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(en) UK Solidarity Federation - DA #27 - Imperial Ambition

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 18 Jun 2003 08:49:30 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

An interview with Noam Chomsky, by David Barsamian
DB: What are the regional implications of the US invasion and
occupation of Iraq?
Noam Chomsky: I think not only the region but the world in general
perceives it correctly as a kind of an easy test case to try to establish
a norm for use of military force, which was declared in general terms
last September, when the National Security Strategy of the United
States of America was issued. It presented a somewhat novel and
unusually extreme doctrine on the use of force in the world. And
itís hard not to notice that the drumbeat for war in Iraq coincided
with that. It also coincided with the onset of the congressional
campaign. All these are tied together.

The new doctrine was not one of preemptive war, which arguably falls
within some stretching of the U.N. Charter, but rather of something
that doesnít even begin to have any grounds in international law,
namely, preventive war. The doctrine, you recall, was that the United
States would rule the world by force, and that if there is any challenge
perceived to its domination, a challenge perceived in the distance,
invented, imagined, whatever, then the US will have the right to
destroy that challenge before it becomes a threat. Thatís
preventive war, not preemptive war.

And if you want to declare a doctrine, a powerful state has the
capacity to create what is called a new norm. So if India invades
Pakistan to put an end to monstrous atrocities, thatís not a norm.
But if the United States bombs Serbia on dubious grounds, thatís a
norm. Thatís what power means.

So if you want to establish a new norm, you have to do something. And
the easiest way to do it is to select a completely defenseless target,
which can be completely overwhelmed by the most massive military
force in human history. However, in order to do that credibly, at least
to your own population, you have to frighten them. So the defenseless
target has to be turned into an awesome threat to survival which was
responsible for September 11 and is about to attack us again, and so
on and so forth. And that was indeed done. Beginning last September,
there was a massive effort which substantially succeeded in
convincing Americans, alone in the world, that Saddam Hussein is not
only a monster but a threat to their existence. That was the content of
the October congressional resolution and a lot of things since. And it
shows in the polls. And by now, about half the population even
believes that he was responsible for September 11.

So all this falls together. You have the doctrine pronounced. You have
a norm established in a very easy case. The population is driven into a
panic and, alone in the world, believes fantasies of this kind and,
therefore, is willing to support military force in self-defense. And if
you believe this, then it really is self-defense. So itís kind of like a
textbook example of aggression, with the purpose of extending the
scope of further aggression. Once the easy case is handled, you can
move on to think of harder cases.

Those are the main reasons why so much of the world is
overwhelmingly opposed to the war. Itís not just the attack on
Iraq. Many people perceive it correctly as exactly the way itís
intended, as a firm statement that you had better watch out, weíre
on the way. Thatís why the United States is now regarded as the
greatest threat to peace in the world by probably the vast majority of
the population of the world. George Bush has succeeded within a year
in converting the United States to a country that is greatly feared,
disliked, and even hated.

DB: A slogan we have all heard at peace rallies is "No Blood for Oil".
The whole issue of oil is often referred to as the driving force behind
the US attack and occupation of Iraq. How central is oil to US

NC: Itís undoubtedly central. I donít think any sane person
doubts that. The Gulf region is the main energy-producing region of the
world. It has been since the Second World War. Itís expected to
be at least for another generation. Itís a huge source of strategic
power, of material wealth. And Iraq is absolutely central to it. It has
the second largest oil reserves. Itís very easily accessible, cheap.
To control Iraq is to be in a very strong position to determine the price
and production levels, not too high, not too low, to probably undermine
OPEC, and to swing your weight around throughout the world.
Thatís been true since the Second World War. It has nothing in
particular to do with access to the oil; the US doesnít really intend
to access it. But it does have to do with control. So thatís in the
background. If Iraq was somewhere in Central Africa, it wouldnít
be chosen for this test case. So thatís certainly there in the
background, just as itís there in less crucial regions, like Central
Asia. However, it doesnít account for the specific timing of the
operation, because thatís a constant concern.

DB: A 1945 State Department document on Middle East oil described
it as "...a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the
greatest material prizes in world history". The US imports 15% of its
oil from Venezuela. It also imports oil from Colombia and Nigeria. All
three of those states are perhaps, from Washingtonís perspective,
somewhat problematic right now, with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and
serious internal conflicts, literally civil war, in Colombia, and uprisings
in Nigeria threatening oil supplies there. What do you think about
those factors?

NC: Thatís very pertinent, and those are the regions where the US
actually intends to have access. The Middle East it wants to control.
But, at least according to intelligence projections, the US intends to
rely on what they regard as more stable Atlantic Basin resources -
Atlantic Basin means West Africa and the Western Hemisphere -
which are more totally under US control than the Middle East, which
is a difficult region. So the projections are: control the Middle East,
but maintain access to the Atlantic Basin, including the countries you
mentioned. It does, therefore, follow that lack of conformity, disruption
of one kind or another, in those areas is a significant threat, and there
is very likely to be another episode like Iraq, if this one works the way
the civilian planners at the Pentagon hope. If itís an easy victory,
no fighting, establish a new regime which you will call democratic, and
not too much catastrophe, if it works like that, they are going to be
emboldened on to the next step.

And the next step, you can think of several possibilities. One of them,
indeed, is the Andean region. The US has military bases all around it
now. There are military forces right in there. Colombia and Venezuela
are both, especially Venezuela, substantial oil producers, and there is
more elsewhere, like Ecuador, and even Brazil. Yes, thatís a
possibility, that the next step in the campaign of preventive wars, once
the so-called norm is established and accepted, would be to go on
there. Another possibility is Iran.

DB: Indeed, Iran. The US was advised by none other than that, as
Bush called him, "man of peace", Sharon, to go after Iran "the day
after" they finish with Iraq. What about Iran? A designated axis-of-evil
state and also a country that has a lot of oil.

NC: As far as Israel is concerned, Iraq has never been much of an
issue. They consider it a kind of pushover. But Iran is a different story.
Iran is a much more serious military and economic force. And, for
years, Israel has been pressing the United States to take on Iran. Iran
is too big for Israel to attack, so they want the big boys to do it.

And itís quite likely that the war may already be under way. A
year ago, over 10 percent of the Israeli air force was reported to be
permanently based in eastern Turkey, that is, in huge US military
bases in eastern Turkey. And they are reported to be flying
reconnaissance over the Iranian border. In addition, there are credible
reports that the US and Turkey and Israel are attempting to stir up
Azeri nationalist forces in northern Iran to move towards a kind of a
linkage of parts of Iran with Azerbaijan. There is a kind of an axis of
US-Turkish-Israeli power in the region opposed to Iran that may
ultimately, perhaps, lead to the split-up of Iran and, maybe, military
attack. Although there will be a military attack only if itís taken for
granted that Iran would be basically defenseless. Theyíre not
going to invade anyone who can fight back.

DB: Youíve described the level of public protest and resistance to
the Iraq war as "unprecedented"; never before has there been so much
opposition before a war. Where is that resistance going?

NC: I donít know any way to predict human affairs. It will go the
way people decide it will go. There are many possibilities. It should
intensify. The tasks are now much greater and more serious than they
were before. On the other hand, itís harder. Itís just
psychologically easier to organise to oppose a military attack than it is
to oppose a long-standing programme of imperial ambition, of which
this attack is one phase, and of which others are going to come next.
That takes more thought, more dedication, more long-term
engagement. Itís the difference between deciding, "okay, Iím
in this for the long haul" and saying, "okay, Iím going out to a
demonstration tomorrow and then back home". Those are choices, all
of them. The same in the civil rights movement, the womenís
movement, anything.

DB: What do you say to the peace activists who laboured for so long
trying to prevent the invasion of Iraq, and who are now feeling a sense
of anger and sadness?

NC: That they should be realistic. Abolitionism. How long did the
struggle go on before they made any progress? If you give up every
time you donít achieve the immediate gain you want, youíre
just guaranteeing that the worst is going to happen. These are long,
hard struggles. And, in fact, what happened in the last couple of
months should be seen quite positively. The basis was created for
expansion and development of a peace and justice movement that will
move on to much harder tasks. And thatís the way these things
go. It isnít asy.

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