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Chomsky and Zinn on Patriotism in America

An interview with two of America's leading dissidents on how the highest act of patriotism would be opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a withdrawal of our troops.
 
 
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Democracy Now! was broadcasted from Boston on April 16, Patriots Day in Massachusetts -- a state holiday to mark the start of the Revolutionary War. In a Democracy Now! special, Amy Goodman was joined by two of the city's leading dissidents, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

Amy Goodman What a day to be here. This is a day of the Boston Marathon. It is raining. It is a major storm outside and tens of thousands of people -- were either of you planning to run today?

Zinn: Well we were, yes, but, you know --

Noam Chomsky: -- but you really made it impossible for us.

Goodman: I'm sorry about that.

Zinn: We had a choice of running in the marathon or having an interview with you, what's more important?

Goodman: Well, today is Patriots Day, Howard Zinn, what does patriotism mean to you?

Zinn: I'm glad you said what it means to me. Because it means to me something different than it means to a lot of people I think who have distorted the idea of patriotism. Patriotism to me means doing what you think your country should be doing. Patriotism means supporting your government when you think it's doing right, opposing your government when you think it's doing wrong. Patriotism to me means really what the Declaration of Independence suggests. And that is that government is an artificial entity.

Government is set up -- and here's what a Declaration of Independence is about -- government is set up by the people in order to fulfill certain responsibilities: equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. And according to the Declaration of Independence, when the government violates those responsibilities, then, and these are the words of the Declaration of Independence, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government.

In other words, the government is not holy; the government is not to be obeyed when the government is wrong. So to me patriotism in its best sense means thinking about the people in the country, the principles for which the country stands for, and it requires opposing the government when the government violates those principles.

So today, for instance, the highest act of patriotism, I suggest, would be opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Simply because everything about the war violates the fundamental principles of equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, not just for Americans, but for people in another part of the world. So, yes, patriotism today requires citizens to be active on many, many different fronts to oppose government policies on the war, government policies that have taken trillions of dollars from this country's treasury and used it for war and militarism. That's what patriotism would require today.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, the headlines today, just this weekend, one of the bloodiest months in Iraq. The number of prisoners in U.S. Jails in Iraq has reached something like 18,000. Who knows if that's not an underestimate? An Associated Press photographer remains in jail imprisoned by U.S. authorities without charge for more than a year. The health ministry has found 70 percent of Baghdad schoolchildren showing symptoms of trauma-related stress. Your assessment now of the situation there?

Chomsky: This is one of the worst catastrophes in military history and also in political history. The most recent studies of the Red Cross show that Iraq has suffered the worst decline in child mortality, infant mortality, an increase in infant mortality known. But it's since 1990. That is, it's a combination of the affect of the murderers' and brutal sanctions regime, which we don't talk much about, which devastated society through the 1990s and strengthened Saddam Hussein, compelled the population to rely on him for survival, which probably saved him from the fate of a whole long series of other tyrants who were overthrown by their own people supported by the U.S.

And then came the war on top of it which has simply increased the horrors. The decline is unprecedented. The increase in infant mortality is unprecedented; it's now below the level of, worse than some of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It's one index of what's happened. The most probable measure of deaths in a study sponsored by M.I.T., incidentally carried out by leading specialists in Iraq and here last October, was about 650,000 killed, soon to be pushing a million. There are several million people [who have] fled, including the large part of the professional classes, people who could in principle help rebuild the country. And without going on, it's a hideous catastrophe and getting worse.

It's also worth stressing that aggressors do not have any rights. This is a clear-cut case of aggression and violation of the U.N. Charter, a supreme international crime and, in the words of the Nuremburg Tribunal, aggressors simply have no rights to make any decisions. They have responsibilities. The responsibilities are, first of all to pay enormous reparations and that includes for the sanctions -- the effect of the sanctions -- in fact it ought to include the support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, which was torture for Iraqis and worse for Iranians.

The paid reparations hold those responsible accountable and attend to the will of the victims. It doesn't necessarily mean follow blindly but certainly attend to it. And the will of the victims is known, the regular U.S.-run polls in Iraq, and the government polling institutions, it's just an overwhelming support for either immediate or quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, about 80 percent think that the presence of U.S. troops increases the level of violence. Over 60 percent think that troops are legitimate targets. This isn't for all of Iraq. If you take the figures of Arab Iraq where the troops are actually deployed, the figures are higher. The figures keep going up. They're unmentioned, virtually unreported, scarcely alluded to in the Baker-Hamilton critical report. That'll be our primary concern, along with the concerns of the Americans.

Goodman: Vice President Cheney is saying this war can be won.

Chomsky: There's an interesting study being done right now by a former Russian soldier in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He's now a student in Toronto who's comparing the Russian press and the Russian political figures and military leaders, what they were saying about Afghanistan, comparing it with what Cheney, others and the press are saying about Iraq and not to your great surprise, change a few names and it comes out about the same.

They were also saying the war in Afghanistan could be won and they were right. If they had increased the level of violence sufficiently, they could have won the war in Iraq -- in Afghanistan. They're also pointing out -- of course they describe correctly the heroism of the Russian troops, the efforts to bring assistance to the poor people of Afghanistan, to protect them from U.S.-run Islamic fundamentalist terrorist forces, the dedication, the rights they have won for the people in Afghanistan, and the warning that if they pull out it will be total disaster, mayhem, they must stay and win.

Unfortunately, they were right about that too. When they did pull out, it was a total disaster. The U.S.-backed forces tore the place to shreds, so terrible that the people even welcomed the Taliban when they came in. So, yes, those arguments can always be given. The Germans could have argued if they had the force that they didn't, that they could have won the Second World War. I mean the question is not can you win. The question is should you be there.

Goodman: You say and talk about Afghanistan, sure the Russians could have won if they had -- could have -- tolerated the level of violence. What are you saying about Iraq? Do you feel the same way?

Chomsky: It depends on what you mean by win. The United States certainly has the capacity to wipe the country out. If that's winning, yeah, you can win. It's -- in terms of the goals that the United States attempted to achieve, the U.S. government, not the United States, to install a client regime, which would be obedient to the United States, which would permit military bases, which would allow U.S. and British corporations to control the energy resources and so on, in terms of achieving that goal, I don't know if they can achieve that. But that they could destroy the country, that's beyond question.

Goodman: We're talking to Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, on this Patriots Day that is celebrated in Massachusetts. We're in Boston, Massachusetts, and we'll be back with them in a min.

Goodman: As we continue today, talking about the state of the world with two of the leading dissidents here in this country, Howard Zinn, legendary historian, author of many books, "The People's History of the United States," as well as -- his latest is "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress." We're also joined by Noam Chomsky, linguist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book is "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." Howard, you went to North Vietnam. Can you talk about how the Vietnam War ended, and also your experience there? Why you went?

Zinn: Well, I went to North Vietnam in early 1968 with Father Daniel Berrigan and the two of us went actually at the request of the North Vietnamese government who were going to release the first three airmen prisoners, American fliers who were in prison in North Vietnam and the North Vietnamese wanted to release them on the Tet holiday, also the Tet Offensive, sort of as a gesture, I suppose as a goodwill gesture, and they asked for representatives of the American peace movement, so Daniel Berrigan and I went to Hanoi for that reason.

And of course it was an educational experience for us. Noam was talking about in response to your question about victory and winning. And the question is, of course, why should we win if winning means destroying a country? And there's still people who say, oh, we could have won the Vietnam War, as if the question was, you know, can we win or can we lose, instead of what are we doing to these people.

And, yes, Noam said, yes, we could win in Iraq by destroying all of Iraq. The Russians could have won Afghanistan by destroying all of Afghanistan. We could have won in Vietnam by dropping nuclear bombs instead of killing two million people in Vietnam, killing 10 million people in Vietnam. And that would be considered victory, who would take satisfaction in that?

What we saw in Vietnam is, I think, what people are seeing in Iraq. And that is huge numbers of people dying for no reason at all. What we saw in Vietnam was the American army being sent halfway around the world to a country, which was not threatening us, and we were destroying the people in the country. And here in Iraq, we're going the other way, we're also going halfway around the world to do the same thing to them. And our experience in Iraq contradicted as I think the experiences of people who are on the ground in Iraq contradicted again and again the statements of American officials.

The statements of the high military, statements like, oh, we're only bombing military targets. Oh, these are accidents when so many civilians are killed. And, yes, as Cheney said, victory is around the corner. What we saw in Vietnam was horrifying. And it was obviously horrifying even to GIs in Vietnam because they began to come back from Vietnam and oppose the war, and formed Vietnam Veterans against the war.

We saw villages as far away from any military target as you can imagine, absolutely destroyed. And children killed and their graves still fresh by American jet planes coming over in the middle of the night. When I hear them talk about John McCain as a hero, I say to myself, oh, yeah, he was a prisoner and prisoners are maltreated and everywhere and this is terrible. But John McCain, like the other American fliers, what were they doing? They were bombing defenseless people. And so, yes Vietnam is something that by the way, is still not taught very well in American schools. I spoke to a group of people in an advanced history class not long ago, 100 kids, asked them how many people here have heard of the My Lai Massacre? No hand was raised. We are not teaching -- if we were teaching the history of Vietnam as it should be taught, then the American people from the start would have opposed the war instead of waiting three or four years for a majority of the American people to declare their opposition to the war.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, you went to Cambodia after the bombing.

Chomsky: I went to Laos and North Vietnam.

Goodman: When and why?

Chomsky: Two years after Howard, early 1970. I spent the week in Laos. A very moving week. Happened to be in Laos right after the CIA mercenary army had cleared out about 30,000 people from the Plain of Jarres area in Northern Laos, where they had been subjected to what was then the most fierce bombing in human history. It was exceeded shortly after by Cambodia. These are poor peasant society, probably most of them didn't even know they were in Laos. There was nothing there. The planes were sent there because the bombing of North Vietnam had been temporarily stopped, and there was nothing for the air force to do so they bombed Laos. They had been living in caves for over two years trying to farm at night. They had finally been driven out by the mercenary army to the surroundings of Vientien.

And I spent a lot of time interviewing refugees with Fred Branfman, who did heroic work in bringing this story finally to the American people. And so more interesting things in Laos. Then I went to North Vietnam, also where Howard had been invited by the government, but I was actually invited to teach. It was a bombing pause, a short bombing pause, and they were able to bring people in from outlying areas back to Hanoi and the Polytechnic University, or what was left of it, the ruins of the Polytechnic University. And I came and lectured on just about anything that I knew anything about -- these are people who had been out of touch with the faculty, students, others who had been out of touch with the world for five years, and they asked me everything from what's Norman Mailer writing these days, to technical questions and linguistics and mathematics, whatever else I could say anything about.

I also traveled around a little bit, not very much, but for a few days. But enough to see what Howard described, right close to Hanoi, I never got very far away, which was the most protected area because in Hanoi there were embassies and journalists, so the bombing of the city was nothing like what it was much farther away. But even there you could see the ruins of villages, the shell of the major hospital in Thanh Hoa, which had been bombed by accident of course. Areas that were just moonscapes, where there had been villages in an effort to destroy a bridge and so on. So that those were my two weeks in Laos and North Vietnam.

Goodman: You were a linguistics professor at MIT at the time?

Chomsky: Yes.

Goodman: So, why did you go? What drove you to? And, what was the response here at home?

Chomsky: Well, I was able to -- and actually I had intended to go only for one week to North Vietnam. But -- if you really want to know the details -- the U.N. bureaucrat in Laos who was organizing flights was a very bored Indian bureaucrat who had nothing to do, and apparently his only joy in the world was making things difficult for people who wanted to do something, not untypical. And fortunately for me, he made it difficult for me and my companions, Doug Dowd and Dick Fernandez to go to North Vietnam. So I had a week in Laos, which was an extremely valuable week. I wrote about it in some detail. But, I was teaching at the time, I was to be away, it was a vacation week, so actually I taught linguistics at the Polytechnic University.

Goodman: What about the opposition here at home and your level of protest at MIT? What did you do?

Chomsky: Well, MIT was a curious situation. I happened to be working in the laboratory, which was 100 percent supported by the three armed services, but it was also one of the centers of the anti-war resistance. Starting in 1965, along with an artist friend in Boston, Harold Tovish, we organized, tried to organize national tax resistance, this was 1965. Like Howard, I was giving talks, taking part in demonstrations, getting arrested.

By 1966 we were becoming involved directly in support for a draft resistance, helping deserters and others. That just continued -- it's worth remembering. One often hears today justified complaints about how little protest there is against the war in Iraq, but that's very misleading. And here is, as Howard was saying, a little sense of history is useful.

The protest against the war in Iraq is far beyond the protest against Vietnam on any comparable level. Large-scale protest against the war in Vietnam did not begin until there were several hundred thousand U.S. troops in South Vietnam.The country had been virtually destroyed, the bombing had been extended to the north, to Laos, soon to Cambodia, where incidentally we have just learned -- or rather, we haven't learned, but we could learn if we had a free press -- that the bombing in Cambodia, which is known to be horrendous, was actually five times as high as was reported, greater than the entire allied bombing in all of World War II on a defenseless peasant society, which turned peasants into enraged fanatics. During those years the Khmer Rouge grew from nothing, a few thousand scattered people to hundreds of thousands, and that led to the part of Cambodia that we're allowed to think about.

But the real protest against the war in Vietnam came at a period far beyond what has yet been reached in Iraq. First few years of the war, there was almost nothing. So little protest that virtually nobody in the United States even knows when the war began. Kennedy invaded South Vietnam in 1962. That was after seven years of efforts to impose a Latin American-style terror state, which had killed tens of thousands of people and elicited resistance.

In 1962, Kennedy sent the U.S. Air Force to start bombing South Vietnam, under South Vietnamese markings -- but nobody was deluded by that -- initiated chemical warfare to destroy crops and ground cover, and started programs which rounded openly millions of people into what amounted to concentration camps, called strategic hamlets, where they were surrounded by barbed wire to protect them as it was said from the guerrillas, who everyone knew they were voluntarily supporting, an indigenous South Vietnamese resistance. That was 1962.

You couldn't get two people in a living room to talk about it in October 1965, right here in Boston, maybe the most liberal city in the country. There were then already a couple hundred thousand troops, bombing North Vietnam had started. We tried to have our first major public demonstration against the war on the Boston Common, the usual place for meetings. I was supposed to be one of the speakers, but nobody could hear a word. The meeting was totally broken up by students marching over from universities, by others, and hundreds of state police, which kept people from being murdered. The next day's newspaper, the Boston Globe , the world newspaper was full of denunciations of the people who dared make mild statements about bombing the North.

In fact right through the protests, which did reach a substantial scale and were really significant, especially the resistance, it was mostly directed against the war in North Vietnam. The attack on South Vietnam was mostly ignored. Incidentally the same is true of government planning. We know about that from the Pentagon Papers and the subsequent documents -- there was meticulous planning about the bombing of the North. Where should you bomb? And how far should you go? And so on. Bombing of the South -- in the internal documents, there's almost nothing. There's a simple reason for it. The bombing of the South was costless. Nobody's going to shoot you down. Nobody's going to complain. Do whatever you want. Wipe the place out. Which is pretty much what happened.

North Vietnam was dangerous. You could hit Russian ships in harbor. As I said there were embassies in Hanoi where people could report that you were bombing an internal Chinese railroad that happened to pass through North Vietnam. So there could be international repercussions and costs, so therefore, it was very carefully calibrated. If you look at, say, Robert McNamara's memoirs, lots of discussion of the bombing of North Vietnam, virtually nothing about the bombing of South Vietnam. Which even in 1965, was triple the scale of the bombing of the North, and it had been going on for years. Now there is a great deal more protest.

There actually one interesting illustration, I'll end with that, Arthur Schlesinger, best known American historian, in the case of Vietnam, the early years he supported it. In fact if you read his Thousand Days, story of the Kennedy administration, it's barely mentioned except for the wonderful things that's happening. By 1966, as there was beginning to be concern about the costs of the war, we were reaching situations rather like a lead opinion today about Iraq: It's too costly, we might not be able to win, and so on. Schlesinger wrote, I'm almost quoting, that we all pray that the hawks will be right in believing that more troops will allow us to win. And if they are right, we'll be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a war in Vietnam after turning the land -- turning it into a land of ruin and wreck. So we'll be praising their wisdom and statesmanship, but it probably won't work. You can translate that into today's commentaries, which are called the doves.

On the other hand, greatly to his credit, when the bombing of Iraq started, Schlesinger took the strongest position of anyone I've seen, of condemnation of it. First stated so strong that it wasn't, almost never -- didn't appear in the press and I haven't heard a word about it since. As the line began he said this is a date, which will live in infamy. And he recalled President Roosevelt's words at Pearl Harbor, a date that will live in infamy because the United States is following the path of the Japanese fascists, a pretty strong statement. I think that sort of reflects a difference you see in public attitudes too. Opposition to aggression is far higher than it was in the '60s.

Goodman: Howard Zinn, how did Vietnam end, the war end, and what are the parallels that you see today? Do you see parallels today?

Zinn: Well, I suppose if you believe that Henry Kissinger deserved the Nobel Prize, you would think that the war ended, because Henry Kissinger went to Paris and negotiated with the Vietnamese. But the war ended, I think, because finally after that slow buildup of protests, I think the war ended because the protests in the United States reached a crescendo, which couldn't be ignored. And because the GIs coming home were turning against the war, and because soldiers in the field were -- well, they were throwing grenades under the officers' tents, the "Fragging Phenomenon." There's a book called "Soldiers in Revolt" by a man named David Cortright, and he details how much dissidence there was, how much opposition to the war there was among soldiers in Vietnam and how this was manifested in their behavior and desertions, a huge number of desertions. And essentially the government of the United States found it impossible to continue the war. The ROTC chapters were closing down.

In some ways, it's similar to the situation now where the government in Iraq, the government is finding, our government is finding that we don't have enough soldiers to fight the war. So they're sending them back again and again. And where they're recruiting sergeants here in the United States, they're going to enormous lengths, lying to young people about what will await them and what benefits they will get. The government is desperate to maintain the military force today in Iraq. And I think in Vietnam, this dissidence among the military, and its inability to really carry on the war militarily, was a crucial factor. Of course, along with the fact, we simply could not defeat the Vietnamese resistance. And resistance movements -- and this is what we are finding out in Iraq today -- resistance movements against a foreign aggressor, they will get very desperate, they will not give in. And the resistance movement in Vietnam would not surrender.

And so, the U.S. government found it obviously impossible to win without, yes, dropping nuclear bombs, destroying the country and making it clear to the world that the United States was an outlaw nation and impossible to hold the support of the people at home. And so, yes, we finally did what a number of us had been asking for many, many years to withdraw from Vietnam and the same arguments were made at that time. That is, when we called in 1967, well, I wrote a book in 1967 called "Vietnam, the Logic of Withdrawal," and the reaction to that was, you know, we can't withdraw. It will be terrible if we withdraw. There will be civil war if we withdraw. There will be a bloodbath if we withdraw. And so we didn't withdraw and the war went on for another six years, another eight years, six years for the Americans to withdraw, eight years totally. The war went on and on, and another 20,000 Americans were killed. Another million Vietnamese were killed.

And when we finally withdrew, there was no bloodbath. I mean it wasn't that everything was fine when we withdrew, and there were reeducation camps set up, and the Chinese people were driven out of Hanoi on boats, so it wasn't. But the point is that there was no bloodbath, the bloodbath was what we were doing in Vietnam. Just as today when they say, oh, there will be civil war, there will be chaos if we withdraw from Iraq. There is civil war, there is chaos, and no one is pointing out what we have done to Iraq. Two million people driven from their homes and children in dire straits, no water, no food. And so the remembrance of Vietnam is important if we are going to make it clear that we must withdraw from Iraq and find another way, not for the United States, for some international group, preferably a group composed mostly of representatives of Arab nations to come into Iraq and help mediate whatever strife there is among the various fractions in Iraq. But certainly the absolute necessary first step in Iraq now is what we should have done in Vietnam in 1967, and that is simply get out as fast as ships and planes can carry us out.

Goodman: This is Democracy Now! democracynow.org, the war and peace report. I'm Amy Goodman. My guests here in Boston, as we broadcast from Massachusetts on this Patriots Day, are Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Howard Zinn, a legendary historian. Taught at Spellman for years until he was forced out because he took the side of the young women students and then went to Boston University and only recently, in the last few years, was given -- what -- given an honorary degree by Spellman?

Zinn: Yes.

Goodman: Did you feel vindicated?

Zinn: I always feel vindicated.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, what did you think of Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, third in line in succession for the presidency after Dick Cheney, going to Syria together with the first Muslim Congress member in the United States, Keith Ellison from Minneapolis?

Chomsky: The only thing wrong with it was that it was the third person in line. I mean, if the United States government were sincerely interested in bringing about some measure of peace, prosperity, stability in the region instead of dominating it by force, now they would of course be dealing with Syria and with Iran. Pretty much the way the Baker-Hamilton report proposed except beyond what they proposed because they proposed, they should be dealing with it in matters concerning with Iraq. But there are regional issues. In the case of Syria, there are issues related to Syria itself, but also to Lebanon and to Israel. Israel is in control of, in fact has annexed in violation of Security Council orders, has annexed a large part of Syrian territory, the Golan Heights. Syria is making it very clear that they are interested in a peace settlement with Israel, which would involve, as it should, the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from occupied territories.

Goodman: Are there secret negotiations going on between Israel and Syria now?

Chomsky: You never know what's going on in secret. But so far Israel has been flatly refusing any negotiations. In fact, the only debate that's going on now is whether it's the United States that's pressuring Israel or Israel is pressuring the United States to prevent negotiations on the Golan Heights and in fact on the occupied territories all together. This is called a very contentious issue, Israel-Palestine, which is kind of surprising. It's a contentious issue only in the United States, and even not among the American population. It's a contentious issue because the U.S. government and the Israeli government are blocking a very broad international consensus, which has almost universal support, even the majority of Americans and which has been on the table for about 30 years, blocked by the U.S. and Israel. And everyone knows who's involved in this, what the general framework for a settlement is.

It was put on the -- it was brought to the Security Council in 1976, by the Arab states, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, the so-called confrontation states, and the other Arab states. They proposed a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, a settlement, which included the wording of U.N.-242, the first major resolution, recognition of the right of each state in the region to exist in peace and security within secure and recognized boundaries, that would include Israel and a Palestinian state. It was vetoed by the United States, and a similar resolution vetoed in 1980.

I won't run through the whole history, but throughout this whole history, with temporary and rare exceptions, there is a couple here and here, the U.S. has simply blocked the settlement and still does, and Israel rejects it. Sometimes it's dramatic. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council, their governing body, formally accepted a two-state settlement. They tacitly accepted it before. There was a reaction from Israel immediately; it was a coalition government, Shimon Perez, Yitzhak Shamir. Their reaction was, quoting, that "there cannot be an additional Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel." An additional implying that Jordan already is a Palestinian state, so there can't be another one, and the fate of the territories will be settled according to the guidelines of the state of Israel. Shortly after that, the Bush No. 1 administration totally endorsed that proposal -- that was the Baker plan, James Baker plan of December 1989 -- fully endorsed that proposal, extreme rejectionism.

And so it continues with rare exceptions, just moving to today, the Arab league proposal has been reintroduced. It's 2002, but they brought it up again a couple of weeks ago. That goes even further. It calls for full normalization of relations with Israel within the framework of the international consensus on a two-state settlement, which might involve to use official U.S. terminology from far back, minor and mutual modifications, like straightening out the border, or in other words in the wrong place or something. And then there are technicalities to be resolved, plenty of them.

But that's the basic framework, supported by the Arab world, by Europe, by the nonaligned countries, Latin America and others. It is supported by Iran, it doesn't get reported here. One loves Ahmadinejad's crazed statements, but do not report the statements of his superior, Ayatollah Khameni who's in charge of international affairs -- Ahmadinejad doesn't have anything to do with it -- who has declared a couple of times that Iran supports the Arab league position. Hezbollah in Lebanon has made it clear that they don't like it; they don't believe in recognizing Israel, but if the Palestinians accept it, they will not disrupt it. They are a Lebanese organization. And Hamas has said, they would accept the Arab League consensus. That leaves the United States and Israel in splendid isolation, even more so than in the past 30 years in rejecting a political settlement. So it's contentious in a sense, but not in that there's no way to resolve it. We know how to resolve it.

Goodman: Do you think it will change?

Chomsky: It depends on people here. If the majority of the American population, who also accept this, decide to do something about it, yeah, it will change.

Goodman: Do you think it's changing, for example, with Carter's book coming out?

Chomsky: I think it's one of the signs of change, and there are many others. Or is it just a change mood in the country, I mean, anybody who's been giving talks about this just knows it from personal experience. I mean not very long ago, if I was giving a talk on the Middle East, I mean, even at MIT, there would be armed police present, or at least undercover police to prevent violence, disruption, breakup of meetings and so on. That's a thing of the past. By now it's much easier to talk about this. Actually, Carter's book is quite interesting. Carter's book was essentially repeating what is known around the world.

Goodman: "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

Chomsky: Yeah. He -- there were a couple of errors in the book. They were ignored. The only serious error in the book, which a fact checker should have picked up, is that Carter accepted a kind of party line on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Israel invaded Lebanon and killed maybe 15,000-20,000 people and destroyed much of southern Lebanon. They were able to do it because the Reagan administration vetoed Security Council resolutions and supported them and so on.

The claim here, you know, you read Thomas Friedman or someone, is that Israel invaded in response to shelling of the Galilee from -- by Palestinians, Palestinian terror attacks. And Carter repeats that; it is not true. There was the border, there was a cease-fire. The Palestinians observed it despite regular Israeli attempts, something as heavy bombing and others to elicit some response that would be a pretext to the planned invasion. When there was no pretext, they invaded anyway. That's the only serious error in the book, ignored. There are some very valuable things in the book, also ignored. One of them, perhaps the most important is that Carter is the first, I think, in the mainstream in the United States to report what was known in dissident circles and talked about, namely that the famous road map, which the quartet suggested as steps towards settlement of the problem -- the road map was instantly rejected by Israel.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program Democracy Now!

 
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