Monday, April 14, 2008

Noam Chomsky urges nuclear disarmament in Cabot lecture

Noam Chomsky urges nuclear disarmament in Cabot lecture

Madline Garber -- April 10, 2008

MIT Professor and world-known linguist Noam Chomsky, respected by many
as one of America's top minds, argued last night that nuclear powers
should destroy their remaining warheads.

MIT Professor and world-known linguist Noam Chomsky, respected by many
as one of America's top minds, argued last night that nuclear powers
should destroy their remaining warheads.

Renowned linguist, philosopher and Massachusetts Institute of
Technology professor Noam Chomsky argued last night that countries
possessing nuclear weapons must destroy their warheads if humans are
to avoid annihilating each other.
"Humans have developed the capacity to destroy life on earth," he said
at one point during his talk in Cabot Auditorium. "The question is
'Will they use it?' And the evidence isn't very comforting."
Chomsky began the speech with a quote from former General of the
United States Strategic Command George Lee Butler. "By what authority
do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear weapons states
usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet?"
Chomsky said.

"Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a
moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and
united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestation?"

He cited Butler as one of the many figures who have warned the world
against continuing the trend of nuclear aggression.
"To our shame, his questions have taken on much more greater urgency
than when he posed them," Chomsky said. "If there were an
extraterrestrial observer attending events on Earth since that
warning, they would marvel that this species has survived so long."

In his talk last night, Chomsky compared what he sees as a looming
nuclear catastrophe to climate change. He said that while world
leaders are unsure of the solutions to issues like global warming, the
threat of nuclear weapons can more easily be eradicated.

"The requirement in the non-proliferation treaty that powers take
measures to eliminate nuclear weapons is a legal obligation," he said,
citing the international treaty signed in 1968 that dedicated nations
to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"It's a criminal act not to undertake these good measures, and the
current administration has said this is not applicable to the U.S.,"
he said. "Things can be changed, and they better be changed."
He cited the establishment of nuclear weapons-free zones as a step
toward total elimination of nuclear weapons, and gave historical
background on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.
Signed in 1985 as an agreement among South Pacific nations, the treaty
prohibited the manufacturing, testing and stationing of explosive
nuclear devices.

"It took 20 years before the U.S., Britain and France accepted the
treaty, and the United States still hasn't ratified it," he said,
explaining that the United States wanted to delay the treaty's
implementation so that France could continue carrying out nuclear
tests in the region.

"So the treaty is partially implemented, but not completely," Chomsky
added. "This failure reveals the fundamental flaw in all treaty
arrangements. Law only works for the powerful if they are forced to
accept it, and that pressure can only come from within. So it's our

He turned his attention to Iraq, Iran and the greater Middle East as
he elaborated on the necessity of nuclear-free zones.
"The most important case of a nuclear-free weapon zone is still
pending, and that's the Middle East," he said. "There it's really
critical. That could be the flash point."

Chomsky highlighted the contested nature of Resolution 687, a United
Nations Security Council resolution from 1991. One article in the
resolution called for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and a
ban on chemical weapons in the Middle East.

But Chomsky explained that while the American population is
overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, and Iran has adopted it as
its official policy, the United States government has not given it

"The U.S. government opposes it; media and commentators oppose it; you
can't find a word about it. You can't even say they oppose it because
it's not even discussed. Article 14 of Resolution 687 is barely even
mentioned," he said, explaining that this issue highlights the
discrepancy between public opinion in public policy in America.
"The way the system works is that every four years you are permitted
to vote for one of the representatives of the feuding interest groups
looking out for themselves," he said. "You can vote for them, but then
after that, what happens is none of your business."
Chomsky then gave a background to what he sees as today's dire nuclear
situation. He cited former President Bill Clinton's rejection of a
Russian proposal for a nuclear-free zone from the Arctic Sea to the
Baltic Sea as one of the American government's many mistakes over the
course of the history of nuclear policy.
"This would have significantly refused the threat of maybe even an
accidental war," he said of the proposal.
He said that when President George Bush entered the White House with
intense military proposals regarding Eastern Europe, the Russian
government became aggravated. "When you threaten people with
destruction, they react," he said. "That's a perfectly clear, familiar
He criticized the United States' National Missile Defense system, a
strategy designed to protect the nation from nuclear-weapon attacks,
as a particularly dangerous aspect of Bush's nuclear plan.
"It sounds nice, defense. But on all sides, people agree that it's not
a defense weapon, it's a first-strike weapon," he said. "If missile
defense ever worked technically, what it could do practically is
prevent a retaliatory strike, not a first strike."
Giovanni Russonello contributed reporting to this article.

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posted by u2r2h at 11:21 AM


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