Noam Chomsky's interview with Salon has hit the Chomsky archive. A must-read.
QUESTION: You endorse a criminal pursuit of bin Laden and his cohorts -- but why don't you don't believe that the war in Afghanistan is justified in the wake of Sept. 11?
CHOMSKY: The war in Afghanistan targets Afghan civilians, and openly. The British defense minister put it very clearly in a front-page article in the New York Times. He said we are going to attack the Afghans until they finally realize that they better overthrow their government. That's a virtual definition of international terrorism.
QUESTION: What should we say?
CHOMSKY: We should say, "Yeah, we supported [Hussein] in his worst atrocities; now we don't like him anymore and what should we do about him?" And, yeah, that's a problem.
My own feeling, to tell you the truth, is that there was a great opportunity to get rid of Saddam Hussein in March 1991. There was a massive Shiite uprising in the south led by rebelling Iraqi generals. The U.S. had total command of the region at the time. [The Iraqi generals] didn't ask for U.S. support but they asked for access to captured Iraqi equipment and they asked the United States to prevent Saddam from using his air force to attack the rebels. The U.S. refused. It allowed Saddam Hussein to use military helicopters and other forces to crush the rebellion.
You can read it in the New York Times. It was more important to maintain stability -- that was the word that was used -- or as the diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times put it, the best of all worlds for the United States would have been for an iron-fisted military junta to seize power and rule in Iraq the way Saddam Hussein did. But since we couldn't get that, we'd have to accept him. That was the main opportunity of getting rid of him. Since then it hasn't been so simple. The forces of resistance were crushed with our help, after the war.
Since then, there's a question of whether the Iraqi Democratic opposition forces could mount some means of overthrowing this monster. That's a tricky business. The worst way of doing it is to undermine opposition to him. That's exactly what the sanctions do. Everyone who observed the sanctions has concluded -- including the humanitarian administrators, Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who know more about it than anyone else -- that the sanctions have severely harmed the civilian population and strengthened Saddam Hussein. People under severe sanctions and trying to survive are not going to carry out any action against an armed military force.
Here's another, more fast-paced interview with a British talk show host of some kind with a lot of questions. It's kind of fun.
QUESTION: So [the situation?] isn't as bleak as you thought it was?
CHOMSKY: It's not as bleak as I thought it was forty years ago. In fact, what I've insisted over and over again, and I think is true, is that the effect of the popular activism of the last forty years has been to make the country a much more civilized place.