Tag Archives: Noam Chomsky

Hugo Chavez has message for Obama

Eduardo Galeano- Open veins of Latin America, 1998Hugo Chavez met Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas, and presented this gift to the American president: “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. At the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, Chavez held aloft Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance,” encouraging everyone to read it. Is there a common theme to the dark-skinned Chavez’s book recommendations? Chavez’ critics from the Venezuelan upper middle class think he’s no brighter than a monkey. His message, educate yourselves.

Eduardo GaleanoEduardo Galeano was interviewed by Amy Goodman on the day Barack Obama learned he had won the election. Galeano had this hope for the first US President of color: that he never forget that the White House, his new home, had been built by black slaves.

By the way, Galeano’s classic, with which Hugo Chavez hopes to bring Obama up to speed, was published in 1971.

When Obama won the 2008 election, Eduardo Galeano wrote this essay: I HOPE.

10 November 2008

Will Obama prove, at the helm of government, that his threats of war against Iran and Pakistan were only words, broadcast to seduce difficult ears during the election campaign?

I hope. And I hope he will not fall, even for a moment, for the temptation to repeat the exploits of George W. Bush. After all, Obama had the dignity to vote against the Iraq war, while the Democratic and Republican parties were applauding the announcement of this carnage.

In his campaign, the word most often repeated in his speeches was leadership. In his administration, will he continue to believe that his country has been chosen to save the world, a toxic idea that he shares with almost all his colleagues? Will he insist on the United States’ global leadership and its messianic mission to take command?

I hope the current crisis, which is shaking the imperial foundations, will serve at least to give the new administration a bath of realism and humility.

Will Obama accept that racism is normal when it is used against the countries that his country invades? Isn’t it racism to count the deaths of invaders in Iraq, one by one, and arrogantly ignore the many dead among the invaded population? Isn’t this world racist, where there are first-, second-, and third-class citizens, and the first-. second-, and third-class dead?

Obama’s victory was universally hailed as a battle won against racism. I hope he will assume, in his acts of government, this great responsibility.

Will the Obama government confirm, once again, that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are two names of the same party?

I hope the desire for change, which these elections have established, will be more than a promise and more than a hope. I hope the new government has the courage to break with the tradition of the one and only party, disguised as two parties which at the moment of truth do more or less the same thing while simulating a fight.

Will Obama fulfill his promise to shut down the evil Guantánamo prison?

I hope, and I hope he will end the evil blockade of Cuba.

Will Obama continue to believe that it is great to have a wall that prevents Mexicans from crossing the border, while money moves without anyone asking for its passport?

During the election campaign, Obama never honestly confronted the subject of immigration. I hope, now that he is no longer in danger of scaring voters away, he can and wants to break down this wall, much longer and more embarrassing than the Berlin Wall, and all the walls that violate people’s right to free movement.

Will Obama, who so enthusiastically supported the recent little gift of 750 billion dollars to bankers, govern, as usual, to socialize losses and privatize profits?

I’m afraid so, but I hope not.

Will Obama sign and comply with the Kyoto Protocol, or will he continue to give the privilege of impunity to the nation that is poisoning the planet the most? Will he govern for cars or for people? Can he change the murderous course of the lifestyle of the few who are risking the fate of all?

I’m afraid not, but I hope so.

Will Obama, the first black president in the history of the United States, realize the dream of Martin Luther King or the nightmare of Condoleezza Rice?

The White House, which is now his house, was built by black slaves. I hope he won’t forget it, ever.

Uri Avnery- the Noam Chomsky of Israel

Under a black flagNoam Chomsky is now widely recognized world wide as America’s most prominent dissident, and that is exactly the same role that Uri Avnery plays in being seen world wide as Israel’s most prominent dissident. Following is Uri Avnery speaking about the role of the Israeli military’s house rabbis in the commission of war crimes by the ‘Jewish State’.

‘In the last decades, the state-financed religious educational system has churned out “rabbis” who are more like medieval Christian priests than the Jewish sages of Poland or Morocco. This system indoctrinates its pupils with a violent tribal cult, totally ethnocentric, which sees in the whole of world history nothing but an endless story of Jewish victimhood. This is a religion of a Chosen People, indifferent to others, a religion without compassion for anyone who is not Jewish, which glorifies the God-decreed genocide described in the Biblical book of Joshua.’

His entire comments about Israel’s most recent war crimes committed in Gaza can be read in his most recent essay, Black Flag.

Noam Chomsky criticizes Human Rights Watch’s pro US government propaganda

In an open letter to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, over 100 experts on Latin America criticized the organization’s recent report on Venezuela, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, saying that it “does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.”

Thus begins a letter signed by More Than 100 Experts (whom) Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report, including Noam Chomsky. It’s about time that this phony front for the US State Department’s foreign policy objectives, claiming to be a human rights organization, gets taken to task for its reactionary posturing.

Too often, many corporate funded ‘non governmental organizations’ (NGOs) are given a pass on the propaganda they spread, often times in the cause of supporting US governmental interventionism (sanctions, war, etc.) against other countries. Many of these organizations spout a lot of seemingly liberal rhetoric, but their goals are in line with the most reactionary US governmental goals, policies and objectives.

It’s nice to see Noam Chomsky lending his name to the list of signatories here. That means that many who might not have paid any attention to this criticism of Human Rights Watch, may now look up and take some notice about how this group is funded and operates?

Chomsky: the US public is irrelevant

Al Jazeera’s INSIDE USA has a recent interview with Noam Chomsky. Chomsky: US public irrelevant. The partial transcript is mirrored below, as is the 2-part video: part 1 and part 2.

Part 2 of the interview:

Partial transcript:

AVI LEWSI: I’d like to start by talking about the US presidential campaign. In writing about the last election in 2004, you called America’s system a “fake democracy” in which the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, and you’ve been arguing in your work in the last year or so that the candidates this time around are considerably to the right of public opinion on all major issues.

So, the question is, do Americans have any legitimate hope of change this time around? And what is the difference in dynamic between America’s presidential “cup” in 2008 compared to 2004 and 2000?

NOAM CHOMSKY: There’s some differences, and the differences are quite enlightening. I should say, however, that I’m expressing a very conventional thought – 80 per cent of the population thinks, if you read the words of the polls, that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves not for the population [and] 95 per cent of the public thinks that the government ought to pay attention to public opinion but it doesn’t.

As far as the elections are concerned, I forget the exact figure but by about three to one people wish that the elections were about issues, not about marginal character qualities and so on. So I’m right in the mainstream.

There’s some interesting differences between 2004 and 2008 and they’re very revealing, it’s kind of striking that the commentators don’t pick that up because it’s so transparent.

The main domestic issue for years … is the health system – which is understandable as it’s a total disaster.

The last election debate in 2004 was on domestic issues … and the New York Times the next day had an accurate description of it. It said that [former Democratic presidential candidate John] Kerry did not bring up any hint of government involvement in healthcare because it has so little political support, just [the support of] the large majority of the population.

But what he meant was it was not supported by the pharmaceutical industry and wasn’t supported by the financial institutions and so on.

In this election the Democratic candidates all have [health] programmes that are not what the public are asking for but are approaching it and could even turn into it, so what happened between 2004 and 2008?

It’s not a shift in public opinion – that’s the same as before, what happened is a big segment of US corporate power is being so harmed by the healthcare system that they want it changed, namely the manufacturing industry.

So, for example, [car manufacturer] General Motors says that it costs them maybe $1,500 more to produce a car in Detroit then across the border in Windsor, Canada, just because they have a more sensible healthcare system there.

Well, when a big segment of corporate America shifts its position, then it becomes politically possible and has political support. So, therefore, you can begin to talk about it.

AL: But those aren’t changes coming from pressure from below?

CHOMSKY: No, the public is the same, it’s been saying the same for decades, but the public is irrelevant, is understood to be irrelevant. What matters is a few big interests looking after themselves and that’s exactly what the public sees.

AL: And yet, you can see people agitating against the official story, even within the electoral process. There is definitely a new mood in the US, a restlessness among populations who are going to political rallies in unprecedented numbers.

What do you make of this well branded phenomenon of hope – which is obviously part marketing – but is it not also part something else?

CHOMSKY: Well that’s Barack Obama. He has his way, he presents himself – or the way his handlers present him – as basically a kind of blank slate on which you can write whatever you like and there are a few slogans: Hope, unity …

AL: Change?

CHOMSKY: Understandable that Obama is generating “enthusiasm” [Reuters]
For most people in the US the past 30 years have been pretty grim. Now, it’s a rich country, so it’s not like living in southern Africa, but for the majority of the population real wages have stagnated or declined for the past 30 years, there’s been growth but it’s going to the wealthy and into very few pockets, benefits which were never really great have declined, work hours have greatly increased and there isn’t really much to show for it other than staying afloat.

And there is tremendous dissatisfaction with institutions, there’s a lot of talk about Bush’s very low poll ratings, which is correct, but people sometimes overlook the fact that congress’s poll ratings are even lower.

In fact all institutions are just not trusted but disliked, there’s a sense that everything is going wrong.

So when somebody says “hope, change and unity” and kind of talks eloquently and is a nice looking guy and so on then, fine.

AL: If the elite strategy for managing the electorate is to ignore the will of the people as you interpret it through polling data essentially, what is an actual progressive vision of changing the US electoral system? Is it election finance, is it third party activism?

CHOMSKY: We have models right in front of us. Like pick, say, Bolivia, the poorest county in South America. They had a democratic election a couple of years ago that you can’t even dream about in the US. It’s kind of interesting it’s not discussed; it’s a real democratic election.

A large majority of the population became organised and active for the first time in history and elected someone from their own ranks on crucial issues that everyone knew about – control of resource, cultural rights, issues of justice, you know, really serious issues.

And, furthermore, they didn’t just do it on election day by pushing a button, they’ve been struggling about these things for years.

A couple of years before this they managed to drive Bechtel and the World Bank out of the country when they were trying to privatise the war. It was a pretty harsh struggle and a lot of people were killed.

Well, they reached a point where they finally could manifest this through the electoral system – they didn’t have to change the electoral laws, they had to change the way the public acts. And that’s the poorest country in South America.

Actually if we look at the poorest country in the hemisphere – Haiti – the same thing happened in 1990. You know, if peasants in Bolivia and Haiti can do this, it’s ridiculous to say we can’t.

AL: The Democrats in this election campaign have been talking a lot, maybe less so more recently, about withdrawing from Iraq.

What are the chances that a new president will significantly change course on the occupation and might there be any change for the people of Iraq as a result of the electoral moment in the US?

CHOMSKY: Well, one of the few journalists who really covers Iraq intimately from inside is Nir Rosen, who speaks Arabic and passes for Arab, gets through society, has been there for five or six years and has done wonderful reporting. His conclusion, recently published, as he puts it, is there are no solutions.

This has been worse than the Mongol invasions of the 13th century – you can only look for the least bad solution but the country is destroyed.

The war on Iraq has been a catastrophe, Chomsky says [AFP]
And it has in fact been catastrophic. The Democrats are now silenced because of the supposed success of the surge which itself is interesting, it reflects the fact that there’s no principled criticism of the war – so if it turns out that your gaining your goals, well, then it was OK.

We didn’t act that way when the Russians invaded Chechnya and, as it happens, they’re doing much better than the US in Iraq.

In fact what’s actually happening in Iraq is kind of ironic. The Iraqi government, the al-Maliki government, is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran, the so-called army – just another militia – is largely based on the Badr brigade which is trained in Iran, fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq war, was part of the hated Revolutionary Guard, it didn’t intervene when Saddam was massacring Shiites with US approval after the first Gulf war, that’s the core of the army.

The figure who is most disliked by the Iranians is of course Muqtada al-Sadr, for the same reason he’s disliked by the Americans – he’s independent.

If you read the American press, you’d think his first name was renegade or something, it’s always the “renegade cleric” or the “radical cleric” or something – that’s the phrase that means he’s independent, he has popular support and he doesn’t favour occupation.

Well, the Iranian government doesn’t like him for the same reason. So, they [Iran] are perfectly happy to see the US institute a government that’s receptive to their influence and for the Iraqi people it’s a disaster.

And it’ll become a worse disaster once the effects of the warlordism and tribalism and sectarianism sink in more deeply.