Thursday, February 12, 2009

..."everything he's done his supporters have some excuse" -Chomsky

From: Chomsky Interview Transcript After a month of putting this off, I was finally able to write the transcript down. My questions are italicized. Let me know if I missed something or got a word wrong. The transcript: I think that a lot of people are trying to figure this out. Is - what do you think Obama's - what do you think we can expect from Obama foreign policy-wise when talking about US-Middle East relations? Do you think he's really going to be like, the diplomat that he says he will be? What do you think? There's no evidence for that. The only evidence we have is what he said and what's on his website. And the appointments that he's made. What he's said is that he won't say anything about this. He'll say things about anything else but not this. So not about the invasion of Gaza and so on. If fact, he has said one thing, namely when he went to Israel last July he visited Sderot, the town which is targeted by rockets, and he said that, "If my daughters were here I would do anything to stop the rockets. That he's repeated again, as Israel is blasting people to smithereens in Gaza, that her would do anything to stop an attack on Sderot, period. That's all he'd say. His - on his website, it's just gushing love for Israel. Nothing about the Palestinians. I think he had some vague reference to a Palestinian state somewhere. But everything that's the in crucial importance of the defense of Israel. And he mentions Lebanon once, namely, he takes pride in his having sponsored a resolution during Israel's invasion of Lebanon saying that we should support Israel, that Israel should be permitted to go on, kill as many people as it likes and so on. So, those are statements. His appointments are just pro-Israeli hawks right down the line. Clinton, Dennis Ross, Dan Kurtzer. Kurtzer, who's the most moderate among them, and who is his Middle East advisor, was the co-author - or helper at least, in the speech that he gave to AIPAC which broke records in obsequiousness. No one has ever gone that far, In fact, he went so far that his campaign had to publicly withdraw some of his statements. He stated that, to AIPAC that, Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel. I mean, first of all, it's radically opposed to international law, it's against Security Council resolutions that the US supported, it's against US policy. It was so extreme that his campaign had to essentially retract it and say, "Well the words didn't mean what he said." And that's what we know. So you can guess what you want. A sensible guess right now would be that he'll probably be like the second Bush Administration. I remember, I think it was like, during the primaries, I was watching Go Meet The Press and they were talking to Ralph Nader, and Nader was saying how he doesn't trust Obama's foreign policy, and he said the reason why is because when Obama was first starting out his political career he was actually pro-Palestinian. And now he's become like, this pro-Israel apologist, and that just got me. I don't know if he was ever pro-Palestinian. He had a few Palestinian friends, but - whatever that means. But he's been very cagey about saying anything. In fact, his whole campaign was, well, it was striking for its vacuity. It was what the press called "soaring rhetoric", how much they admired him about hope and change, but essentially he presented himself as kind of a blank slate, which you could write whatever you want. I don't see any particular hope in his other plans either. Maybe the Secretary of Labor who has a good record, but if you run down the list of appointments they're all pretty much hawkish, maybe centrist at most. Do you think that there's a particular reason why he would, like, appoint all these hawks to his cabinet? Because before he said - he would say, "Oh, I'm going to be Mr. Diplomacy, I'm going to talk with our enemies. And then people were kind of..." I mean, if Bush had a third administration, then he'd talk to the Iranians too, because it's insane not to. But he's maintained the position that we must be - with regard to Iran, his position is the United States must be an outlaw state in radical violation of international law. That's what it means to say he's going to keep all options on the table. Well the UN Charter - he's a lawyer, he knows, the UN Charter explicitly bans the threat of force. The American population is overwhelmingly opposed to the threat of force, as is the whole world, but he says we've got to keep it open so we must be an outlaw state. But he's willing to talk to them before he goes on with the use of force. With regard to Iraq, he's described - even people on the left, as having had a principled opposition to the war. It's simply false. His only critique of the war is that it was what he calls a "strategic blunder". But, you know, that's no more principled than a Nazi general after Stalingrad who said the two front war was a strategic blunder. In fact, you can read things like that in Pravda during the 1980's, when commentators argued that it was a strategic blunder for the Russians to invade Afghanistan. We didn't call that a principled standard. It was totally unprincipled. In fact, I find it pretty hard to find a principled standard on anything. I heard that he voted for funding the war. He voted for funding the war, but I mean for everything he's done his supporters have some excuse. But, he'll be different when he gets into office, maybe, we can hope so, but we have normally - if we're judging on the base of evidence it's not consistent. And the same is true with his appointments. I mean, his first appointment was Vice President Joe Biden, one of the strongest supporters of the war in the Senate, and in fact an old time Washington insider. So much for change. His next appointment was Rahm Emanuel who was the only member of the Illinois Delegation to strongly support the war. He also - Emanuel, his background is in investment banking and he, I think, receives more funding from the financial insecurities industries than anyone else in Congress. And in fact Obama's campaign was largely financed by the same sources. That's Rahm Emanuel, and in fact Emanuel was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and asked what he - he's got an important position, he's Chief-of-Staff, he organizes, he gets to see what he does and so on - so he was asked what he would do about what the Journal called the "left-wing barons", like Barney Frank, who were calling for cutbacks on the military budget, modifying tax structure for renewable energy and so on, and he said, "Well, we have a pragmatic administration. Obama will be able to take care of the left-wing barons." He goes on through his economic policy. And the economic policy we get his - his advisors are the people who created our financial crisis - along from the big Clinton Administration, and it just goes down the line. That was - And his national security advisor, James Jones, is a super hawk. He wants to extend NATO to the south east which he told them, NATO should have its own intervention forces and so on. Well the other question that I wanted to ask you, and I think you kind of touched on it is that, Obama, when he was campaigning, he received a lot of support from big corporations and special interest, and I was wondering, how much influence do you think they will have on his policies as president? Well, the fund figures aren't yet in, but the April figures, if I recall correctly, showed that he got about a third or more of his support from financial - from the financial industry or a branch of it and a lot more from what they call law firms, but that means mostly lobbyists. There's pretty good evidence that funding of an election is a very good predictor of policy. In fact, there's a theory about it by a very good political economist, Thomas Ferguson, called - what he calls the investment theory of politics. And the basic idea is that what we call elections are occasions in which groups of investors call us to invest in control of the state. And he's done extensive work on this. His work will be coming out on this election soon. And it's a very good predictor of policy going back a century, including the New Deal and so on. So I think it's fair to assume that they'll be a substantial influence. And you can tell from his appointments. And they come straight out of the financial industry. Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary under Clinton, who lobbied to demolish the Glass Eagle Act, which separated - protected commercial banks from risky investments. He immediately quit treasury department and became the director of Citigroup where he personally benefitted from the breakup that he lobbied for. That's a violation of the Government and Ethics Act, that he should be, you know, going to jail. His successor, Lawrence Summers was Obama's other advisor, was responsible for blocking regulation of the exotic financial options. That's another part of the crisis. I think one good economist who - one of the few who actually was on top of this all the way and for so, Dean Baker, pointed out that Obama's appointments are like picking Osama bin Laden to run the War on Terror. Maybe it'll change, but who knows? But what we have is the evidence that exists. Posted by Julia

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