Noam Chomsky on the Trump presidency, the defeat of the U.S. in Afghanistan, Syria’s civil war, Yemen, Venezuela, and the agenda of Vladimir Putin and Russia


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The world laughed at U.S. President Donald Trump at the United Nations, but the imperial declarations he issued are no laughing matter. Trump may come off as a buffoon, but his global agenda is consistent with the bipartisan empire machine that runs the United States.

JS: Today on the show, we have a special guest for an extended conversation on a wide range of issues, from the war in Afghanistan to North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia and the election, big tech companies and the role they play in our lives, propaganda, and beyond. Our guest is the legendary American dissident and scholar, Noam Chomsky. I’m sure that pretty much every single one of our listeners is familiar with Chomsky, but you will almost never see him on major TV networks in the United States. Globally, yes. Chomsky is on TV all the time around the world. But here in his home country, nope. And if I am not mistaken, he has never been on NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox. He did a few interviews over the years on PBS, on the Charlie Rose show. And I believe he was on CNN for a couple of minutes once. Such is the fate of dissidents in the home of the brave. Here is one of the few times that Noam Chomsky was actually allowed on U.S. TV. It was way back on April 3, 1969, where Chomsky debated the famed conservative William F. Buckley. The show was broadcast under the title “Vietnam and the Intellectuals,” and it was part of Buckley’s show, “Firing Line.”

Noam Chomsky (1969): What seems to me a very, in a sense, terrifying aspect of our society and other societies is the equanimity and the detachment with which sane, reasonable, sensible people can observe such events. I think that’s more terrifying than the occasional Hitler, or LeMay, or other that crops up. These people would not be able to operate were it not for the this apathy and equanimity and; therefore, I think that it’s in some sense the sane, and reasonable, and tolerant people who should share a very serious burden of guilt that they very easily throw on the shoulders of others who seem more extreme and more violent.

William F. Buckley: Oh, I agree but, but —

JS: Noam Chomsky is one of the most popular and influential political thinkers in the world, yet in the United States you will only find him on independent, alternative media outlets. Look at all of the pundits and well, criminals who are constantly on TV today. The people with long public career in mass killing or mass lying. This is part of the problem. It’s a big part of the problem in this country. How different would this country be, would the world be, if Noam Chomsky and other principled dissidents were regularly featured on major news broadcasts?

Chomsky is currently a laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona. He is professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than half a century. Chomsky’s recent books include, “Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy” and “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.” He is also the co-author, with the late Ed Herman, of the classic book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

JS: Noam Chomsky, welcome Intercepted.

NC: Very glad to be with you.

JS: If you watch, and I know you are not a fan of television news, but if you watch particularly MSNBC or CNN right now or you read the major newspapers in the United States, you can come away with the impression that Donald Trump and his administration, his presidency, represent this grand departure from the way things are done in the United States historically.

How much of a departure is the Trump presidency from the bipartisan Washington empire consensus — the way that the U.S. has been governed throughout its history?

NC: There are some differences and many continuities. On the domestic scene, Trump is, very effectively, managing both of his constituencies.

There’s an authentic constituency of corporate power and private wealth and they’re being served magnificently by the executive orders, legislative programs that are being pushed through which represent the more savage wing of the traditional Republican policies — catering to private interests, private wealth, and dismissing the rest as irrelevant and easily disposed of.

At the same time, he’s managing to maintain the voting constituency by pretending, very effectively, to be the one person in the world who stands up for them against the hated elites. And this is quite an impressive con job. How long he can carry it off? I don’t know. On the international scene, it’s actually more interesting.

He’s being lambasted for taking positions which, in my view, are pretty reasonable. So, for example, in the case of Korea: The two Koreas, last April 27th came out with a historic declaration, in which they laid out fairly explicit plans for moving towards reconciliation, integration, and denuclearization of the peninsula.

Newscaster: Kim Jong-un made history today becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War began in 1950. He promised a new beginning as he met with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone between the two countries. The meeting marks the first summit between the Koreas in more than a decade.

NC: They pretty much pleaded with outsiders, that means the United States to permit them to proceed, as they put it, on their own accord. And so far Trump has not interfered with this very much, calling off temporarily at least the military exercises, which has he correctly said are highly provocative. He’s been lambasted for that, but it’s exactly the right position I think. Right now, the president Moon is in North Korea if they can make positive moves on their own accord as they’ve requested that should be beneficial.

In the case of Russia, it’s more complexes. His policies have, in fact, been two-fold his administration has continued the policies of building up military forces on the Russian border, carrying out military maneuvers, increasing the tensions in extremely dangerous parts of the world.

On the other hand, he has also taken somewhat conciliatory steps towards reducing tensions. And for that again, he’s been lambasted. Though, I think it’s the right thing to do. On other issue matters, he’s torn up important international agreements, the most significant was the Iran nuclear agreement.

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