prospect, which is quite a good journal.
It has interesting material; it had quite a good article by Juan Cole on
Iraq which says pretty much what I just said about the elections. And
there are other good issues. But take a look at the front cover, which
is quite intriguing actually. The front cover shows the embattled
left/liberal intellectuals caught between two powerful forces on both
sides. On one side, there's a scowling picture of Dick Cheney. So, in
one corner you have Dick Cheney and the White House, the Pentagon, the
most powerful military force in history. That's one side. On the other
side, is....me. 

DM: [chuckle] 

NC: Those are the two powerful forces between which they are crushed.
What that tells you about...I mean, if I could put it on my CV, I would,
because it's the greatest praise I've ever had. [chuckle] I must be the
most powerful academic in history. But it shows you their mentality.
They're terrified. They're pathetic people, terrified by the idea that
somebody might not repeat what they say. And might be two millimeters to
the left of them on some issue. I think that's what you're probably
finding. Not just me. Books written by Princeton professors - you know,
eminent Princeton professors - who are critical of the party line can
never get reviewed. Have you seen... 

DM: Absolutely. Edward Sa'id is a good example. 

NC: What? 

DM: Edward Sa'id is an excellent example of that. 

NC: Yeah, but take a look at Richard Falk's latest book. 

DM: Yes. 

NC: He's the most important Princeton professor, plausibly. 

DM: On the other hand, someone like Bernard Lewis is treated as an
eminent Princeton professor. 

NC: Well, sure. But he says what they wanna hear. 

DM: Right. Let me ask one more question. 

NC: For example, all of this....since you mentioned Edward Sa'id, in all
of this hysteria about how students and faculty are being intimidated by
the overpowering left, like me, did you hear anything when for years
Edward Sa'id (who was a close personal friend, incidentally), his office
and his apartment were under almost constant police protection and
offered FBI protection? In his apartment he had some sort of way of
signaling the local police department if anything happened. The reason
for this wasn't just because somebody was, you know, criticizing him. He
was under death threats constantly from terrorist groups that were being
infiltrated by the police. Was there any David Project objecting to
this? 

DM: In For Reasons of State, you wrote the following: "One element in
the unending struggle to achieve a more just and humane social order
will be the effort to remove the barriers that stand in the way of the
particular forms of individual self-fulfillment and collective action
that the university should make possible." Almost 40 years later, do you
think that any of these barriers have been removed at places like
Princeton, Harvard, MIT? 

NC: Sure. Let me just take MIT, because I know it best, but it's the
same everywhere. At the time I was writing, in the 1960's, if you walked
through the halls of MIT, you would see white males, well-dressed,
disciplined, respectful to their elders, and so on. You walk down those
halls today: half women, about third minorities, casual relations among
people show up in everything from clothes to personal relations. And
that's all over the country; I presume it's same at Princeton. Those are
indications of very significant changes in the society, which became
much more civilized, including the universities. You see it in many
ways. These are largely, to a large extent, the results of activism of
young people and many other groups. And it can certainly continue. And
let me just end, to take one.... 

DM: OK. Just one last question, perhaps... 

NC: Just to take one last example, just to illustrate. 

DM: OK. 

NC: The US attacked South Vietnam in 1962. That's when Kennedy started
bombing South Vietnam. They started using chemical warfare to destroy
crops. They began programs which ultimately drove millions of people to
what amounted to concentration camps and slums. Was there any protest?
This went on for years before there was any protest. By the time
protests sort of began to be significant, South Vietnam, which was
always the main target of the attack, had practically been destroyed.
But take the Iraq war. For the first time in European history - Europe,
and with the United States - for the first time in Western imperial
history, a war has been massively protested (here too) before it was
officially launched, not four or five years later when the country was
wiped out. Well, those are changes towards making it a more civilized
society, and it shows up in universities too. They're much more open
than they used to be. 

DM: Let me just ask one more quick question. Universities as doctrinary
institutions, as "systems of imposed ignorance." What can students do to
resist this? 

NC: Students are at a period of their lives when they are more free than
they have ever been or ever will be. They have left parental control;
they are not yet under the control of the coercive institutions of
ordinary life, the need for subordination to higher-ups and hierarchic
institutions and the need to make a living and so on. They have enormous
freedom, and they can do anything they want. They don't like the courses
in the university? Set up counter-courses. At MIT (where I am) for 25
years, as long as I could manage it, I taught on my own time
undergraduate courses on the kinds of things I write about which, as you
say, would not be on the curriculum. I had hundreds of students in
classes. They usually ran them at night, so they couldn't take much
credit for them (formal credit, I mean, but they could contribute to
programs). I ran them at night so they could be community participation.
A lot of things came out of it, I mean not just that. But it was a way
for people to get together, students with common interests and concerns,
and to pursue them more actively. A good deal of what has gone on in the
country since has come out of things like that. For example, South End
Press, Z Magazine, ZNet, a bunch of things like that, are mostly from
students who were initiating those things at MIT at the time. I was
happy to cooperate with them if I could. One of the ways was by just
offering courses that they could be active in. They went right through
to...they had the last one about two years ago. At the time, there were
two junior instructors who did most of the work. Both of them had been
students in the last of those courses I taught around 1990 when they
were undergraduates. The only reason I stopped is the pressure of giving
talks, interviews and so on - I just couldn't continue on my own time
and keep my professional work going. So yeah, these are among the normal
things that students could do. 

DM: Dr. Chomsky, thank you very much. 

NC: All right, good talking to you. 



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