Interview with Noam Chomsky – by Gabriel Matthew Schivone

On Responsibility, War Guilt and Intellectuals

Noam Chomsky:

Let’s take the Iraq war. There’s libraries of material arguing about the war, debating it, asking ‘What should we do?’, this and that, and the other thing. Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that ‘carrying out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows’ (paraphrasing from Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. I mean, you can find it. I’ve written about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about it in the world. But, is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything that’s part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that ‘to carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows’?

So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who’s responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice — they’re responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try and find somebody who points that out. You can’t. Because, our dominant intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.Let’s take the Iraq war. There’s libraries of material arguing about the war, debating it, asking ‘What should we do?’, this and that, and the other thing. Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that ‘carrying out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows’ (paraphrasing from Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. I mean, you can find it. I’ve written about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about it in the world. But, is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything that’s part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that ‘to carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows’?So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who’s responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice — they’re responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try and find somebody who points that out. You can’t. Because, our dominant intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.

Thus, no use of an investigative anti Iraq War novel like Homefront in the universitites and schools – or even such novels being conceived and written in the first place – let alone reviews in the media, or publication by the literary establishment – let alone the proliferation of many such works. [-TC]

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