Noam Chomsky interview on Rado Havana Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Wed Sep 3 22:47:57 MDT 2003

(This is the complete text of the Noam Chomsky interview on
Radio Havana Cuba August 28th. 

(My opinion is that this interview is quite a testimony to the 
strength of the Cubans' position that they don't mind having
Chomsky broadcasting over their airwaves and reiterating
his criticisms of the executions and trials this spring.

I'm sharing this because these are issues of general debate
which we spoke about earlier this year. This transcript is
posted to the Cuban website devoted to what they call
the struggle against "media terrorism". It's name is Most it is in Spanish, however.

(You may have heard (because it's true) that a few in
the orbit of the Socialist Workers Party of the US have
been on a morbid campaign to run people like Chomsky,
Galeano and Zinn out of the political left. It's a genuinely
foolish endeavor. The Cubans have shown how to deal
with these folks: answering them politically, for example,
in the Rene Gonzalez letter, and publishing their longer
anti-war articles by Chomsky and Zinn in the Cuban
media. Cuba isn't in the business of drawing lines in
the sand which other people are forbidden to cross.

(This includes a section we didn't have earlier today in
which Chomsky discusses his criticisms the trials and
executions earlier this year.

(Chomsky reaffirms his view that Cuba's actions were a
mistake and a gift to the harshest groups in the US, then
affirms his absolute respect for Cuba's right to determine
its own system, or in his words, "I am in favour of Cuba's
successful defiance of the United States." Great item for
distribution at public meetings. This fuller and corrected,
reformatted version is posted to the "Terrorism and
anti-Terrorism" folder at CubaNews list:

[Bernie Dwyer] A couple of new popular books have recently
been published such as Weapons of Mass Deception and Stupid
White Men. Do you see them as a viable alternative to the
corporate media?

[Noam Chomsky] No, they are not trying to be an alternative
to the corporate media. They are just books among the many
books written about the way the corporate media function
and there is by now, in the United States, more than any
other western country that I know, a rather significant
popular movement concerned with the corporate media, which
is virtually all the media within the United States, and
the way they function as a kind of propaganda system.

There is also a lot of popular protest against efforts to
increase the concentration of the media in fewer and fewer
hands so as to prevent even the limited diversity that
exists. The books that you mention are just two of the
many. The books themselves, the critical literature - I've
written on it too- aren't an alternative to the corporate
media but rather a part of an on-going effort to construct
alternatives or to compel them to function in a more honest

[Bernie Dwyer] The recent war on Iraq and the current US
occupation was fully supported by the mainstream press in
the US to the extent that the media became the political
wing of the Bush administration. Isn't that pushing the
power of the press beyond all limits?

[Noam Chomsky] It's hard to answer that. An independent
press, of course, would not function in that fashion. You
are quite right. The press became essentially an instrument
of state policy, but there is nothing new about that. That
happens during just about every military conflict and in
fact during any general confrontation. The press tends
overwhelmingly to function within the framework of state
corporate policy and those are very closely linked.

During the Vietnam War, which went on for years remember,
the press was almost entirely supportive of the war. Toward
the end, when it started getting costly to the United
States and the business world then you started getting
timid criticisms about how it was going to cost us too much
and so on and you'll find that criticism now too: it's
costing us too much. This goes back as far as you would
like. The First World War was the same. And it's pretty
much true in other countries too.

The mass media, the business world, and the intellectual
community in general, tend to line up in support of
concentrated power - which in the US is state and corporate
power. And the same is true on the issues of Cuba. For
example almost nobody knows the history of US terrorism in
Cuba since 1959. Terrorism is a big word. Everybody talks
about it. You wouldn't find a person in a thousand or maybe
a hundred thousand who is aware of the fact that the
Kennedy administration intensified the on-going terrorist
operations (against Cuba) and pressed them to such a point
that they almost led to a terminal nuclear war and then
they went on for years after that. In fact they are still
going on. Almost no one knows that. It's not covered.

[Bernie Dwyer] The US media has branded several nations as
terrorist or as harbouring terrorists or as being
perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Cuba has been
pigeonholed as falling into one if not all of these
categories when we know that Cuba has suffered more
terrorist attacks against it than any other country. How
serious do you take these accusations against Cuba? Is the
drum beat getting louder?

[Noam Chomsky] Louder than when? Not louder than when
Kennedy invaded Cuba and then launched Operation Mongoose
leading right to the missile crisis which practically
destroyed the world. But, yes, it's picking up. The fact
that the United States can label other countries as
terrorist states itself is quite remarkable because it not
a secret that the United States is incontrovertibly a
terrorist state.

The US is the only country in the world that has been
condemned by the World Court for international terrorism.
The words they used were: unlawful use of force in their
war against Nicaragua. That's international terrorism.
There were two Security Council resolutions supporting that
judgement. The US of course vetoed them. And that was no
small terrorist war. It practically destroyed the country.
US terrorism against Cuba has been going on since 1959 and
the fact that the US can label Cuba a terrorist state when
it has been carrying out a major terrorist campaign against
Cuba since 1959, picking up heavily in the'60s and peaking
in the '70s in fact, that's pretty astonishing.

But I think if you do a careful study of the American media
and intellectual journals and intellectual opinions and so
on, you will find nothing about this and not a word
suggesting that there is anything strange about it. And if
you look at the scholarly literature on terrorism by people
like Walter Laqueur and other respected scholars, and take
a look at the index, you find Cuba mentioned often and if
you look at the page references, what is mentioned is
suspicions that Cuba may have been involved in some
terrorist actions, but what you will not find is a
reference to the very well documented US terrorist
operations against Cuba.

And that is not controversial. We have reams of
declassified government documents on it. There is extensive
scholarship on it, but it cannot enter into public
discourse. It's a pretty remarkable achievement, not just
of the media but of the intellectual community altogether.
It's not very different in Europe. If you did an
investigation in England you would probably find pretty
much the same.

[Bernie Dwyer] The US and the people of the US have nothing
to fear from Cuba. Cuba is not a threat. So why is the
government doing such a closed job on Cuba?

[Noam Chomsky] The United States, to its credit, is a very
free country, maybe the freest country in the world in many
respects. One result of that is that we have extremely rich
internal documentation. We have a rich record of high level
planning documents which tell us the answer to your
question. And that's an achievement of American democracy.
However, almost nobody knows about it and that is a failure
of democracy.

So the information is there. It's in the scholarly
literature. It's in the declassified record and it answers
your question very clearly. So when the Kennedy
administration took over, for example, it immediately
organised a Latin American mission. Latin America was going
to be the centre piece of the Kennedy administration
policy. It was headed by a well-known American historian,
Arthur Schlesinger, who was adviser to the president.
Schlesinger's report of the Latin American mission has been
declassified for the last number of years and the mission
explains to Kennedy the importance of overthrowing the
government of Cuba.

The reason is that they are concerned about, virtually
quoting, the spread of the Castro idea of taking matters
into one's own hands which will have a lot of appeal to
suffering and impoverished people around the hemisphere who
are facing very similar problems. We don't want that idea
to spread. If you go on in the declassified records, you
find descriptions by the CIA and the intelligence agencies
of how the problem with Cuba is what they call its
successful defiance of US policies going back a hundred and
fifty years. That's a reference to the Monroe Doctrine. The
Monroe Doctrine, which the US was not powerful enough to
implement at the time, stated that the US would become the
dominant force in this hemisphere and Cuba is not
submitting to that. That is successful defiance of a policy
that goes back a hundred and fifty years and that can't be
tolerated. They make it very clear. They are not worried
about Cuban aggression or even subversion or anything. They
are worried about Cuba's successful defiance and that's not
just Cuba. That's common.

When the US overthrew the government of Guatemala in 1954
-again we have that rich record of declassified documents
-what they explain is that the threat of Guatemala was that
it was the first democratic government that had enormous
popular support. It was mobilising the peasantry,
instituting social reforms and this was likely to appeal to
surrounding countries that might want to do the same thing.
And that couldn't be tolerated or else the whole framework
of US domination of the hemisphere would collapse.

And it was the same in South East Asia and the rest of the
world. The threat of independent nationalism has always
been a primary threat. And actually if you go back far
enough, remember the American colonies when they liberated
themselves from England, they were regarded by European
statesmen as a tremendous threat. The Czar, Metternich and
others were extremely upset by this threat of republicanism
which might appeal to others and undermine the conservative
world order and its moral foundations. It's the kind of
thing that you can't really accept. It's basically the
threat of independence, of taking matters into your own
hands, that can't be accepted. And anyone who wants to know
about this can find it out.

As I say, it's a very free country. We have a rich
documentary record of high level planning going way back
and it's constantly the same thing. I mean why did the
United States, Britain and France support Mussolini and
Hitler as they did? Well, because they were afraid of what
they called the masses in Italy and Germany. If the masses,
inspired by the Soviet Union, might try to take matters
into their own hands and threaten the rights of property
and power, and the only people who can stop them are Hitler
and Mussolini, then that's why they supported them almost
to the day that the war began. These are old policies and
they're understandable. They're understandable if you want
the world to be subordinated primarily to domestic power

[Bernie Dwyer] Because of 43 years of non-stop aggression
Cuba has obviously had to take matters into their its own
hands even though they did appeal to the United States to
stop some of this terrorism emanating from the right-wing
anti-Cuba groups in Miami. Are you familiar with the case
of the five Cuban political prisoners in the US who were
incarcerated for fighting against terrorism?

[Noam Chomsky] That's an amazing case! Cuba approached the
United States with an offer to cooperate in combating
terrorism and, in fact, the FBI sent people to Cuba to get
information from the Cubans about it. The next thing was
that Cubans who had infiltrated the terrorist groups in the
United States were arrested. That is utterly shocking! Do
you think it's reported? Nobody knows about it. I mean,
here are Cubans who are infiltrating illegal, terrorist
organisations in the United States, which are violating US
law and the infiltrators are arrested, not the terrorists.
It's astonishing. The US has refused intelligence
cooperation with Cuba on terrorism because it would lead
directly back to terrorist groups based in the United

Actually, since the 1970s, the United States has at least
officially opposed this US based terrorism. But it still
tolerates it - it doesn't close down the terrorist bases or
the terrorist funding - but theoretically it opposes it and
in fact has even occasionally prosecuted people. Up until
then (the 1970s) the US wasn't relying on Cuban exiles. It
was itself organising the terrorism. That's right into the
1970s officially. What is going on now, we don't know. We
know the official record up until 20 or 30 years ago.

[Bernie Dwyer] How are you following the case of the five
Cubans considering the media silence surrounding the case?

[Noam Chomsky] There are, fortunately, independent sources
although I can't think of an article in the United States.
The British press has covered it. There are several
independent alternative journals in the United States that
have covered it. There was quite a good article on it by
William Blum in Counterpunch. There's a good quarterly
journal called Socialism and Democracy which published the
testimonies of the Cuban prisoners. You can find material
on some of the Internet sites like Z-net. So, it is
possible for people to find out about it, but it's a
research project. An ordinary person cannot be expected to
do that. It's a major research project.

[Bernie Dwyer] The US obsession with overthrowing the Cuban
Revolution reached new heights when James Cason became
chief at the US Interests Section here in Havana. He
deliberately set out to subvert the Cuban social project
from the inside by recruiting, for money and favours,
Cubans who would act as agents for the US. When the Cuban
government reacted by arresting, putting on trial and
imprisoning those mercenaries, there was a lot of criticism
from many of Cuba's friends.

[Noam Chomsky] Yes, I have criticized them for that. I
think it was a mistake. In the case of the petition I
signed we insisted that it emphasised US terrorist actions
and any illegal economic warfare going on against Cuba
since 1959. It went on to say that in case of the people
that were imprisoned, no public information had been
available - and it still isn't - to justify the charge that
they are US government agents, not critical dissidents. I
mean the fact that they met with Cason, I may be wrong, but
it doesn't prove it. I think it was the wrong thing to do
and not very wise. It was just a gift to the harshest
elements in the United States.

[Bernie Dwyer] You would still uphold your admiration of
the Cuban system as you did before?

[Noam Chomsky] As far as I am concerned, I do not pass
judgement on what Cubans decide to do. I am in favour of
Cuba's successful defiance of the United States. I am in
favour of them taking matters into their own hands. Exactly
how they carry it out. I have my own opinions. A lot of
things I think are fine, a lot not, but it's a matter for
the Cubans to decide. My concern is that the hemispheric
superpower not resort to violence, pressure, force, threat,
and embargo in order to prevent Cubans from how to
determine their own fate.

[Bernie Dwyer] There seems to be a move forward in Latin
America with Presidents Chavez of Venezuela, Lula of Brazil
and Kirchner in Argentina. Are you feeling optimistic for
the future of Latin America?

[Noam Chomsky] There certainly are opportunities. What
happened in Brazil is quite dramatic. It's a real lesson
for the industrial democracies. Brazil taught a lesson to
the industrial democracies that they ought to learn. There
was an achievement of democracy in Brazil which has not
been equalled in any of the rich industrial democracies.
Popular forces based in the working class, in the
peasantry, human rights organisations and others actually
succeeded in electing their own president - a quite
marvellous person, I think - over tremendous odds.

That doesn't happen in the western countries. It can't
happen in the United States for example. But how far that
can go is a difficult question. Forty years ago when Brazil
had a moderately populous president - nothing like Lula,
but at least moderately populous - the Kennedy
administration just organised a military coup which
overthrew him. It was one of the actions that set off a
major plague of repression throughout the hemisphere. They
are not doing it this time even though Lula is a far more
significant figure than Goulart was and has much more
popular support. They are not doing it for a number of
reasons. One of them is that the international economic
arrangement that has been imposed in the last 20 or 30
years in neo-liberal structures creates a stranglehold
which prevents democracy from functioning. The main
purpose, I believe, of the main neo-liberal measures is to
reduce the options for democratic choice.

Now whether Brazil and others in the region will be able to
combat this is a serious question and it certainly will
require a very high degree of North/South solidarity for
them to break out of this network of controls that has been
designed to prevent people from making democratic choices
without military coups.

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