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The Most Remarkable Regional Uprising That Noam Chomsky Can Remember

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/2/noam_chomsky_this_is_the_most February 02,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2011
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      February 02, 2011
      Noam Chomsky: “This is the Most Remarkable Regional Uprising that I Can

      In recent weeks, popular uprisings in the Arab world have led to the
      ouster of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the imminent end of
      Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, a new Jordanian government,
      and a pledge by Yemen’s longtime dictator to leave office at the end of
      his term. We speak to MIT Professor Noam Chomsky about what this means
      for the future of the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region.
      When asked about President Obama’s remarks last night on Mubarak,
      Chomsky said: "Obama very carefully didn’t say anything... He’s doing
      what U.S. leaders regularly do. As I said, there is a playbook: whenever
      a favored dictator is in trouble, try to sustain him, hold on; if at
      some point it becomes impossible, switch sides." We continued the
      interview with Chomsky for 50 minutes after the live show. [includes
      rush transcript]

      AMY GOODMAN: For analysis of the Egyptian uprising and its implications
      for the Middle East and beyond, we’re joined now by the world-renowned
      political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at
      Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of over a hundred books,
      including his latest, Hopes and Prospects.

      Noam, welcome to Democracy Now! Your analysis of what’s happening now in
      Egypt and what it means for the Middle East?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, what’s happening is absolutely
      spectacular. The courage and determination and commitment of the
      demonstrators is remarkable. And whatever happens, these are moments
      that won’t be forgotten and are sure to have long-term consequences, as
      the fact that they overwhelmed the police, took Tahrir Square, are
      staying there in the face of organized pro-Mubarak mobs, organized by
      the government to try to either drive them out or to set up a situation
      in which the army will claim to have to move in to restore order and
      then to maybe install some kind of military rule, whatever. It’s very
      hard to predict what’s going to happen. But the events have been truly
      spectacular. And, of course, it’s all over the Middle East. In Yemen, in
      Jordan, just about everywhere, there are the major consequences.

      The United States, so far, is essentially following the usual playbook.
      I mean, there have been many times when some favored dictator has lost
      control or is in danger of losing control. There’s a kind of a standard
      routine—Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu, strongly supported by the United
      States and Britain, Suharto: keep supporting them as long as possible;
      then, when it becomes unsustainable—typically, say, if the army shifts
      sides—switch 180 degrees, claim to have been on the side of the people
      all along, erase the past, and then make whatever moves are possible to
      restore the old system under new names. That succeeds or fails depending
      on the circumstances.

      And I presume that’s what’s happening now. They’re waiting to see
      whether Mubarak can hang on, as it appears he’s intending to do, and as
      long as he can, say, "Well, we have to support law and order, regular
      constitutional change," and so on. If he cannot hang on, if the army,
      say, turns against him, then we’ll see the usual routine played out.
      Actually, the only leader who has been really forthright and is becoming
      the most—maybe already is—the most popular figure in the region is the
      Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, who’s been very straight and outspoken.

      AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to play for you what President Obama had to
      say yesterday.

      PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have spoken out on behalf of the need
      for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President
      Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a
      change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in
      positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through
      thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The
      voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments,
      this is one of those times. Now, it is not the role of any other country
      to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What
      is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my
      belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be
      peaceful, and it must begin now.

      AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama speaking yesterday in the White
      House. Noam Chomsky, your response to what President Obama said, the
      disappointment of many that he didn’t demand that Mubarak leave
      immediately? More importantly, the role of the United States, why the
      U.S. would have any say here, when it comes to how much it has supported
      the regime?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Obama very carefully didn’t say anything. Mubarak
      would agree that there should be an orderly transition, but to what? A
      new cabinet, some minor rearrangement of the constitutional order—it’s
      empty. So he’s doing what U.S. leaders regularly do. As I said, there is
      a playbook: whenever a favored dictator is in trouble, try to sustain
      him, hold on; if at some point it becomes impossible, switch sides.

      The U.S. has an overwhelmingly powerful role there. Egypt is the
      second-largest recipient over a long period of U.S. military and
      economic aid. Israel is first. Obama himself has been highly supportive
      of Mubarak. It’s worth remembering that on his way to that famous speech
      in Cairo, which was supposed to be a conciliatory speech towards the
      Arab world, he was asked by the press—I think it was the BBC—whether he
      was going to say anything about what they called Mubarak’s authoritarian
      government. And Obama said, no, he wouldn’t. He said, "I don’t like to
      use labels for folks. Mubarak is a good man. He has done good things. He
      has maintained stability. We will continue to support him. He is a
      friend." And so on. This is one of the most brutal dictators of the
      region, and how anyone could have taken Obama’s comments about human
      rights seriously after that is a bit of a mystery. But the support has
      been very powerful in diplomatic dimensions. Military—the planes flying
      over Tahrir Square are, of course, U.S. planes. The U.S. is the—has been
      the strongest, most solid, most important supporter of the regime. It’s
      not like Tunisia, where the main supporter was France. They’re the
      primary guilty party there. But in Egypt, it’s clearly the United
      States, and of course Israel. Israel is—of all the countries in the
      region, Israel, and I suppose Saudi Arabia, have been the most outspoken
      and supportive of the Mubarak regime. In fact, Israeli leaders were
      angry, at least expressed anger, that Obama hadn’t taken a stronger
      stand in support of their friend Mubarak.

      AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what this means for the Middle East, Noam
      Chomsky. I mean, we’re talking about the massive protests that have
      taken place in Jordan, to the point where King Abdullah has now
      dismissed his cabinet, appointed a new prime minister. In Yemen there
      are major protests. There is a major protest called for Syria. What are
      the implications of this, the uprising from Tunisia to Egypt now?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, this is the most remarkable regional uprising that I
      can remember. I mean, it’s sometimes compared with Eastern Europe, but
      that’s not much of a comparison. For one thing, in this case, there’s no
      counterpart to Gorbachev among the—in the United States or other great
      powers supporting the dictatorships. That’s a huge difference. Another
      is that in the case of Eastern Europe, the United States and its allies
      followed the timeworn principle that democracy is fine, at least up to a
      point, if it accords with strategic and economic objectives, so
      therefore acceptable in enemy domains, but not in our own. That’s a
      well-established principle, and of course that sharply differentiates
      these two cases. In fact, about the only moderately reasonable
      comparison would be to Romania, where Ceausescu, the most vicious of the
      dictators of the region, was very strongly supported by the United
      States right up ’til the end. And then, when he—the last days, when he
      was overthrown and killed, the first Bush administration followed the
      usual rules: postured about being on the side of the people, opposed to
      dictatorship, tried to arrange for a continuation of close relations.

      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.


      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. We’ve been speaking with Noam Chomsky. You
      can go to our website at democracynow.org, and we’ll play more of our
      interview with him tomorrow on Democracy Now!

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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