Posts Tagged ‘Expression’

Chomsky, Zinn, … : Have they tripped?

3 December 2007

“Our Friends in Bengal.

News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancor that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive. We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state (land reforms, local self-government).

We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favor.

The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.

Noam Chomsky, author, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
Tariq Ali, author, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope and editor, New Left Review.
Howard Zinn, author, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.“ et al.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: ElBaradei, is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated quite definitively there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. The recent resolution—the Kyle-Lieberman amendment—and the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, which one of the charges is that Iran has been helping what they call insurgents in Iraq. There’s practically no evidence of that either. Based on what we know as evidence, there’s not a lot of reasons for U.S. policy to be as aggressive right now towards Iran as it is, certainly not for the stated reason. What really does motivate U.S. policy towards Iran?

NOAM CHOMSKY, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, MIT: Well, if I can make a comment about the stated reasons, the very fact that we’re discussing them tells us a lot about the sort of intellectual culture and moral culture in the United States. I mean, suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq’s a country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You can’t have a serious discussion about whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the discussion is that we own the world. So if we invade and occupy another country, then it’s a criminal act for anyone to interfere with it. What about the nuclear weapons? I mean, are there countries with nuclear weapons in the region? Israel has a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. The United States gives more support to it than any other country in the world. The Bush administration is trying very hard to push through an agreement that not only authorizes India’s illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons but assists it. That’s what the U.S.-Indo Nuclear Pact is about. And, furthermore, there happens to be an obligation of the states in the Security Council and elsewhere to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. Now that would include Iran and Israel and any U.S. forces deployed there. That’s part of Resolution 687. Now to your question. The real reasons for the attack on Iran, the sanctions, and so on go back into history. I mean, we like to forget the history; Iranians don’t. In 1953, the United States and Britain overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah, who ruled until 1979. And during his rule, incidentally, the United States was strongly supporting the same programs they’re objecting to today. In 1979, the population overthrew the dictator, and since then the United States has been essentially torturing Iran. First it tried a military coup. Then it supported Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Then, after that was over, the United States started imposing harsh sanctions on Iran. And now it’s escalating that. The point is: Iran is out of control. You know, it’s supposed to be a U.S.-client state, as it was under the Shah, and it’s refusing to play that role.

It is completely baffling to call India’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as illegal. What kind of illegality Chomsky has in mind only he can tell. But is it possible to hazard a few guesses?

1.      In international law, or at least praxis, the doors to ‘Nuclear Weapons States club’ were firmly shut for everyone else in 1962 except for those who were already in – namely the five permanent members of the security council with a veto power (World democracy was already dead).  Acquisition of nuclear weapons by any country subsequently is illegal.

2.      US Atomic Energy act explicitly forbids nuclear cooperation with a country like India that has not signed NPT or CTBT and has indeterminate status of non-nuclear weapons state with nuclear weapons. India acquired nuclear weapons on its own. What Bush is trying to do is open up the nuclear reactors market in India for US corporations, who have not built a single reactor in USA for over last 25 years, by getting India on-board the IAEA & NSG without signing NPT or CTBT.  The ruse used is Hyde Act and 123 agreement. At most what Chomsky can say here is that Bush administration is illegally authorizing India’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

3.      While Korea / Iran / Syria / may be Pakistan, etc. in Asia are not to have nuclear weapons, Israel & India can have. This Chomsky may have found immoral, or through some stretching of imagination illegal. Contravention of UN resolution 687 will be definitely illegal, but does the geographical region referred to in it include Indian subcontinent? Reading of 687 shows no mention of the obligation of Security Council to move towards a nuclear weapon free zone in that region.

This is the best I could come up with to explain illegality of India’s actions, but each one of them is a non-starter. Chomsky treats all nuclear weapons  immoral, unethical and inhuman and may be therefore calls them illegal too. Therefore, anybody in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons may be held as acting illegally while Chomsky may be treating the 5 permanent members as known & well established rogues, and therefore beyond law. One goes to such lengths to make sense of Chomsky because of his deep commitment to humanism and outstanding scholarship.  However, use of the phrase ‘illegal acquisition’ remains an enigma mocking all efforts at understanding it.