Friday, October 03, 2008

IRAN Oil Nuclear (Chomsky Interview)

Chomsky: "The Majority of the World Supports Iran"

By Subrata Ghoshroy, AlterNet. Posted October 3, 2008.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview, Chomsky discusses the global politics of Iran's and India's attempts to become nuclear powers.

On Wednesday night, in a vote of 86 to 13, the U.S. Senate passed a historic nuclear deal with that will allow the United States to trade with India in nuclear equipment and technology, and to supply India with nuclear fuel for its power reactors. The deal is considered hugely consequential by its supporters and opponents alike -- and a significant victory for the Bush administration.

Last month, Subrata Ghoshroy, a researcher in the Science, Technology and Global Security Working Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, met with Noam Chomsky in his office at MIT, where he is the institute professor of linguistics. "Before we started our discussion," Ghoshroy writes, "Professor Chomsky asked me to give him a little background information. I told him that I was researching missile defense, space weapons and the U.S.-India nuclear deal." Ghoshroy is a longtime critic of the U.S. missile defense program and a former analyst at the Government Accountability Office who in 2006 blew the whistle on the failure -- and attempted cover-up -- of a key component of the program: a $26 billion weapon system that was the "centerpiece" of the Bush administration's antimissile plan.

Ghoshroy and Chomsky discussed the then-pending nuclear deal, which would sanction trade hitherto prohibited by U.S. and international laws because of India's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the nuclear tests it conducted in 1998. Ghoshroy has written several articles criticizing the U.S.-India deal as a triumph of the business lobby -- an assessment Chomsky agreed with. He said that Condoleezza Rice is actually on record admitting what is truly behind this deal, which he characterized as a "non-proliferation disaster."

Ghoshroy's subsequent conversation with Chomsky touched on a number of interweaving topics, including: India and the importance of the non-aligned movement; the myths of free trade and the so-called "success" of neoliberalism; Washington's historic opposition to promote new world economic and information orders; Latin America's growing independence; the West's hypocrisy over Iran's nuclear program -- and MIT's ironic role in it during the shah's regime; and, finally, U.S. elections and the prospects for change.

The result is a two-part interview, the second of which will run on AlterNet tomorrow. Part One begins with India, the Non-Aligned Movement, and why a "majority of the world supports Iran." (The Non-Aligned Movement, which consists of some 115 or more representatives of "developing countries," originated at the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, which was convened mainly by newly independent former colonies from Africa and Asia to develop joint policies in international relations. Jawaharlal Nehru, then India's prime minister, led the conference. There, "Third World" leaders shared their similar problems of resisting the pressures of the major powers, maintaining their independence and opposing colonialism and neo-colonialism, especially Western domination. India continued its vigorous participation and leadership role in NAM until the end of the Cold War. For further reading, visit the NAM Web site.)


Subrata Ghoshroy: (Comparing India) with the situation in Latin America, there is a lot more explicit stance (in Latin America) against imperialism and toward independence.

Noam Chomsky: It exists (in India), but I think that India should be in the lead, as it was in the l950s when it was in the lead in the non-aligned movement.

SG: This is the tension in the Indian situation. The Indian government, the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, they think NAM is anachronistic and a relic of the Cold War.

NC: I think that they are quite wrong. I think that it is a sign of the future. The positions of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the South Commission before it, and alongside of it, are pretty sound. A good indication of how sound they are is they are almost entirely suppressed in the West, which tells you a lot.

Take the question of Iranian enrichment. The U.S, of course, takes a militant position against it, which is kind of ironic because the same officials who are now having tantrums about it are the ones who supported the same programs under the shah. MIT is right at the center of that; I can remember in the l970s there was an internal crisis at MIT when the institute authorities pretty much sold the nuclear engineering department to the shah in a secret agreement. The agreement was that the Nuclear Engineering Department would bring in Iranian nuclear engineers, and in return, the shah would provide some unspecified -- but presumably large -- amount of money to MIT. When (this was) leaked, there was a lot of student protest and a student referendum -- something like 80 percent of students were opposed to it. There was so much turmoil, the faculty had to have a large meeting. Usually faculty meetings are pretty boring things; nobody wants to go. But this one, pretty much everybody came to it. There was a big discussion. It was quite interesting. There were a handful of people, of whom I was one, who opposed the agreement with the shah. But it passed overwhelmingly. It was quite striking that the faculty vote was the exact opposite of the student vote, which tells you something quite interesting, because the faculty are the students of yesterday, but the shift in institutional commitment had a major impact on their judgments -- a wrong impact, in my opinion. Anyway, it went through. Probably the people running the Iranian program today were trained at MIT. The strongest supporters of this U.S.-Iranian nuclear program were Henry Kissinger, Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

SG: This was right around Nixon?

NC: This was in the mid-'70s. Kissinger now says, "How can Iran be pursuing a peaceful program when they have so much oil -- they don't need nuclear energy." In 1975 he was saying the opposite. He was saying, "Of course Iran has to develop nuclear energy. It cannot rely upon its oil resources." Kissinger was asked by the Washington Post why he had completely changed his judgment on this issue. He was quite frank and honest. He said something like, "They were an ally then, so they needed nuclear energy. Now they are an enemy, so they don't need nuclear energy." OK, I appreciate honesty. It is ironic to see this developing right now.

When you read the media on this, say the New York Times, the coverage is uniform. "Iran is defying the world." "Iran is defying the international community."

The fact of the matter is that the majority of the world supports Iran. The non-aligned movement supports Iran. The majority of the world is part of the non-aligned movement. But they are not part of the world, from the U.S. point of view. It is a striking illustration of the strength and depth of the imperial mentality. If the majority of the world opposes Washington, they are not part of the world. Strikingly, the American population is not part of the world. A large majority of Americans -- something like 75 percent -- agree that Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy, if it is not for nuclear weapons. But they are not part of the world either. The world consists of Washington and whoever goes along with it. Everything else is not the world. Not the majority of Americans. Not the majority of countries of the world.

All of this illustrates many things, among them the importance of the non-aligned movement. Just as the South Commission was important, the same is true of NAM. But the commission's important positions were never quoted or mentioned; they were treated as insignificant. They are not insignificant.

The same is true of NAM. India should be in the lead of ensuring that the voice of what is euphemistically called "developing countries" should be heard, should be influential and should be powerful. Not just what comes out of Washington and London!

(In India), on one hand, there has been significant growth and development in the past 20 years or so. On the other hand, the internal problems are simply overwhelming. If you look at the human development index, for example, when the neoliberal reforms, so-called, began, India was 125th or so. Now it is 128th, the last time I looked. Meaning that the fundamental internal problems of India which are so overwhelming, when you just even walk the streets, have clearly not been addressed. If you go to places like Hyderabad or Bangalore, you see wonderful laboratories, high-tech industries, software and a few miles away a sharp increase in peasant suicides coming from the same source. The same social and economic policies are driving both processes.

In places like West Bengal, there has been serious internal strife over land rights and industrial development, and I don't think that the Left has worked out a way to come to terms with that constructively. On issues like the U.S.-India nuclear pact, from what I read of the Left's positions, I have found them quite disappointing. They seem to be opposing the pact on nationalist grounds, that India might be surrendering some element of sovereignty. But the real problem is quite different; it is a major step toward undermining the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- as India's refusal to join it and its secret bomb was in the first place. You know that India does have a tradition about disarmament and non-alignment and so on going back to Nehru, of pressing for nuclear disarmament, non-alignment and so on, and the U.S.-India pact is directly counter to that honorable tradition. And I would have expected the Left to be emphasizing this.

SG: And what you are saying is that this is where the Left should be much more vocal and active?

NC: To an extent, they are. It is very hard to break through Western propaganda. This was dramatically true in the l970s, in the early period of decolonization, when there were calls for a new international economic order, a new information order -- a restructuring of the world to give the voiceless some voice. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was an important institution at the time. UNESCO was pressing for an international information order in which the Third World would have a voice. There was bitter opposition to that here. It was really brutal here; UNESCO was practically destroyed.

SG: And the U.S. left UNESCO for a while?

NC: First it practically destroyed UNESCO, and then it left it for a long time. Media and commentators were full of outright lies about how UNESCO was trying to destroy freedom of the press, and so on and so forth. What they were trying to do, very clearly, was to break the Western monopoly and to allow independent voices to appear. That is intolerable to Western intellectual communities. We have to have an absolute monopoly; otherwise it violates freedom.

There is quite a good book on this running through the details. It is called Hope and Folly, and it could never be reviewed, because of the devastating story that it tells about the efforts of the media and the intellectual community and so on to destroy UNESCO out of fear that it might open the international communications system to Third World voices. Take a look at the book -- it is very devastating, and what happened is incredible.

The same thing happened with the new international economic order. Instead of a new international economic order of the kind that UNCTAD was pressing for, which made a lot of sense, what happened was the opposite. That's when the West -- with U.S. and Britain in the lead -- rammed through neoliberal programs, which have been pretty much of a disaster. International economists often say it has been a great success, pointing to average growth rates and the rise out of poverty during the past 30 years. That is a scam. The rising growth rates and rise out of poverty are primarily from China. But China was not following neoliberal rules. They were pursuing a policy of export orientation with a state-directed economy. State-directed export orientation is not the Washington consensus. Muddling the two things together is real dishonesty.

SG: I see. Because of sheer numbers in China? A billion Chinese are growing

NC: If you have a billion Chinese who are growing, the average growth rate increases. So you have an increase in average growth rate mainly through the efforts of countries that are not following the rules. The same is true of India. One of the reasons that India escaped the Asian financial crisis was that it maintained financial controls.

SG: Right, which would not be the case anymore.

NC: Not anymore. But in that period (it was the case). It escaped the disaster that took place. Take South Korea: It has had spectacular growth. It is heralded as a success of neoliberal principles. That is not even a bad joke. In South Korea, the controls over capital were so strict that a capital export could bring the death penalty. What does that have to do with neoliberalism? It was a state-directed economy, more or less on the Japanese model. Incidentally, just to make the irony even more extreme, one of the leading state-based economies in the world is the United States. Surely, everyone at MIT knows that. What pays their salaries? MIT is part of the funnel by which the taxpayer pays the costs and takes the risks of high-tech development, and the profits are ultimately privatized.

SG: Absolutely.

NC: That's where you get computers and Internet and the biotech. The entire high-tech economy almost derives from the dynamic state sector.


Visit AlterNet tomorrow to read Part Two, in which Chomsky debunks the myths of the free market, free trade and the "success" of neoliberal economic reforms, while also weighing in on such topics as the United States' declining military influence in Latin America. Finally, be sure to check out Chomsky's views on the presidential election -- and what an Obama victory might mean for U.S. foreign policy.


Part Two of Subrata Ghoshroy's exclusive interview with Noam Chomksy takes on the United State's capacity for revisionist history and propaganda, from Ronald Reagan's supposed commitment to free markets, to American terrorist actions in Latin America in the 1980s, to the bankrupt rationale for Clinton's intervention in Bosnia. Chomsky also elaborates on MIT's role in developing computer technology in the service of the military industrial complex -- which he discussed in Part One. Finally, he puts the current financial crisis into global context -- and weighs in on the presidential election, explaining why, like any other race in which two pro-business parties dominate everything-- is "not a serious election."

(Read Part One here.

NC: The New York Times had an article by its economic correspondent in its magazine section a couple weeks ago about Obama's economic programs. He talked about Reagan as the model of passionate commitment to free markets and reduction of the role of the state, and so on … Where are these people? Reagan was the most protectionist president in post-war American history. In fact, more protectionist than all others combined. He virtually doubled protective barriers. He brought in the Pentagon to develop the "factory of the future" to teach backward American management how to catch up on the Japanese lead in production. SEMATECH ("Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology") was formed. If it weren't for Reagan's protectionism and calling in of state power, we would not have a steel industry, or an automobile industry, or a semi-conductor industry or whatever they protected. They reindustrialized America by protectionism and state intervention. All of this is washed away by propaganda as though it never happened.

It is very interesting to look at a place like MIT, which was right at the center of these developments. My department -- you're teaching a course in the Military Industrial Complex -- my department is an example of it. I came here in the mid-50's. I don't know the difference between a radio and a tape recorder, but I was in the electronics lab. I was perhaps the one person who refused to get clearance on principle. Not that it made any difference; everything was open anyway.

The electronics lab, along with the closely connected Lincoln labs, was just developing the basis of the modern high- tech economy. In those days, the computer was the size of this set of offices.

By the time they finally got computers down to the size of a marketable main frame, some of the directors of the project pulled out and formed DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), the first main frame producer. IBM was in there, at the government's expense, learning how to move from punch cards to electronic computers. By the early l960's IBM was capable of producing its own computers, but no one could buy them. They were too expensive. So they were bought by the National Security Agency. Bell Labs did develop transistors. That is about the only example you can think of a significant part of the high-tech system which came out of private enterprise. But that is a joke too! They worked on technology. Their transistor producer was Western Electric, who could not sell them on the market; they were too expensive. So the government bought about 100 percent of advanced transistors. Finally, of course, all of this gets to the point where you can market them privately. It was not until the 1980's after 30 years of development essentially in the state sector that these things became marketable commodities and Bill Gates could get rich.

The Internet was the same thing. I was here when they were starting to work on the Internet. It was not until 1995 that it was privatized, after 30 years. If you look at the funding at MIT, in the 1950s and 1960's it was almost entirely Pentagon. For a very simple reason, the cutting edge of the economy was electronics based. A good cover for developing an electronics-based economy was the Pentagon. You sort of frighten people into thinking the Russians are coming, so they pay their taxes and their children and grandchildren have computers.

Through the 70's and 80's funding has been shifting to NIH (National Institutes of Health). Why? Because the cutting edge of the economy is becoming biology-based. So, therefore, the state sector is shifting its priorities to developing biology-based industries. All of this is going on with accolades to the Free Market. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

The point is, to get back to the new international economic order: It was a serious proposal that was immediately kicked out the window and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) was reduced to a data collecting agency with no policy initiatives. The new information order was destroyed, along with UNESCO. Neo-liberal programs were rammed down the throats of the poor. (Although the rich did not accept them -- and to the extent that they do accept them, it is harmful to them too.) This went along with the great shift to the liberalization of finance. It was a disaster in the making all along; serious economists have been pointing out since the early 70's that the freeing up of financial capital flows is just a disaster in the making, with in fact periodic crises. Also, Reagan the great free marketer carried out one of the biggest bailouts in American history when he bailed out (and virtually nationalized) a major bank.

SG: This was the Latin American crisis? Brazil?

NC: This was before that. This was Continental Illinois. Later they had the savings and loan crisis; Citibank was overexposed in Latin America. The federal government has to continually step in to insure that the financial institutions that it is letting run wild survive.

SG: Do you see any special characteristics to (the current) crisis?

NC: This is apparently considerably worse, for one thing, because no one seems to understand what is really going on. There was clearly a housing bubble and some of the better, more serious economists began writing about it a couple of years ago. So Dean Baker, for example, has been regularly pointing out that housing prices are completely unsustainable.

SG: Greenspan was saying it was a "froth," not a "bubble."

NC: Greenspan was saying, "Don't worry about it". It is the Greenspan crisis. It has turned into a crisis for the entire credit industry. And a major one.

I don't think that the banks and the hedge funds even understand the instruments that they are using, but they are very delicate and they could crash. I presume that the financial institutions are strong enough to be able to weather it somehow, but no one really knows. Just like no one knows whether China, Japan and Dubai and Singapore will continue to keep what, from their point of view, are poor investments in the U.S. economy -- treasury securities, or whether they will diversify. If they diversify, what happens to the U.S. economy? The U.S. has become a low production/high consumption economy. What happens if the Chinese, the Japanese and Dubai stop funding the American consumers? A lot of things could happen, but unlike poor countries, U.S. does not really have to pay its debts. There are a lot of ways to avoid doing so, but these are real hammer blows to the international economy, the kind that are not understood. The bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was described pretty well by Martin Wolf, the economic correspondent for the Financial Times. He says it is outrageous, a case of the public taking the risks and being forced to pay for the foolishness and incompetence of the private management of the market institutions. The public takes the risks and pays for the costs.

SG: So, the public debt goes up dramatically.

NC: Yes, enormously; liabilities from these takeovers are, I forget the number, but it is a substantial proportion of the national debt … I think, it is something like one-third of the deficit, the public debt. It is huge. That is the public debt, that's my grandchildren, you know. It is permitting financial institutions to run wild without regulation. So, if you allow unregulated capital, of course you will have corruption and disaster.

Read Adam Smith. He points out if you see two business men talking in the corner, they are probably arranging a conspiracy against the public. That's their job. It is not that they are bad people. That is just what they are supposed to do. Just like a corporation is not evil to try to maximize profit. If managers are not trying to maximize profit, they are breaking the law. They are not supposed to be ethical institutions; they are supposed to be operating in the interests of their shareholders.

SG: Because of the integrated nature of the global economy, are there others who would want to keep the American economy vibrant?

NC: Sure. That's why China buys U.S. treasury securities. They want to keep America spending.

SG: So, in a way that may be stabilizing.

NC: It is stabilizing, but it is a very uncertain kind of stability. They might decide to devote their resources to increase purchasing power inside China, for example, instead of inside the U.S. It is conceivable, which would mean a big shift in the international economy.

SG: If China makes a precipitous decision to do something -- for example, there is one fund, a sovereign fund; it is $200 billion dollars -- if they pull money out, will there be military threats from the U.S.?

NC: But what do the military threats mean from the U.S.? Of course, the U.S. outspends the rest of the world in military spending and is more technologically advanced. But what are they going to do? Are they going to bomb Beijing? I mean, they can't even control Afghanistan. Sure, they have a huge military, but I doubt that the U.S. will use it as a weapon. U.S. capacity to undermine governments by military threats has been declining in recent years.

Take Latin America, a region where the U.S. has regularly overthrown governments through military coups and so on. In the last ten years it has been very hard. The U.S. sponsored a military coup in Venezuela, but could not pull it off, had to back down, partly because the coup was immediately overthrown by popular uprising, and partly because of the uproar in Latin America, which said it would not tolerate this any longer. If you look at the history, this is quite a change. The U.S. and France did effectively carry out a military coup in Haiti and threw out the government, but Haiti is a desperate country. It was the richest colony in the world and the source of much of France's wealth, but it has been tortured by France and then the U.S. for 200 years. Now it barely survives. Overthrowing the government of Haiti was not that difficult a task.

SG: So, do you see a decline in the military ability of the U.S.?

NC: There is a very serious decline in the ability of the U.S. to undermine and overthrow governments. South America, for the first time since the European conquest 500 years ago, is moving, uneasily, but noticeably, in the direction of independence and gaining sovereignty. The U.S. is unable to do much about it. One of the main military bases for the United States until recently was Paraguay. The U.S. just lost Paraguay, with the recent election of a liberation theology priest. That was one of the few remaining U.S. military bases in South America.

In Central America, which was devastated by Reaganite terrorist wars, nevertheless, there are beginnings of a recovery. In Honduras, which was the center of the whole U.S. terrorist apparatus, President Zelaya has been moving towards alliances with Venezuela. There is not much that the U.S. can do about it. It's trying -- the training of Latin American officers has risen very sharply.

… In fact, if you look at U.S. aid to Latin America, the percentage of military aid, as compared to economic aid, is far higher now than at the peak of the Cold War. I think that the U.S. is trying to rebuild some kind of military capacity to deal with its loss of control over Latin America. It used to be able to overthrow governments easily or destroy a country back in the l980's, but now it is harder.

SG: [Daniel] Ortega was the second government leader to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I don't know if it was a good thing to do.

NC: Ortega is not one of my favorite characters. But it is a symbolic indication of the degree of independence. What is happening in Honduras is more significant. Honduras was a classic banana republic run by the U.S. during Reagan's terrorist wars in Central America. Honduras was the main base, not only for the Contra war, for support for the terrorist wars in El Salvador and Guatemala and so on. It was a regional war, remember.

SG: Isn't that where Negroponte was?

NC: That is where Negroponte was; he was the chief terrorist commander of the l980's. Literally, he was running the Contra war from Honduran bases, but also lying steadily about atrocities inside Honduras to make sure that congressional money flowed to Honduras for various wars in the region. John Negroponte, one of leading terrorist commanders of the modern period, was soon appointed the counterterrorism czar, with nobody raising an eyebrow.

The imperial mentality is something wondrous to behold. Here is one of the leading contemporary terrorists being appointed to be in charge of counterterrorism. Try to find a comment about it. If the U.S. carries out terrorism, it did not happen. But the point is, the U.S.'s capacity to carry out these activities has declined. So when Honduras is straying from its subservient role, that is pretty striking.

So I don't think that U.S. will use military force against China. For one thing, it is so much bigger. It is also a platform for production by U.S.-based corporations. It is commonly said that industrial production in the U.S. has declined. That is very misleading. If you take U.S. manufacturing industry and consider its share in global manufacturing, it probably hasn't changed. It's just that it is doing its production overseas. But, from the point of view of the CEO of Dell, what does it matter where they do their manufacturing? McKinsey, the big financial analysis house, did a study a year or two ago which was reported in the Wall Street Journal. They made an interesting calculation. They said, suppose that you analyze the U.S. trade deficit by considering the U.S., not as a place on a map, but in terms of the people who own the country (the corporate sector). If, say Dell, is bringing computers it makes in China into the U.S., we call those domestic production, not imports, which it is from the point of view of Dell management. It turns out that most of the trade deficit disappears.

So, if you take a realistic look at the international economy, from the point of view of the people who own this country, they are not in wonderful shape, but it is nowhere near as bad as the statistics look when you look at GDP. Other measures too are misleading. Take, say NAFTA, you hear from economists and government officials that NAFTA has sharply increased trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Well, a lot of that is fiction. Take the old Soviet Union; suppose that parts were produced in Leningrad and sent to Warsaw for assembly and then sent back to Moscow to sell. We did not call that trade because it was it was interactions internal to a command economy. Now take NAFTA. Suppose General Motors produces parts in Indiana, sends them to Northern Mexico for assembly and sells the cars in Los Angeles. Those are interactions internal to a command economy. But we call it trade, in both directions. That's just fraud.

There are not good statistics on this, because corporations don't tell you their secrets, but probably half of the so-called trade between U.S. and Mexico is internal transactions of this kind. An honest, realistic look at how the international economy functions would give a very different picture from what you read in the business pages or sometimes the economics journals.

SG: One question on the elections: If Obama wins, will that bring any changes in U.S. foreign policy?

NC: The prior question is whether he will win; my assumption all along is that McCain will probably win. Now that he has picked Sarah Palin as his vice president, I think those probabilities have increased, for reasons that are understood by party managers and have been expressed very well by McCain's campaign manager. He said the election is not about issues, it is about character and personality, and so on. Meaning, it is not a serious election. That is the way U.S. elections are run. Issues are marginalized. They don't talk about them and the media coverage is about Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons or Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter.

McCain is supposed to be a specialist on national security issues. Why? Suppose that some Russian pilot was shot down bombing heavily populated areas in Kabul and tortured by Reagan's freedom fighters in the l980's. Well, we might feel sorry for him, but does that make him an expert on National Security? But McCain is an expert on national security because he was shot down bombing heavily populated urban areas in Hanoi and he was tortured by the Vietnamese. Well, we feel sorry for him, but he is no expert on National Security. But you can't say that. These elections are run by the public relations industry. The intellectual community goes along. Issues are marginalized. The focus is on personalities, on Jeremiah Wright's sermons, Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter, or whatever it may be. In that terrain, the Republicans have a big advantage. They also have a formidable slander and vilification machine which has yet to go into full operation. They can appeal to latent racism, as they are already doing. They can construct a class issue. Obama is the elite Harvard liberal; McCain is the down to earth ordinary American, and it so happens that he is one of the richest people in the Senate. Same thing they pulled for Bush. You have to vote for Bush because he is the kind of guy you would like to meet in a bar and have a beer with; he wants to go back to his Ranch in Texas and cut brush. In reality he was a spoiled fraternity boy who went to an elite university and joined a secret society where the future rulers of the world are trained, and was able to succeed in politics because his family had wealthy friends. I am convinced, personally, that Bush was trained to mispronounce words to say things like "mis-underestimate" or "nu-cu-ler", so liberal intellectuals would make jokes about it; then the Republican propaganda machine could say see these elitist liberals who run the world are making fun of us ordinary guys who did not go to Harvard (but he did go to Yale, but forget it).

These are games run by the public relations industry, which is a huge industry. It spends enormous resources manipulating attitudes and opinions. They design and control elections so that public in effect is marginalized. They keep away from issues for a very good reason. We know a lot about American public opinion. It is a very heavily polled country, mainly because business wants to keep its finger on the public pulse. So there is a ton of information, valid information. On a host of major issues, domestic and international, both political parties are well to the right of the population. So therefore, you don't want to talk about issues, not if you want to keep the business parties in power. Further, the population is aware of this, but the press won't publish it; 80 percent of the population says the country is run by a few big interests, looking out for themselves, not the benefit of the people, By about 3 to one, people object to the fact that issues are not at the center of the campaigns. They want issues to be discussed, not personalities. Party managers know that, but they won't go along with it; it is too dangerous. They have got to make sure that the two factions of the business party, Republicans and Democrats, stay in power. So you don't deal with public concerns.

SG: Some on the Left and in the progressive community say that Obama's campaign is a historic opportunity

NC: I prefer that Obama be elected without any illusions. He is a centrist Democrat who will very likely back away from the more extreme, crazed elements of the Bush programs, but will go pretty much to the center. After all, what is traditional U.S. policy? So people were outraged by the Bush doctrine of preventive war? What was the Clinton doctrine? It was official. The Clinton doctrine was explicit, it was literally more extreme: The U.S. has the right to use force unilaterally to protect markets and access to raw materials without even the pretexts that Bush insisted on. Clinton said it quietly in a message to Congress. He was not brazen; he was not waving his fist in their face. We could pretend it was not there. Why did they bomb Serbia? It can't be reported here because it conflicts with the image of America's nobility and Serb villainy. We know from the highest levels of the Clinton administration, but it can't be reported.

Strobe Talbott, the highest Clinton administration official in charge of Eastern European affairs, wrote a forward to a book by his associate John Norris, in which he says, if you want to understand the thinking at highest levels of the Clinton Administration during the Kosovo war, this is the book that you have to read. Norris speaks with full acquaintance of the Clinton administration at top level. What does Norris say? He says that the bombing had nothing to do with concern with Kosovar Albanians. It was because Serbia was not carrying out the required social and economic reforms. In other words, it was the last holdout in Europe to the Clintonite neo-liberal policies. That is straight from the top level of the Clinton administration. You won't find a word about it in the press or in the intellectual journals because it conflicts with the party line.

This is a very free country, but also a much disciplined country. Intellectuals keep to the party line. They don't depart very far. Even though they are free to and they won't be punished for it. This is the most important information that has come out about the bombing of Serbia. Try to find it.

The same is true of Iran, the major upcoming foreign policy issue. The mere fact that the U.S. and its collaborators happen to be opposed by most of the world and by the majority of the American population cannot be published. Nobody knows it. Going back to the election, it is the same story, major issues of concern to the population have to be marginalized. It must stay focused on personalities; on character; on qualities. Everything we hear about McCain is that he is a war hero and so on. Even liberal critics, like James Carroll in the Boston Globe, says of this noble character that people who opposed the Vietnam war have to go to McCain to apologize. Why do we have to go to McCain to apologize? In Russia, did people who opposed the invasion of Afghanistan go to some pilot who was shot down to apologize? American and western intellectuals can't understand this, can't comprehend this. We can't do anything wrong; we only make mistakes.

Take Obama. I think that the talk about the surge is mostly false, but let's suppose it were true. Suppose that the U.S. surge had succeeded in cutting down violence in Iraq. What would that mean? That would mean that Bush was almost as successful as Putin was in Chechnya. The Russians destroyed the place, there were massacres, but It is quiet, it is rebuilding. The New York Times says there is a building boom, there is electricity. Do we praise Putin for that? No! We condemn him for that. The fact that they were able to pacify a country, you don't praise them for that. On the other hand, if the U.S. were able to achieve anything like that in Iraq, it would lead to accolades and praise. And Obama would be silenced. After all, he had no principled criticism of the war. His only criticism was that it was pointless, silly, or waste of money.

SG: Or, that it was a distraction from the war in Afghanistan, which has become the standard line. It gives the Democrats a chance to be for a war.

NC: It is kind of interesting, As the pretexts for the Iraq war are collapsing, weapons of mass destruction, promoting democracy, all of that, and it becomes harder to stand up to Iraqi opinion and even the Iraqi government which is pressing for withdrawal. As all of that is happening, there is a little honesty beginning to creep in about the real reasons for the war. Washington Post editors had a very interesting comment when Obama made his speech saying that Afghanistan is the top priority. They said, "He is making a terrible mistake; the priority is Iraq because Iraq is the country where the oil resources are, which is at the center of the Middle East's energy producing region." So, Iraq must be the top priority. Finally, they are telling the real reasons for the war -- after lying about it since 2003. Okay, no weapons of mass destruction, no promoting democracy, no liberation; we want to maintain control over energy resources. That's why we invaded. Sure.

SG: And Afghanistan?

NC: You can have a low intensity war going on for 30 years where you send predator drones to bomb madrassas in Pakistan and kill dozens of people. Who cares?

Subrata Ghoshroy is a research associate in the Science, Technology and Society program at MIT. He directs a project to promote nuclear stability in South Asia.


Subrata Ghoshroy is a research associate in the Science, Technology and Society program at MIT. He directs a project to promote nuclear stability in South Asia.
y in South Asia.

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