Noam Chomsky is a noted linguist, author, and foreign policy expert. On February 9, Michael Shank interviewed him on the latest developments in US policy toward Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Venezuela. This is Part II of a four-part series.
Shank: Venezuela has been successfully defiant with Chavez making a swing towards socialism. Where are they on our list?
Chomsky: They’re very high. The United States sponsored and supported a military coup to overthrow the government. In fact, that’s its last, most recent effort in what used to be a conventional resort to such measures.
Shank: But why haven’t we turned our sights more toward Venezuela?
Chomsky: Oh they’re there. There’s a constant stream of abuse and attack by the government and therefore the media, who are almost reflexively against Venezuela, for several reasons. Venezuela is independent. It’s diversifying its exports to a limited extent, instead of just being dependent on exports to the United States. And it’s initiating moves toward Latin American integration and independence. It’s what they call a Bolivarian alternative and the United States doesn’t like any of that.
This again is defiance of US policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine. There’s now a standard interpretation of this trend in Latin America, another kind of party line. Latin America is all moving to the left, from Venezuela to Argentina with rare exceptions, but there’s a good left and a bad left. The good left is Garcia and Lula, and then there’s the bad left which is Chavez, Morales, maybe Correa. And that’s the split.
In order to maintain that position, it’s necessary to resort to some fancy footwork. For example, it’s necessary not to report the fact that when Lula was re-elected in October, his foreign trip and one of his first acts was to visit Caracas to support Chavez and his electoral campaign and to dedicate a joint Venezuelan-Brazilian project on the Orinoco River, to talk about new projects and so on.
It’s necessary not to report the fact that a couple of weeks later in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which is the heart of the bad guys, there was a meeting of all South American leaders. There had been bad blood between Chavez and Garcia, but it was apparently patched up. They laid plans for pretty constructive South American integration, but that just doesn’t fit the US agenda. So it wasn’t reported.
Shank: How is the political deadlock in Lebanon impacting the US government’s decision to potentially go to war with Iran? Is there a relationship at all?
Chomsky: There’s a relationship. I presume part of the reason for the US-Israel invasion of Lebanon in July – and it is US-Israeli, the Lebanese are correct in calling it that – part of the reason I suppose was that Hezbollah is considered a deterrent to a potential US-Israeli attack on Iran. It had a deterrent capacity, i.e. rockets. And the goal I presume was to wipe out the deterrent so as to free up the United States and Israel for an eventual attack on Iran. That’s at least part of the reason.
The official reason given for the invasion can’t be taken seriously for a moment. That’s the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of a couple others. For decades Israel has been capturing, and kidnapping Lebanese and Palestinian refugees on the high seas, from Cyprus to Lebanon, killing them in Lebanon, bringing them to Israel, holding them as hostages. It’s been going on for decades, has anybody called for an invasion of Israel?
Of course Israel doesn’t want any competition in the region. But there’s no principled basis for the massive attack on Lebanon, which was horrendous. In fact, one of the last acts of the US-Israeli invasion, right after the ceasefire was announced before it was implemented, was to saturate much of the south with cluster bombs. There’s no military purpose for that, the war was over, the ceasefire was coming.
UN de-mining groups that are working there say that the scale is unprecedented. It’s much worse than any other place they’ve worked: Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, anywhere. There are supposed to be about one million bomblets left there. A large percentage of them don’t explode until you pick them up, a child picks them up, or a farmer hits it with a hoe or something. So what it does basically is make the south uninhabitable until the mining teams, for which the United States and Israel don’t contribute, clean it up. This is arable land. It means that farmers can’t go back; it means that it may undermine a potential Hezbollah deterrent. They apparently have pretty much withdrawn from the south, according to the UN.
You can’t mention Hezbollah in the US media without putting in the context of “Iranian-supported Hezbollah. That’s its name. Its name is Iranian-supported Hezbollah. It gets Iranian support. But you can mention Israel without saying US-supported Israel. So this is more tacit propaganda. The idea that Hezbollah is acting as an agent of Iran is very dubious. It’s not accepted by specialists on Iran or specialists on Hezbollah. But it’s the party line. Or sometimes you can put in Syria, i.e. “Syrian-supported Hezbollah, but since Syria is of less interest now you have to emphasize Iranian support.
Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Michael Shank is the policy director for the 3D Security Initiative.