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Chomsky: Why the Mideast Turmoil Is a Direct Threat to the American Empire

An interview with Noam Chomsky about what this means for the future of the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region.

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But this is completely different. Where it’s going to lead, nobody knows. I mean, the problems that the protesters are trying to address are extremely deep-seated, and they’re not going to be solved easily. There is a tremendous poverty, repression, a lack of not just democracy, but serious development. Egypt and other countries of the region have just been through a neoliberal period, which has led to growth on paper, but with the usual consequences: high concentration of extreme wealth and privilege, tremendous impoverishment and dismay for most of the population. And that’s not easily changed. We should also remember that, as far as the United States is concerned, what’s happening is a very old story. As far back as the 1950s, President Eisenhower was—

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds in the segment, Noam.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon?

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds left in the segment.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Oh.

AMY GOODMAN: Make your point on Eisenhower.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, shall I go on?

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds. If you could—we’ll save that for our web exclusive right afterwards. 

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AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, you were just talking about the significance of what’s happening in the Middle East, and you were bringing it back to President Dwight Eisenhower.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, in 1958, Eisenhower—this is in internal discussions, since declassified—Eisenhower expressed his concern for what he called the "campaign of hatred against us" in the Arab world, not by the governments, but by the people. Remember, 1958, this was a rather striking moment. Just two years before, Eisenhower had intervened forcefully to compel Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from their invasion of Egyptian territory. And you would have expected enormous enthusiasm and support for the United States at that moment, and there was, briefly, but it didn’t last, because policies returned to the norm. So when he was speaking two years later, there was, as he said, a "campaign of hatred against us." And he was naturally concerned why. Well, the National Security Council, the highest planning body, had in fact just come out with a report on exactly this issue. They concluded that, yes, indeed, there’s a campaign of hatred. They said there’s a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports harsh and brutal dictators and blocks democracy and development, and does so because we’re interested in—we’re concerned to control their energy resources.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to go for a minute to that famous address of the general, of the Republican president, of the president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961. Special thanks to Eugene Jarecki and his film Why We Fight, that brought it to us in the 21st century. Noam Chomsky, with us on the phone from his home near Boston, Noam, continue with the significance of what Eisenhower was saying and what the times were there and what they have to teach us today about this Middle East uprising.

 
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