1. Hasan: Professor Chomsky, thank you for joining me on UpFront. You are probably World’s  best-known critic of the US Foreign Policy. Right now, the US Government is involved in trying to degrade and defeat the ISIL in Syria and in Iraq. Do you support the US-led bombing Campaign of that brutal and horrific Group, ISIL, and if not, what do you think should be done, if anything, to try to defeat them or at least reduce the Threat they pose to the Region and the wider World?
2. Chomsky: First thing, it’s a montrosity, no question about that. We know its origins. It’s developed out of the US Invasion of Iraq. You hit a fragile System with a sledgehammer, you cause all kind of problems. One of the problem, in addition to hundreds of thousands people killed, millions of refugees, destroying the Country, was inciting a secretarian conflict that may have simmered, but barely exited before, and out of this came one montrosity after another, the latest is ISIL. It has another source, the leading US-Ally in the Region, Saudi Arabia, which has been for years both funding extremist jihadi Groups, also spreading its extremist Wahhabi-Salafi version of Islam through Koranic Schools, Mosques, radical clerics, and so on, and these things all have fed into ISIS. First thing is to understand it, and there’s extensive studies of what its appeal is. And it turns out that disaffected young People, living in conditions of Humiliation and Degradation, with nothing in their lives, most of them don’t have much of a background, in Islam, some of them are recent converts. A lot of it is Peer-pressure. This is offering them some Dignity and Hope for their Lives.
3. Hasan: So you’re saying, Tackle the underlying cause and look at the bigger picture. I agree with you, and I think a lot of People would say you’re right. But in the short term, while you’re doing that. That’s a long-term Operation. In the short term, while they’re controlling the Territory, and killing Yaizidis, and attacking the Kurdish Towns, how do you stop them?
4. Chomsky: They’re killing Yazidis. What do you do? You support the People who are saving the Yazidis, who happen to be on the US Terrorist List.
5. Hasan: The PKK.
6. Chomsky: They are the ones who are primarily responsible for saving the Yazidis.
7. Hasan: If the American say, We will drop Bombs, and they have been working with various Kurdish Groups. Do you support that? I’m just wondering. You, as a critic, do you support that?
8. Chomsky: Support working with the Kurds? Yeah.
9. Hasan: The US Air Force working with the Kurds to defeat ISIL?
10. Chomsky: To the extent that they are supporting the Kurds in Rojava they call it, the Kurdish Airs of Syria, have defended their Territory, seem to be developing, as well as you can under these conditions, a farily decent Society. They certainly merit support.
11. Hasan: So you don’t object in principle, as some on the left do, to any Airstrikes by any Western Country. You’re saying, as a practical purpose on the day in a line to certain People on the ground.
12. Chomsky: I’m not an absolute pacifist. I think there are times when the use of military Force is defensibly.
13. Hasan: And ISIL is one of them.
14. Chomsky: Defending the Kurds against the ISIL attacks, yes, that’s legitimate. But you have to look at what’s going on. There are other Groups that are not very different from ISIL, like al-Nusra Front, who have been supported by our Ally, Turkey, and our Allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Kurds have to defend against them, too. What you have is a mixture.
15. Hasan: They all claim that they’re not supporting the Islamist. They’re saying we’re all supporting more moderate Islamist Groups, like **.
16. Chomsky: In fact, there’s no question they’re supporting the al-Nusra Front, ** are not all that different. And Turkey is openly supporting them.
17. Hasan: And on that debate about supporting different Groups and Factions, do you think it’s possible to fight Assad Regime and ISIL and some of these other Groups you mentioned at the same time, or are you one of those People who thinks they need to get behind Assad in order to defeat ISIL? Is there a lesser of two Evils there?
18. Chomsky: Assad is a monstrous Regime. However, if you cannot fight both sides who are attacking one another, it’s incoherent Strategy. You have to concentrate what you’re doing. You have to isolate. There is an answer as to what to do with the Assad Regime. It’s not bombing Damascus. There’s one slim Hope, slim but the only one. That’s the negotiating process. Either you say Let’s not have negotiation, let’s all murder each other. Or you say Let’s have negotiations and see what can come out of it.
19. Hasan: You mentioned Turkey. Turkey has recently been hit by several terrorist Attacks on Citycentres and tourists, some of them being ISIL, some of them being PKK, the Kurdish Separatist Group. The Turkish President, Mr. Ergodan, recently attacked you by name, saying it’s time for the so-called intellectuals like you to “pick a side.” “You’re either on the side of the Turkish Government,” he said, “or you’re on the side of the terrorists.” You responded by saying Ergodan and Turkey had been aiding ISIL. In the past, you’ve accused Turkey of carrying out a terrorist War against the Kurds.
Chomsky: He’s undoubtedly carrying out
vicious, repressive Actions, attacking the Kurdish Population. You can call it
what you like.
Hasan: What would you call it?
Chomsky: I’d call it
Hasan: He’s a murderer?
24. Chomsky: Of course. Deeply authoritarian Regime, reconstituting policies, which in the 90s were totally horrendous. 1990s, the Turkish Government was carrying out massive State Terrorism. Tens of thousand people killed, thousands of Towns and Villages destroyed.
25. Hasan: You’d accept that he would say that People he’s fighting against are carrying out massive Acts of Terrorism and Murder. You wouldn’t deny that.
26. Chomsky: Assad says the same thing about the People he’s talking about. I don’t pay attention to what leaders of a State says.
27. Hasan: I’m asking you. You would accept PKK has carried out horrific Attacks against Civilians.
28. Chomsky: They have carried out Attacks on civilians, yes, I’m not saying we should give them a military Aid to the PKK. On the other hand, if we’re interested in attacking the ISIS and saving Yazidis and saving the Kurds, we can’t say we’re going to attack them.
29. Hasan: The lesser of two Evils.
30. Chomsky: Look, if you want to rank Evils [for some perverse reason], the United States and Britain are so higher than everyone else, we can put all the others to the side. Yes, there are plenty of Evils in the World, but we have to deal with the World as it exists. If you want to defend the Kurds, you cannot be attacking the Kurds.
31. Hasan: On the subject of others, the Turkish President recently got into a spat with Vladimir Putin after the shooting down of Russian airjet in the Turkish Airspace. Some say, your critics say, You’re too soft on Putin. You’ve said, for example, that “it might be Wrong for Putin’s Russia to back the brutal Syrian Government, but it’s not Imperialism,” you said recently. Are the sections of the left guilty of only resising the US Imperialism, but not Russian Imperialism in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and elsewhere?
32. Chomsky: Sorry, Imperialism has a Meaning. When the United States supports Saudi Arabia, it’s not Imperialism, even though it’s supporting a brutal and harsh Government. When the United States supports Israel, it’s not Imperialism, even though it’s carrying out atrocities. When Russia supports Damascus, it’s not Imperialism.
33. Hasan: What is Imperialism? How do you define it?
34. Chomsky: We can define what it is. But it’s extending your Power in States and Territories that you are conquering.
35. Hasan: Is Russia imperialist, then? Is it not conquering Crimea?
36. Chomsky: Is it conquering Damascus?
37. Hasan: Has it not annexed Crimea?
38. Chomsky: Crimea is a totally different issue. We can talk about that if you like. But first of all, let’s go back to what you started with, the Turkish Jet. That was an extremely provocative acts. That jet, according to Turkey, crossed for 17 seconds on its way to continue bombing in Syria, where it was heading, where it fell and where it was shot down. That’s an extremely dangerous acts.
39. Hasan: By the Russians or by the Turks?
40. Chomsky: By the Turks, using an American Jet. That’s the kind of thing that could set off a major War. And what were the Consequences? Consequences were as expected. The Russians greatly increased its military Forces in the Region, putting advanced missiles, send a missile cruise. You don’t play games like that.
41. Hasan: What about the annexing of the actual Land in Crimea?
42. Chomsky: Annexing of the Land in Crimea, I think, was a criminal act. But it has a History.
43. Hasan: But imperialist?
44. Chomsky: Look. Is it imperialist to?
45. Hasan: You give me the definition as taking Land and conquering it.
46. Chomsky: I don’t call it Imperialism when the United States supports the Government of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Guatemala, and so on.
47. Hasan: But you said it is Imperialism when you annex Land, when you conquer Land.
48. Chomsky: That’s true, and we have to take a look at what happened. Crimea was handed over to Ukraine by Khrushchev, not by the Will of People of Crimea.
49. Hasan: That was sixty-odd years ago. In recent years, Borders were guaranteed, they were legal Borders.
50. Chomsky: That’s correct, that’s why I said it is a criminal act.What happened in the background? In 1990-91, Soviet Union collapsed. There were two visions as to how to proceed. One of them was Gorbachev’s: Let’s have a Eurasian Security system with many Cooperations and many central points at Brussels, Moscow, Anchora, and others. The United States had a different Position: Let’s expand NATO, Let’s expand a military Alliance to the Borders of Russia.
51. Hasan: To be fair, a lot of the Countries in the Region wanted to join NATO. Democratics.
52. Chomsky: It’s not a matter of being fair. Suppose that the Mexicans wanted to join the Warsaw Pact. How would the United States react?
53. Hasan: No one’s defending the US Actions. I’m just looking for the Russian Actions. So let me just ask you about Putin, coming back to Putin, which is how this section began, do you believe he’s only reacting to NATO and he doesn’t have an expansionist view of his own of recreating strong Soviet-style Russia? I’m asking your opinion.
54. Hasan: There’s very little evidence. He’s not a nice guy, I don’t want to have dinner with him.
55. Hasan: Is he an expansionist? Has he got an expansionist vision?
56. Chomsky: These moves are largely interactive. There are moves on both sides which are interactive. You can’t pick one of them and say that’s imperialist. There are moves on both sides that’s dangerous. There’s an answer to this: Ukraine can be neutralised, that’s the answer. No more talk of NATO enlargement. And Ukraine itself is a pluralist Country internally. So it can be neutralised, so military Alliances, and it deal with its pluralist structure. In that context, Crimea should make its own choices.
57. Chomsky: First of all, Bernie Sanders may use the word socialist, but he’s basically a New Dealer. Now, in the current American political spectrum, to be a New Dealer is to be way out on the left. Eisenhower, for example, who said, Anyone who questions the New Deal doesn’t belong in the political system, would be regarded as raving leftist. So Bernie Sanders is a decent, honest New Dealer. I agree with him on a lot of things, not on other things. I frankly think, in our system of mainly bought Elections, he doesn’t have much of a chance. If he were a current candidate, I think he’d be the one who would have, from my point of view, the best policies.
Incidentally, I don’t say it’s a charade. There are differences in the Parties. I don’t think they’re great differences, but they’re real. And small differences in a great Power can have enormous Consequences.
58. Hasan: You’re saying actually if it’s Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, vote Hillary Clinton as a lesser of two Evils.
59. Chomsky: It’s exactly what I’ve said in all the previous Elections. If you happen to be in the Massachusetts, where we are now, which is a Safe State, you can vote any way you want, or not vote. If you happen to be in a Swing State, where it is going to have an effect, who’s going to become a President, you should definitely vote.
60. Hasan: If you were in Ohio this November, you would vote Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
61. Chomsky: Absolutely. I didn’t like Obama, but I’ve said exactly the same thing.
62. Hasan: Hillary has a vote if you were in a Swing State.
63. Chomsky: Let’s put it that way. My vote would be against the Republican candidate. If you abstain, that means you’re giving a vote for the Republican candidate.
64. Hasan: Just out of interest, very briefly, if you had to sum up, somebody says to you, Professor Chomsky, I’ve read your books, I’ve looked at US Foreign Policy, I’ve looked at Clinton and President Bush, they all seem the same to me. Why should I vote for Clinton against Republicans. In a sentence, what would you say is the difference between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz that makes it worth vote for her.
65. Chomsky: There’s enormous differences.
66. Hasan: Sum up for me what you think it is.
67. Chomsky: Carpet-bombing Syria, for example, is a difference. Ted Cruz says it’s an easy problem, let’s just carpet-bomb them. What’s the effet of carpet-bombing them, okay? Take Nuclear deal with Iran. Every Republican says they’re going to kill it. I assume if they do that would isolate the United States, it would presumably continue with Europe and Iran. It would be a very big step backwards. Take maybe the biggest problem we face: The Destruction of the Environment. Every Republican candidate is either a climate change denier or a skeptic who says we can’t do anything. Just a minute. What they’re saying is: Let’s destroy the World. There was a Meeting in Paris, which could not come up with a binding Treaty. The major reason was it couldn’t get past the Republican Congress. The same thing, domestically. The policies are quite different.
Hasan: It’s interesting you said it. I agree
with you, there are difference. If I were to mention to you the neuroscientist,
Sam Harris, the liberal atheist author whom you had an online Debate with, he
says he’d rather Republican candidate, Ben Carson, who said a Muslim shouldn’t
be a President and compared Syrian refugees to dogs. He says, Harris has said
he would rather have Carson as a President than you, because Carson appearntly
gets the Threat from Jihadi terrorists that you don’t. What’s your response to
Sam Harris, who claims to be a liberal?
Chomsky: I don’t
bother with Sam Harris. He specialises in hysterical,
slanderous charges against People he doesn’t like. That’s of no interest to me.
Am I not concerned with the Jihadi Terrorism? I’m much more concerned with it
than he is. That’s why I say, You just don’t scream at them. You look at the roots,
you try to figure out how to deal with it, you respond to it. I don’t take him
seriously, I don’t see any point in talking about him.
Hasan: Some People say the point about
talking about him, We’re living in an Environment where Islamophobia is on the
rise in the United States and across the West, there are some who say there are
New Atheists, People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, late Christopher
Hitchens are Islamophobes, guilty of almost obssessive Anti-Muslim Bigotry. Do
you share that view?
Chomsky: I don’t talk about them. First of
all, I don’t think it’s true of Dawkins. It might have been true of Hitchens in
his later years. Harris, I assume, denies it, but when I read what he says,
that’s what it looks like. The problem of Islamophobia is of course serious,
just like the problem of anti-Semitism is serious.
73. Chomsky: This is much worse, Islamophobia now. For one thing, it is undermining us. Apart from what is doing to its decent, honourable People, subject to denunciation, physical Attacks, blocking the possibility for decent Life, what’s happening to Syrian refugees, and so on, it’s harmful to the West. Islamophobia leads to proposals like Let’s carpet-bomb them, Let’s hit them with a sledge-hammer. Just take a look at what it’s led to in the last 15 years. There has been what’s been called the global War on Terror. When it began, there’s been one device to deal with it, Sledgehammer, Smash them up, don’t find out what’s going on, smash them up. 15 years ago, it was confined to a tiny tribal Area in Afghanistan. Now it’s all over the World. Every time you hit it with a sledgehammer, you expand it. Every single time. Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, everywhere. Can you learn something from that? Shall we say, Okay, let’s smash them up again, because they all want to kill us? Yeah, that’s one reaction. Another reaction is the sane reaction, which you do hear from People who know something about the topic, like Scott Atran or William Polk, a well-known Middle East experts, long in the US Government, pretty much the same proposals. You have to deal with the situation rationally, if you want to be first of all humane, but even concerned with your own Security.
74. Hasan: You’re 87 years old. You’ve written more than a hundred books, you’ve taught more than half a century, you’re known globally, you’ve made massive contribution in the field of Linguistics, in Foreign Policy and International Relations, and yet, your Ideas, your World-view has never really gone mainstream, especially here in the United States. Does it depress you that you’re not living in a Society in the way you would like to, that the Foreign Policy isn’t the way you want it to be, you haven’t had that impact here?
75. Chomsky: I never anticipated in living in a Utopia. If I was in the mainstream, I’d begin to ask myself what I’m doing Wrong. There have been, not because of me, but many People, notable progress over the years. Not uniform, there’s regression as well, but in many respects, it was more civilsied World than it was before. When George Bush and Tony Blair decided to invade Iraq, it was the first time in the History of Imperialism – and that was Imperialism straight out – there was a massive Protest, even before the War was officially launched. Didn’t stop the War, but I think it restricted it. They could never use the Mode used by Lyndon Johnson, for example. That’s progress. In other respects, there are progress, too. Take Women’s Rights, huge difference in the last 50 years. Civil Rights, mixed differences. There’s concern over the Environment, that’s the matter of Life and Death of the Species. It’s quite different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago. In many respects, there are slow progress.
76. Hasan: So you’re optimistic of the future.
77. Chomsky: Look, you have two choices. I’m a pessimist, nothing’s going to work, I’m giving up, I’ll help ensure the worst will happen, or you can grasp onto the opportunities that do exist, that raise the Hope that exists, and say Well, maybe we can make a better World. That’s not much of a choice.
78. Hasan: Noam Chomsky, thanks for joining on the UpFront. I appreciate it.