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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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Another crucial is how long the demonstrators can sustain themselves, not only against terror and violence, but also just against economic crisis. Within a short time, maybe beginning already, there isn’t going to be bread, water. The economy is collapsing. They have shown absolutely incredible courage and determination, but, you know, there’s a limit to what human flesh can bear. So, amazing as all this is, there’s no guarantee of success.

If the United States, the population of the United States, Europe—if there is substantial vocal, outspoken support, that could make a difference. Now, remember the Muasher principle: as long as everyone’s quiet, everything’s under control, it’s all fine. But when they break those bonds, it’s not fine. You have to do something.

AMY GOODMAN: If you were president today, what would you do right now, president of the United States?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, if I were—if I had made it to the presidency, meaning with the kind of constituency and support that’s required to be a president in the United States, I’d probably do what Obama’s doing. But what ought to be done is what Erdogan is doing. Turkey is becoming the most significant country in the region, and it’s recognized. Erdogan is far and away the most popular figure. And they’ve taken a pretty constructive role on many issues. And in this case, he is the one leading public figure, leader, who has been frank, outspoken, clear, and says Mubarak must go now. Now is when we must have change. That’s the right stand. Nothing like that in Europe, and nothing like that here.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the role of the U.S. corporations? We spoke to Bill Hartung, who wrote this book, Prophets of Power, P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S, about Lockheed Martin. The overwhelming amount of money, the billions, that have gone to Egypt, haven’t really gone to Egypt; they’ve gone to U.S. weapons manufacturers, like General Dynamics, like Lockheed Martin, like Boeing, etc. In fact, Boeing owns Narus, which is the digital technology that’s involved with surveillance of the cell phone, of the internet system there, where they can find dissident voices for the Egyptian regime. And who knows what they will do with those voices, just among others? But these corporations that have made such a killing off the repression, where are they standing right now in terms of U.S. policy?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, they don’t issue press releases, so we have to speculate. But it’s pretty obvious that they have a major stake in the dictatorships, not just Egypt. So, for example, a couple of months ago, Obama announced the biggest military sale in history to Saudi Arabia, $60 billion worth of jet planes, helicopters, armored vehicles and so on and so forth. The pretext is that we have to defend Saudi Arabia against Iran. Remember that among the population, if anyone cares about them, 10 percent regard Iran as a threat, and a majority think the region would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. But we have to defend them against Iran by sending them military equipment, which would do them absolutely no good in any confrontation with Iran. But it does a lot of good for the American military-industrial complex that Eisenhower was referring to in that clip you ran a while back. So, yes, William Hartung was quite right about this.

In fact, a part of the reason why there is such strong support for Israel in the military lobby, in the military-industrial lobby in the United States, is that the massive arms transfers to Israel, which, whatever they’re called, end up essentially being gifts, they go from the U.S.—the pocket of the U.S. taxpayer into the pocket of military industry. But there’s also a secondary effect, which is well understood. They’re a kind of a teaser. When the U.S. sends, you know, the most advanced jet aircraft, F-35s, to Israel, then Saudi Arabia says, "Well, we want a hundred times as much second-rate equipment," which is a huge bonanza for military industry, and it also recycles petrodollars, which is an important—a necessity for the U.S. economy. So these things are quite closely tied together.

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