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Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky: The Truth About America's Secret, Dirty Wars

Scahill’s work has sparked several congressional investigations and won some of journalism’s highest honors.
 
 
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The following is taken from a transcript of a special event featuring Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky with Amy Goodman hosted by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the American Friends Service Committee of Massachusetts, the Cambridge Peace Commission and the Community Church of Boston that was broadcast by  Democracy Now!. The event covered the subjects explored in Scahill's new book,  Dirty Wars. The transcript starts with a speech by Scahill, who is later joined in a discussion with Goodman and Chomsky.

Jeremy Scahill: I’m really honored to be here with both Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky. On my own Facebook page, I list Democracy Now! as my university, because I learned journalism not from the classroom. I wouldn’t have been able to be—you know, I was saying to Professor Chomsky, when we were walking, I’ve never been on Harvard and didn’t actually spend much time in an actual classroom when I was technically enrolled in college anyway. So it’s a little bit odd to be here [at the Harvard Kennedy School]. But I bring that up because I think that journalism is a trade and should be accessible to people. And I learned journalism as an apprentice under the person that I think is a great journalist of our time, and that is Amy. And I had to stalk Amy before she would agree to let me come in and volunteer at Democracy Now! I think she had—I was calling her and writing her letters, and I was saying—this was in the mid-'90s—"If you have a cat, I'll feed your cat. I’ll wash your windows." And she had to decide whether, I think, to get a restraining order against me or to let me come in and volunteer for her. And, you know, she has just been such a dear friend and teacher for so long.

And I like to think of the footnotes in my book as a tribute to Professor Chomsky, because one of the first things I do when I look at a book is to check out the notes in the index to see how serious the book is, how serious the author was about citing every fact that he states in the book. And it was something that I very much learned reading Professor Chomsky’s books. And it’s a real honor to be here with you, Noam.

We’re here at a time when a popular Democratic president, who is a constitutional lawyer by trade, has expanded, intensified, continued and, most importantly, legitimized, in the eyes of many liberals, some of the most egregious aspects of what the Bush administration called its counterterrorism policy and the Obama administration continues to call its counterterrorism and national security policy. And despite the fact that this very popular Democratic president campaigned on a pledge to radically change the way that the U.S. conducted its business around the world and, upon taking power, issued a number of executive orders that were purportedly aimed at shutting down secret prisons, ending torture and closing Guantánamo, what has actually happened is that the Obama administration has made cosmetic changes, tweaked the language, made a few adjustments to the detention program, to the—what’s called the targeted killing program, but it’s anything but targeted, as we’ve seen so often—it’s an assassination program. And this administration has sold the idea to many liberals in this country that this is a clean war, that it’s a smarter war than the ones that were being waged by his predecessor.

If you look at the administration’s claims of bringing the Iraq War to an end, you have to examine what was on President Bush’s desk the day he left office. It was the very plan that President Obama implemented. It was already in motion. So this administration did not bring an end to the Iraq War; the Bush administration’s plan was implemented. But also we’ve seen an expansion of CIA paramilitary activity in Iraq over the past several months. The largest embassy in the world is the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and strike teams continue to operate out of it alongside thousands of mercenary forces.