November 24, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Professor Noam Chomsky
'There is no justification for the war in Aghanistan'
In the last fortnight, one of the world's most incisive thinkers and a vociferous critics of American foreign policy, Professor Noam Chomsky, has enthralled audiences across India.

Professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky's anti-US tirade was especially applauded in West Bengal and Kerala. Marxist politicians, college lecturers and students trouped in droves to listen to him and discuss the issues that dominate the world today -- the war in Afghanistan, terrorism, globalisation and the clash of civilisations.

Just before he set out for a face-to-face dialogue with the staff and faculty of Maharaja's College in Kerala, Professor Chomsky spoke to George Iype in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Has September 11 changed history?

It has changed history because guns have been turned against the United States. Indeed, the September 11 attack on the US was a terrible atrocity. But the incident was not unusual. Much of the world has been subjected to much worse atrocities over the years. The US is now destroying Afghanistan because the Taleban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden unless the Bush administration gave some evidence [of his involvement in the attacks]. The US refused to provide any evidence.

The US and Europe are supposed to attack and destroy others, but they are not supposed to be attacked themselves. It is the first time in the history of the USA and in fact the first time in the history of Europe that guns have been turned in their direction. That is a dramatic change in history. So far, Europe and USA have countered the world in a grimly brutal fashion, by massive extermination of peoples across the world. So far, Europe and USA have been immune to any attacks and retaliation from outside. So you can understand the shock and impact of September 11.

You mean the US should not have attacked Afghanistan without offering evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 tragedy?

There is no justification for the US war in Afghanistan because it is being carried out to suit American interests. The US has not cared to show the world any hard evidence to prove that a particular person or a country is behind the September 11 attacks.

What method then do you suggest the Bush administration should have embarked on before bombing Afghanistan?

The US has no right to kill thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan in the name of catching one person called Osama bin Laden. Instead, it should have pondered deep into the background of the September 11 attacks. It should have offered evidence, accepted the Taleban offer of negotiations, and asked for bin Laden.

But has the US been practising what it is preaching? No. In the US, there is a Haitian leader -- Emmanuel Constant -- of a paramilitary force in exile, who has been tried and convicted in Haiti for murdering over 5,000 people. But the US won't hand him over because of its complicity in the incident. It is not even reported in the US media. I do feel the US is now carrying out terrorism in Afghanistan because its war is killing thousands of innocents.

What do you mean by US terrorism?

The US leads the pack of rich and powerful nations that carry out international terrorism on smaller nations. The US is the only country in the world that has been criticised by the International Court of Justice for perpetuating terrorism in Nicaragua. Who nurtured the Islamic terrorist organisations in the world? It is the Central Intelligence Agency that has been aiding and abetting terrorist outfits across the world, all for the diplomatic, strategic and economic advantages of the US. So Osama bin Laden, for whom the US has been bombing a poor country like Afghanistan, has been the creation of the US.

The US is not alone in this war. There are a number of powerful supporters to the US cause in Afghanistan for their own strategic interests, not for wiping out terrorism and for the betterment of the world. India and Pakistan have been trying to win over the US, all because of Kashmir. The United Kingdom supports the US in all the crimes. Russia is eager to support the US action because it wants the Bush administration's tacit approval in Chechnya. China wants to legitimise the massacre of Muslims in western China. So all these powerful nations are in the same league. They all are setting up terrorist groups and training them. So how can the US call it a global fight against terrorism?

How do you think the world should fight terrorism? Should the United Nations take the initiative?

The biggest problem is that the world's most powerful country, the US, behaves like a mafia head. The US has completely disregarded the United Nations because it wants to carry out its policy of terror across the world. There cannot be any global fight against terrorism unless and until the US changes its policies. During the Cold War, the two superpowers -- US and Russia -- carried out atrocities in their own domain. In the case of Russia, it was Afghanistan and Chechnya. In the case of the US, it was all over the world. Both sides claimed that the actions were against the other superpower.

But the Cold War policies have changed.

Not at all. The Cold War may be over. But these days, the policies remain the same, only the pretexts have changed. It is another reason why the US military budgets have been increasing year after year. It is not a defence against Russia anymore. It is against the technological sophistication of the Third World. The US believes that globalisation has deeply polarised the handful of rich and the poor worldwide. To keep the poor nations in control, you need new military systems.

Do you think the September 11 attacks were the result of a clash of civilisations?

It is US propaganda that the current war against terrorism is the result of a clash of civilisations. It is complete nonsense. There is no clash of civilisations in the current war. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was necessary for the US to invent new pretexts to carry out the same policies. And one of the pretexts, terms invented by the academic world, is the clash of civilisations. So, before, the US was fighting communism. Now it is fighting the civilisation of Islam or whatever.

You know, it is all nonsense. If you look at the alignment of the world, you see that there is not simply any clash of civilisations. The most fundamentalist Islamic state in the world is Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is the favourite country of the US. The biggest Muslim state in the world is Indonesia, which is one of the most favoured nations by the US. An Indonesian general in 1965 carried out a huge massacre, killing over a million people, mostly peasants, and destroyed the only mass-based communist party in the country. Since then Indonesia has been in the US favour. So the US has been carrying out policies for its own strategic benefits.

Many people these days term the current war in different terms. Some call it the clash of civilisations. Others say it is all because of globalisation.

How do you describe the impact of globalisation?

The term globalisation is very seriously misused in contemporary ideology. Globalisation just means international integration. That is a fine thing. So everyone is in favour of globalisation. But the term is now used in a special way. It is used to refer to a specific form of international economic integration that has been imposed in the past 25 years by a small sector of wealthy and powerful nations, the international financial and corporate sectors they control.

The power of Western nations and institutions is so enormous that their notion of globalisation has become the common term. So when we talk about globalisation we should be careful to make clear that we are referring to a specific doctrine of construction related to concentrated power. The impact of globalisation on education and employment is harmful.

Has the current form of globalisation been harming the economies of many nations?

Yes, globalisation is harming the economies of many poor and even rich nations, contrary to the propaganda you hear. The world economy or its rate of growth has declined significantly in the last 25 years. For instance, in the United States, the rate of the growth of the economy or productivity has slowed considerably and for most of its population it has been an extremely poor period in terms of income, working hours and so on. There has been enormous concentration of wealth and power in various sectors. But general economic growth has slowed considerably under globalisation.

Surprisingly, even trade has slowed down in the last 25 years. In general, it is a pretty gloomy period for most of the world under globalisation. One of the crucial aspects of globalisation is to undermine democratic functioning, to move decisions from the public democratic arena, to move decisions to private hands, to the unaccountable concentration of wealth and power. Globalisation has taken resources away from education and it has taken resources away from the public, and transformed them into unaccountable private hands.

The average wages in the US are now lower for 70 per cent of the population if you compare with the situation 20 years ago. Meanwhile, working hours have increased dramatically. An average family in the US works about a month and half in a year more than they did 10 years ago. But their security of life has been very sharply reduced. People do not know whether they are going to have a job or not. That is similar in Europe and other developed nations.

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