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Then Gilbert and Noam each went through and edited their remarks. The goal here was not to produce a faithful verbatim transcript of the conversation. Rather the idea was to allow each of them to clarify or expand on their remarks though not to change a major argument to which the other had already responded. We took the view that oral comments made without access to sources should not serve as the last word.

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So we verified facts and checked and filled in quotations as necessary. And, because we believe that readers should not be expected to take what authors say on faith, we felt it important to add in documentation for all non-obvious or controversial claims. In the Summer of , each of the authors wrote an Epilogue in which they commented on more recent developments. What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success?

What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort? A fundamental change in United States policy toward the Middle East would make us more than happy. But the effort will have been worthwhile if it helps to make the average person in the West and especially the United States more informed about and uncomfortable with current U. Too often critics discuss Iraq as if the categories "collaborator" and "resistance" are sufficient to make sense of what is going on.

Or that U. Or that Islamic fundamentalism must either be accepted as a justification for Washington's imperial foreign policy or dismissed as a figment of the Bush administration's imagination. With a fuller appreciation of the Middle East situation, critics should be better able to oppose U.

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How reliable are these governments in their antiwar stances? Chomsky: Their reliability is approximately zero. Sensible antiwar activists don't ally themselves with governments. There was something important about their position -- namely, there was a reason why they were being so bitterly denounced by U. For whatever reason -- pure cynicism, in fact -- they were acting the way a democratic government is supposed to act. In short, they were responding to the will of the overwhelming majority of their populations.

The position of the antiwar movement should have been that it's fine that these governments are paying attention to their populations, whatever their reasons may be, but we certainly don't ally with them, or have any trust in them.

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What happened here was quite intriguing, but was basically ignored. I can't recall any display of hatred and contempt for democracy as extreme as what took place in those months in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum. Some of it was almost comical, like Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi being invited to the White House as the representative of the hope for democracy. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. He was so lauded by Bush and by British prime minister Tony Blair as the hope for democracy that he was brought to their summit in the Azores, where they basically declared the war a couple of days before the invasion.

Aznar joined in this war declaration right after polls in Spain showed that the war had the support of 2 percent of the population, so therefore he's the great hope for democracy.

What does that tell you about the attitudes toward democracy? Some of it became surreal. When the Turkish government, to everyone's surprise, including mine, went along with the opinion of 95 percent of its population and refused to allow a U. That great dove, Secretary of State Colin Powell, immediately announced we're going to have to have sanctions against Turkey.

And this farce went on, without comment. The fact that anyone can talk about democracy promotion, after this display, is astounding. This is what the antiwar movement should be emphasizing. And if there are a couple of governments that for their own cynical reasons happen to agree with the majority of the population and take the right position, fine, but that's the end of it; there's nothing more to say about them.

Tomorrow they'll do the opposite, because they're acting out of pure cynicism -- power interests -- anyway. Achcar: Noam's quite right to stress the importance of this feature of our times.

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There's a general trend at the level of the mainstream media to praise those ruling politicians who rule without considering the polls; that is deemed a great virtue. But behind it is the very elitist idea, also embedded in the very concept of "representative democracy," that, once elected, a representative is free to do whatever he or she wants, even against the unanimous will of his or her constituency. But I must also say that in the case of the three governments that we've mentioned -- France, Germany, and Russia -- it was certainly not out of any consideration for democracy that they were against the war.

I don't need to elaborate on the Russian government. But even the French and German governments do not hesitate to pursue the most unpopular neoliberal policies and assaults on social gains. On the issue of Iraq, their motivation was definitely not any democratic principle: There were much more down-to-earth considerations at stake.

Iraq is a country where there was a direct clash of interests, in a very primary economic sense, between the United States and Britain, on the one hand, and France and Russia -- one could add China -- on the other hand. The Soviet Union and France were the main partners of Saddam Hussein for many years, providing him with arms. France, especially, was his main military backer in the war against Iran.

And despite Russian collusion and French participation in the war on Iraq, Saddam Hussein tried to play his traditional partnership with France and Russia, during the UN embargo years, as a counterweight to the United States and Britain in the Security Council. French and Russian companies were granted important oil concessions that were conditioned on lifting the embargo. That is why at some point Paris and Moscow changed their attitude, trying to find ways to lift the embargo, and were blocked on that by Washington and London.

The United States and British refusal to lift the embargo -- that is, to allow the lifting of the embargo if and when UN inspectors determined that Iraq had disarmed -- was rightly perceived by Paris and Moscow as a refusal to permit them to take advantage of the oil concessions they had been granted. And they very much saw the dedication of Washington and London to invade Iraq as a desire to snatch the prize from them. Actually one of the first proclamations after the invasion was that all contracts granted by Saddam Hussein were to be considered null and void.

So that's the main reason why Paris and Moscow opposed that war. Had the Bush administration offered them a substantial slice of the cake, I'm sure they would have joined in. But the Bush administration was so arrogant that it didn't want to grant them much of anything, and that's why they kept opposing the war to the end. In the German case, there were no direct economic interests at stake. If one wanted to be less generous, one would just stress that there's a big dose, not of democracy but of opportunist electoralism, behind his stance, because the preparation for the invasion of Iraq happened at a time when the German chancellor was projected as the loser in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, because of his neoliberal social program, which caused the traditional constituency of social democracy to be reluctant to support him; and therefore, the only popular issue he could find was opposition to the war, at a time when, indeed, the polls were showing that the overwhelming majority of German public opinion was opposed to the war.

Russian forces are waging a terrible quasi-genocidal war in Chechnya.


This book provides the best readable introduction for all who wish to understand the complex issues related to the Middle East from a perspective dedicated to peace and justice. His articles and books revolutionized the contemporary study of linguistics and his political essays are widely read and translated throughout the world.

In a profile of Chomsky in The New Yorker described his influence as one of the most widely cited scholars in history. He is the author of several books on contemporary politics and is a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique. Policy Israel and U.

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