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AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to read to you what two people are writing. One is Ethan Bronner in the New York Times, saying, "Despite [Mr.] Mubarak’s supportive relations with Israel, many Israelis on both the left and right are sympathetic [to] the Egyptians’ desire to rid themselves of his autocracy and build a democracy. But they fear what will follow if things move too quickly." He quotes a top Israeli official saying, "We know this has to do with the desire for freedom, prosperity and opportunity, and we support people who don’t want to live under tyranny, but who will take advantage of what is happening in its wake?" The official goes on to say, "The prevailing sense here is that you need a certain stability followed by reform. Snap elections are likely to bring a very different outcome," the official said. And then there’s Richard Cohen, who’s writing in the Washington Post. And Richard Cohen writes—and let me see if I can find this clip. Richard Cohen writes that—let’s see if I can find it—"Things are about to go from bad to worse in the Middle East. An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is nowhere in sight." Noam Chomsky, your response?
NOAM CHOMSKY: The comment of the Israeli official is standard boilerplate. Stalin could have said it. Yes, of course, the people want peace and freedom, democracy; we’re all in favor of that. But not now, please. Because we don’t like what the outcome will be. In fact, it’s worth bearing—in the case—it’s the same with Obama. It’s more or less the same comment. On the other hand, the Israeli officials have been vociferous and outspoken in support of Mubarak and denunciation of the popular movement and the demonstrations. Perhaps only Saudi Arabia has been so outspoken in this regard. And the reason is the same. They very much fear what democracy would bring in Egypt. After all, they’ve just seen it in Palestine. There has been one free election in the Arab world, exactly one really free election—namely, in Palestine, January 2006, carefully monitored, recognized to be free, fair, open and so on. And right after the election, within days, the United States and Israel announced publicly and implemented policies of harsh attack against the Palestinian people to punish them for running a free election. Why? The wrong people won. Elections are just fine, if they come out the way we want them to. So, if in, say, Poland under Russian rule, popular movements were calling for freedom, we cheer. On the other hand, if popular movements in Central America are trying to get rid of brutal dictatorships, we send—we arm the military and carry out massive terrorist wars to crush it. We will cheer Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia standing up against the enemy, and at the very same moment, elite forces, fresh from renewed training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, under command of the military, blow the brains out of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, in El Salvador. That passes in silence. But those are the—that’s exactly the pattern that we see replicated over and over again. And it’s even recognized by conservative scholarship. The leading studies of—scholarly studies of what’s called "democracy promotion" happen to be by a good, careful scholar, Thomas Carruthers, who’s a neo-Reaganite. He was in Reagan’s State Department working on programs of democracy promotion, and he thinks it’s a wonderful thing. But he concludes from his studies, ruefully, that the U.S. supports democracy, if and only if it accords with strategic and economic objectives. Now, he regards this as a paradox. And it is a paradox if you believe the rhetoric of leaders. He even says that all American leaders are somehow schizophrenic. But there’s a much simpler analysis: people with power want to retain and maximize their power. So, democracy is fine if it accords with that, and it’s unacceptable if it doesn’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to ask you if you think the revelations from WikiLeaks,—right?—the U.S. diplomatic cables, before that, Iraq and Afghan war logs, this massive trove of documents that have been released, Julian Assange talking about the critical issue of transparency—have played a key role here. I mean, in terms of Tunisia, a young university graduate who ended up, because there were no jobs, just selling vegetables in a market, being harassed by police, immolates himself—that was the spark. But also, the documents that came out on Tunisia confirming the U.S. knowledge, while it supported the Tunisian regime, that it was wholly corrupt, and what this means from one country to another, Yemen, as well. Do you think there is a direct relationship? NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, the fact of the matter is that WikiLeaks are not really telling us anything dramatically new. They’re providing confirmation, often, of reasonable surmises. Tunisia was a very interesting case. So the ambassador did have a—one of the leaks comes from the ambassador, July 2009, and he describes Tunisia. He says it’s a police state with little freedom of expression or association, serious human rights problems, ruled by a dictator whose family is despised for their corruption, robbery of the population and so on. That’s the assessment of the ambassador. Not long after that, the U.S. singled out Tunisia for an extra shipment of military aid. Not just Tunisia, also two other Arab dictatorships—Egypt and Jordan—and of course Israel—it’s routine—and one other country, namely Colombia, the country with the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere for years and the leading recipient of U.S. military aid for years, two elements that correlate quite closely, it’s been shown.
Well, this tells you what the understanding was about Tunisia—namely, police state, a bitterly hated dictator and so on. But we send them more arms afterwards, because the population is quiet, so everything’s fine. Actually, there was a description by—a very succinct account of all of this by a former high Jordanian official who’s now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment, Marwan Muasher. He said, "This is the principle." He said, "There is nothing wrong. Everything is under control." Meaning, as long as the population is quiet, acquiescent—maybe fuming with rage, but doing nothing about it—everything’s fine, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all under control. That’s the operative principle. AMY GOODMAN: He’s a former Jordanian diplomat. NOAM CHOMSKY: Former Jordanian official, high official. AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happening now in Jordan, what you think is going to happen, and also in Saudi Arabia, how much it drives this and what you feel Obama needs to do and what you think he actually is doing? NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Jordan, the prime minister was just replaced. He was replaced with an ex-general who seems to be—is claimed to be moderately popular, at least not hated by the population. But essentially nothing changed. There are changes of the Jordanian cabinet frequently, and the basic system remains. Whether the population will accept that, whether the Muasher principle will work—nothing’s wrong, everything’s under control—that, we don’t know. Saudi Arabia is an interesting case. Saudi Arabia—the king of Saudi Arabia has been, along with Israel, the strongest supporter, most outspoken supporter of Mubarak. And the Saudi Arabian case should remind us of something about the regular commentary on this issue. The standard line and commentary is that, of course, we love democracy, but for pragmatic reasons we must sometimes reluctantly oppose it, in this case because of the threat of radical Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, you know, there’s maybe some—whatever one thinks of that. Take a look at Saudi Arabia. That’s the leading center of radical Islamist ideology. That’s been the source of it for years. The United States has—it’s also the support of Islamic terror, the source for Islamic terror or the ideology that supports it. That’s the leading U.S. ally, and has been for a long, long time. The U.S. supported—U.S. relations, close relations, with Israel, incidentally, after the 1967 war, escalated because Israel had struck a serious blow against secular Arab nationalism, the real enemy, Nasser’s Egypt, and in defense of radical Islam, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and Egypt had been in a proxy war just before that, and there was a major conflict. And that’s quite typical. Probably the most—going back to WikiLeaks, maybe the most significant revelation has to do with Pakistan. In Pakistan, the WikiLeaks cables show that the ambassador, Ambassador Patterson, is pretty much on top of what’s going on. There’s enormous—the phrase "campaign of hatred against the United States" is an understatement. The population is passionately anti-American, increasingly so, largely, as she points out, as a result of U.S. actions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the pressure on the Pakistani military to invade the tribal zones, the drone attacks and so on. And she goes on to say that this may even lead to the—what is in fact the ultimate nightmare, that Pakistan’s enormous nuclear facilities, which incidentally are being increased faster than anywhere else in the world, that these—there might be leakage of fissile materials into the hands of the radical Islamists, who are growing in strength and gaining popular support as a result of—in part, as a result of actions that we’re taking. Well, this goes back to—this didn’t happen overnight. The major factor behind this is the rule of the dictator Zia-ul-Haq back in the 1980s. He was the one who carried out radical Islamization of Pakistan, with Saudi funding. He set up these extremist madrassas. The young lawyers who were in the streets recently shouting their support for the assassin of the political figure who opposed the blasphemy laws, they’re a product of those madrassas. Who supported him? Ronald Reagan. He was Reagan’s favorite dictator in the region. Well, you know, events have consequences. You support radical Islamization, and there are consequences. But the talk about concern about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whatever its reality, is a little bit ironic, when you observe that the U.S. and, I should say, Britain, as well, have traditionally supported radical Islam, in part, sometimes as a barrier to secular nationalism. What’s the real concern is not Islam or radicalism; it’s independence. If the radical Islamists are independent, well, they’re an enemy. If secular nationalists are independent, they are an enemy. In Latin America, for decades, when the Catholic Church, elements of the Catholic Church, were becoming independent, the liberation theology movement, they were an enemy. We carried out a major war against the church. Independence is what’s intolerable, and pretty much for the reasons that the National Security Council described in the case of the Arab world 50 years ago.