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Keeping The Rabble In Line


Interviews with David Barsamian

3. Race

January 14, 1993

DB: The latest news bulletins report that Allied bombers are currently attacking Ankara, Jakarta, Tel Aviv, and even Washington, D.C., because of their defiance of UN resolutions. Would you care to comment?

Not Port-au-Prince?

DB: You just wrote a book called Year 501, and it's beginning the same way that Year 499 began, with the bombing of Iraq, which is very much what you anticipated.

Although this bombing is of a very different character. This one is a matter of George Bush and Saddam Hussein playing to their respective audiences and each giving the other appropriate assistance in the action. It's difficult to conceal. I noticed Bob Simon on CBS the other night just after the bombing, reporting from Baghdad, saying, This is the best gift that Bush can give to Saddam Hussein. Conversely, although for a short time only, Saddam Hussein will now again, even more, be able to appeal not only to his own population but to a considerable part of the Arab world and a lot of the Third World as someone who is defying imperialist violence. The bombing was immediately denounced by the Arab League as an act of aggression against an Arab country. The Arab countries wouldn't take part. Certainly at home he's guaranteed a worshipful reception on the part of those who transmit pictures of the world to the public. The same with Bush: worshipful reception at home, easy action, overwhelming force against people who can't shoot back. You can strut around the stage and strike heroic poses. It emphasizes what he wants to go down in history as his one achievement, namely killing a lot of people without getting shot at.

DB: There was Libya in the 1980s and now Iraq in the 1990s, convenient punching bags. But Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein also play their part. They're great villains. They're easy to hate, too.

Qaddafi is sort of a small time thug, but Saddam Hussein is a major one. On the other hand you have to bear in mind that the villainy is totally irrelevant. He was as much a villain before August 2, 1990. His worst crimes by far are during the period when he was a highly admired ally who was being strongly supported by the United States, so strongly that he even almost approached the level of Israel. Israel, I had thought, would be the only country in the world that could bomb an American ship (the Liberty), kill a couple of dozen American sailors and get away with it completely. But I was wrong. Iraq was able to do it, too. Iraq was able to bomb the U.S.S. Stark in the Gulf, killing Americans, and get away with it because they were such close allies. That was in 1987, the period when the U.S. was tilting strongly toward Iraq to try to make sure that they won the Iraq-Iran war. It continued until the one crime for which Saddam Hussein cannot be forgiven: he disobeyed orders on August 2. Immediately after, within a few months, the U.S. was supporting him again. There was no secret about it. In March, right after the fighting stopped, when Saddam Hussein turned to crushing the Shiites in the South and then the Kurds in the North, the U.S. stood by quietly and assisted him. The Kurds finally got some publicity. They're blue-eyed and Aryan. But the Shiites got no publicity. They were much harder hit. That was right under the nose of American forces. Iraqi generals were appealing to the American forces to let them have some arms so they could fight off Saddam Hussein's troops. Stormin' Norman was just sitting there and watching, maybe writing his memoirs at the time. This was reported. It received sober approval in the press: Yes, we don't like Saddam Hussein, but we have to support him in the interests of stability, meaning retaining our power in the region. In fact, at that time, the government was actually kind enough to explain for once exactly what they were doing. It's worth paying attention to the words, passed through the government spokesman at the New York Times, chief diplomatic correspondent Thomas Friedman, who described U.S. policy as handed to him, which is that the U.S. is seeking the "best of all worlds": an iron-fisted Iraqi junta which could wield the iron fist in Iraq just the way Saddam Hussein did before the invasion of Kuwait, much to the satisfaction of the U.S. allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia and obviously the boss in Washington. That's what they want. This makes it extremely clear. You can't miss the message. It's explicit and clear and lucid. They want a Saddam Hussein, and since he's now an embarrassment, they want a clone, somebody equivalent to Saddam Hussein who will be able to wield the iron fist again just like he did. So the crimes are irrelevant. Yes, he's a demon, but that's irrelevant. What's relevant is the obedience. That's a pattern that goes way back in history. We supported Mussolini and Hitler for similar reasons.

DB: No noise from the servants' quarters.

Yes.

DB: What do you think of this new concept in statecraft, the "no-fly zone"?

Anyone's going to try to lead with their strength, and the U.S. strength is in high-technology military capacity. The U.S. government recognizes that classical intervention is no longer an option. This is one of the major changes since the 1960s; in fact it's a change in world history. I think they well understand that the population will not tolerate the classical forms of intervention. We should remember what that means. Classical intervention is, for example, when Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines to attack Haiti and the Dominican Republic and conquer them, killing thousands of people, tearing apart the constitutional system and reinstating virtual slavery, turning the countries over to western investors, turning them both into plantations. Neither country has recovered. In the case of Haiti we stayed there for almost twenty years. Or marauding around Nicaragua searching for Sandino. Or another form of classical intervention, actually one that set some new precedents, was Kennedy thirty years ago, when he sent the U.S. Air Force to start bombing villages, authorized napalm and defoliation, and sent U.S. military forces in as combat advisors. All of that's classical intervention. That's finished. Nobody assumes that that's even possible any longer. They can only carry out what an early Bush administration high-level planning document stated: only rapid and decisive intervention against much weaker enemies which will lead to very quick victory without any fighting. Anything else will undercut political support. There is no longer any political support.

That gets back to no-fly zones. No-fly zones nobody knows about. It's clean. The only people who get killed are other people. There's never any interaction between the military forces. So what was called a "combat" between U.S. and Iraqi jets wasn't a combat. It wouldn't be a combat if I sat here pushing a button and a bomb went off halfway around the world. The Iraqi jets are only "in combat" when U.S. planes are out of their range. So there are cheap wars. We can attack, but we never get shot at. That the public will still tolerate. That's what no-fly zones are about.

DB: What about the role of the UN in these various interventions now, giving its approval?

First of all, the UN doesn't really give its approval. It just stays back. So during the Gulf War, the UN did not give its approval. The UN was neutralized. There was a series of resolutions. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Security Council passed resolution 660, which is the usual kind of resolution that's introduced after some act of aggression. It called for Iraq to withdraw. It had a second part, which was immediately forgotten, because the U.S. wouldn't tolerate it. The second part was that Iraq and Kuwait should immediately undertake negotiations to settle issues between them. The U.S. wasn't having that. They didn't want negotiations. The second part dropped out of history. But the first part stayed. Iraq should withdraw. The only difference between that and any other UN resolution was that this time it wasn't vetoed. A similar resolution had been introduced just a few months earlier, when the U.S. invaded Panama. Of course that time it was vetoed. The U.S. has vetoed dozens of such resolutions. Same thing when Israel invaded Lebanon.

Then came a series of resolutions leading ultimately to the final one, 678, in which the UN simply washed its hands of the matter. In late November 1990 the UN simply said, Look, it's out of our hands. Any state can do anything they feel like. That's one of the most destructive attacks on the UN that has ever taken place. The UN simply said, We cannot carry out our function. The UN charter is very explicit that no state can use violence unless explicitly authorized by the Security Council. The UN didn't do that, but simply said, We have to wash our hands of the matter. The reason is the U.S. is going to do what it feels like.

DB: So yesterday's bombing was illegal?

It had no authorization at all. Nobody even pretends that it did. Furthermore, whatever the Iraqis were doing with the missiles, whatever games they were playing, right or wrong, you can discuss it at some other level, but as far as the UN resolutions are concerned, it's conceded in the small print that they did not violate any resolution. As to the other things, impeding access of UN inspectors and moving into Umm Qasr port to pick up their equipment, that's arguably in violation of resolutions in a technical sense, but the UN simply made a comment -- didn't condemn them as they condemn lots of things -- authorizing no actions. The bombing was completely unilateral, a unilateral decision by the United States, which apparently was made even before the UN meeting. The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was already preparing. The only reason they didn't attack a day earlier was because the weather was bad, meaning it would have occurred even before the UN meeting. It was independent of it. The UN never authorized any such action.

Independently of all of this the UN has been neutralized in another respect. For a long time, many decades, from about the late 1960s through the end of the 1980s, the United States was intent on essentially destroying the United Nations, because it simply was not a pliable instrument of U.S. policy. Under Reagan, the U.S. didn't pay its dues. It was way in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions in the past quarter-century. It was doing everything it could to undermine and eliminate the organization, especially those parts of it that were concerned with Third World affairs, like UNESCO. However, by about 1989 or 1990, the situation changed. The UN came back into favor. During the Gulf War there was a long series of awed articles about the "wondrous sea change" in the United Nations. What happened is that it fell back into line. The UN is essentially the five permanent members of the Security Council. They run the Security Council. The General Assembly you can dismiss. The great power doesn't pay any attention to it. The United States always had two automatic votes in the Security Council, usually three. Britain is a kind of colony. France will make a couple of noises, but they go along. So they had three votes out of the five. With the collapse of the Soviet Union they had four. Russia became even a more loyal client than Britain, which is hard to imagine. That gives four automatic votes. China is very dependent on U.S. trade. It will at most abstain. That means the U.S. essentially has the Security Council in its pocket.

The disappearance of the Soviet Union is one of a number of factors that had the effect of essentially eliminating Third World voices. As long as the Soviet Union was there, two big gangsters parading around, there was some space for independent forces, there was room for non-alignment. You could play one power against the other, or they'd squabble between themselves. With the Soviet Union gone and only one gangster left, that's finished. Furthermore, it's very important to remember that there was a tremendous crisis of capitalism that swept most of the capitalist world in the 1980s. Especially the former colonial world, which was devastated. The only areas that escaped were those in the region around Japan which didn't submit to the neoliberal orthodoxy and standard economic principles that had a devastating impact on Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia that weren't in the Japanese orbit, like the Philippines.

That also undermines very strongly any form of Third World independence. There are other factors, but the net effect is that the UN is pretty much back in the pocket of the United States, which means that it's getting a much more favorable press at this point. Of course, not when it does things that the U.S. doesn't want. For example, there was a condemnation of Iraq, although it didn't authorize bombing. There was a simultaneous condemnation of Israel for deporting 415 alleged Hamas members from Gaza. They deported mostly the intellectuals, the professional class. At one university virtually the whole staff was kicked out. There was condemnation of that. Of course the U.S. doesn't mind that, so therefore it doesn't matter. So it's the usual story: insofar as the United Nations will be an instrument of U.S. power or can at least be made to look it, it is a useful organization. When it isn't doing what the U.S. wants, then it can disappear.

DB: Does Operation Restore Hope in Somalia represent a new pattern of intervention?

I think it represents another try. I don't think that really should be classified as an intervention. It should be classified as a PR operation for the Pentagon. The U.S. has some interests in Somalia, but I don't think they're major. The U.S. was, of course, deeply involved in Somalia. This has to be finessed by the press at the moment, because it's not a pretty story. From 1978 through 1990 -- it's not ancient history -- the U.S. was the main support for Siad Barre, who was a kind of Saddam Hussein clone, tearing the country apart. He probably killed fifty or sixty thousand people, according to Africa Watch. He destroyed the civil and social structure, in fact, laid the basis for what's happening now. The U.S. was supporting and may well be still supporting him. We don't know exactly. We know that the forces, mostly loyal to him, are being supported through Kenya, which is very much under U.S. influence. It's possible that that support continues. Anyhow we certainly did through the end of 1990.

The U.S. was there for a reason: there are military bases there which are part of the system aimed at the Gulf region. The main U.S. intervention forces, overwhelmingly, have always been aimed at the Middle East. This was part of the system of bases surrounding that. However, I doubt that that's much of a concern at this point. They are much more secure bases and more stable areas. What is needed now, desperately needed, is some way to prevent the Pentagon budget from declining. In fact, it's kind of intriguing that it was almost openly stated this time. So Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, made a statement about how this was a great public relations job for the military. The Washington Post had an editorial describing it as a bonanza for the Pentagon. The reporters could scarcely fail to see what was happening. After all, when the Pentagon calls up all the news bureaus and major television networks and says, Look, be at such-and-such a beach at such-and-such an hour with your cameras aiming in this direction because you're going to watch Navy Seals climbing out of the water and it will be real exciting, nobody can fail to see that this is a PR job. There's a level of stupidity that's too much for anyone. So it was a big PR job. And it's needed. The best explanation for the intervention, in my opinion, was given in an article on the day of the intervention in the London Financial Times which didn't mention Somalia. It was about the U.S. recession and why the recovery is so sluggish. It quoted various economists from investment firms and banks and so on, the guys that don't just design models for mathematical journals but care about the economy. The consensus was that the problem with the recovery from the recession was that the standard methods of government stimulation of the economy weren't available. The pump priming through the Pentagon system, one of the major government devices for management of the economy, simply was not available to the extent that it had been in the past. The economy was therefore very sluggish, for that and other reasons.

That's a big problem. The Pentagon system has been the core of state industrial policy. It's declining. There have been various efforts through the 1980s to revitalize it. Bush put it pretty honestly in his farewell address when he explained why we intervened in Somalia and not Bosnia. What it comes down to is in Bosnia somebody might shoot at you. In Somalia it's just a bunch of teenaged kids. We figure 30,000 Marines can handle that. So it's just photo ops, basically. One hopes it will help the Somalis more than harm them, but they're more or less incidental. They're just props for photo opportunities for Pentagon public relations, which is a crucial thing. When the press and commentators say the U.S. has no interests there, that's taking a very narrow and misleading view. Maintaining the Pentagon system is a major interest for the masters of the U.S. economy.

DB: There was a Navy and Marine White Paper in September 1992 called "From the Sea." It discusses that the military focus shifts from global military threats to "regional challenges and opportunities" including "humanitarian assistance and nation building efforts in the Third World."

But that's always been the focus, rhetoric aside. The military budget is mainly for intervention. In fact, even strategic nuclear forces were basically for intervention. It's not that we intended to use nuclear weapons against Grenada. But the point is that you have to think about the way strategy works. The U.S. is a global power. It wasn't like the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union carried out intervention right around its borders, where it had overwhelming conventional forces. The U.S. is a global power. It carries out intervention everywhere: in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, in places where it has no conventional advantage. Accordingly, it always had to have an extremely intimidating posture to make sure that nobody got in the way. That required what was called a "nuclear umbrella": powerful strategic weapons forces to intimidate everybody so that conventional forces could be an instrument of political power. In fact, virtually the entire military system -- its military aspect, not its economic aspect -- was geared for intervention, and that was usually covered as "nation building." In Vietnam, in Central America. We're always humanitarian. So when the Marine Corps documents say we now have a new mission, humanitarian nation building, that's just the old mission. We now have to emphasize it more than before because traditional pretext is gone. There was always an ideological framework in which you could place this, namely the conflict with the Russians. If you had to carry out nation building, humanitarian efforts by attacking and destroying South Vietnam, that was to block Soviet expansion. That part's gone. You can't any longer be blocking Soviet expansion. So we're now just focusing on what was left, the humanitarian nation building. But it's the same as it's always been. It's just the current form of imperialist concern.

DB: What kind of impact will the injection of U.S. armed forces into Somalia have on the civil society? Somalia has been described by one U.S. military official as "Dodge City" and the Marines as "Wyatt Earp." What happens when the marshall leaves town?

First of all, that description has nothing to do with Somalia. One crucial striking aspect of this intervention is that there's no concern for Somalia. No one who knew anything about Somalia was involved in planning it, and there is no interaction with Somalis as far as we know. Since the Marines have gotten in the only people they have been dealing with are the so-called "warlords," and they're the biggest gangsters in the country. They're dealing with them. But Somalia is a country. There are people who know and care about it. They've described it. They don't have much of a voice here. One of the most knowledgeable is a Somali woman named Rakiya Omaar, who was the Executive Director of Africa Watch. She did most of the human rights work, writing, etc., up until the intervention, which she strongly opposed and was then fired from Africa Watch. She knows Somalia well. Another is her co-director, Alex de Waal, who resigned from Africa Watch in protest after she was fired. Apart from his human rights work, he is also an academic specialist on the region. He has published a major book with Oxford University Press on the Sudan famine and has written many articles on this. He knows not only Somalia but the region very well. And there are others. Their picture is typically quite different. In fact, many things are not controversial. Most of Somalia recovered from the U.S.-backed Siad Barre attack. Siad Barre's main atrocities were in the northern part of Somalia, what formerly had been a British colony. It was recovering. It's pretty well organized. It has its own civil society emerging, a rather traditional one, with traditional elders and lots of new groups, womens' groups, have come up in this crisis. They could use aid, doubtless, but it's kind of recovering.

The area of real crisis was one region in the south, in part because of the forces of General Mohammed Hersi, known as Morgan, Siad Barre's son-in-law, which are supported from Kenya. They were carrying out some of the worst atrocities. The forces of General Mohammad Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi were also rampaging. It led to a serious breakdown in which people just grabbed guns in order to survive. There was a lot of looting. That's when you get these teenaged gangsters. That's a description of a certain region. It was at its worst in the early part of 1992. By September-October it was already being overcome and this part of Somalia was also recovering. If you look at the serious aid groups, not U.S. Care, and not the UN, which are extremely incompetent, as everyone agreed, but the ones who are doing most of the work, like the International Red Cross, Save The Children, the smaller groups that were carrying out development projects, like the American Friends Service Committee, which had been there for many years, or Australian Care, which was a major provider -- they were getting most of aid through. They were giving figures of about eighty or ninety percent of the aid getting through by early November. The reason was that they were working with the reconstituting Somalian society. In this corner of real violence and starvation, things were already recovering, rather on the pattern of what had already taken place in the north. There were plenty of problems, but it was recovering.

A lot of this had been under the initiative of a UN negotiator, Mohammed Sahnoun, of Algeria, who was extremely successful and highly respected on all sides. He was working with traditional elders, with the newly emerging civic groups, especially women's groups. They were coming back together under his guidance, or at least initiative. He had good contacts everywhere. He was kicked out by Boutrous Ghali in October because he publicly criticized the incompetence and corruption of the UN effort. They put in an Iraqi replacement who maybe would have achieved something, maybe not. It was over because of the Marine intervention. A U.S. intervention was apparently planned from shortly after the election. The official story is that it was decided upon at the end of November, when George Bush saw heartrending pictures on television. But in fact U.S. reporters in Baidoa in early November saw Marine officers in civilian clothes walking around and scouting out the area, planning for where they were going to set up their base. This was rational timing. The worst crisis was over. The society was reconstituting. You could be pretty well guaranteed a fair success at getting food in, since it was getting in anyway. Thirty thousand troops would only expedite it in the short term. Not too much fighting, because that was subsiding. Good timing for Bush, too, because it means you get the photo opportunities and then you leave and somebody else faces the problems later on, which are bound to arise.

So it wasn't Dodge City. There was an area which was horrible and was recovering. What this massive intervention will do to that is very hard to predict. It could make it worse, could make it better. It's like hitting a seriously ill patient with a sledge hammer. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won't. But that comment about Dodge City simply reflects what is true: nobody cared. They didn't try to find out what Somalia was, because they didn't care. Somalis are props. What happens to them is incidental. If it works, great, we'll applaud and cheer ourselves and bask in self-acclaim. If it turns into a disaster, we'll treat it the same way we do with other interventions that turn into disasters. After all, there's a long series of them. Take Grenada. That was a humanitarian intervention. We were going to save the people from tragedy and turn it into what Reagan called a "showplace for democracy" or a "showplace for capitalism." In fact, they poured aid in. It had the highest per capita aid in the world the following year, next to Israel, which is in another category. And it turned into a complete disaster. The society is in total collapse. About the only thing that's functioning there is money laundering for drugs. But nobody hears about it. The television cameras were told to look somewhere else. So if the Marine intervention turns out to be a success, which is conceivable, then there will be plenty of focus on it and how marvelous we are and have to do it again. If it turns into a disaster it's off the map. Forget about it. So either way you can't lose.

DB: There's another factor at work here I'd like you to comment on: the notion of intervention on humanitarian grounds is a claim that's always made by the powerful against the weak. You don't have Bangladesh sending troops to help quell the situation in South Central L.A.

Not only that, but it is so routine that it's just like saying "hello" when you walk into a room. Take, say, American history. When the U.S. was expelling or exterminating the native population back right from the Revolution on, it was always described as "humanitarian." We're their benefactors. When Andrew Jackson proclaimed his Indian Removal Act, which set off virtual genocide, he described it to Congress with great self-acclaim, describing in a teary voice what a great benefactor he was to the Indians. He said that white people wished that they were getting such benefits from us. After all, the white settlers, when they go out to the West, they don't get huge government grants, they don't have the U.S. military lead the way for them. But when the Cherokees are being sent out there on what was called the "Trail of Tears," on which about half of them died, they were being accompanied by the U.S. Army and even given a couple of cents to get started. It was a tremendous gift. We were so benevolent. In fact, right after the American Revolution, in 1783, there was a commission established to try to determine what to do with the Indians. The question was: How do we kick them out of their land now that we've won? They decided to expel them, remove them from one area to another, rob their lands. It's worth reading what they wrote: They said we shouldn't go overboard in generosity. Our natural generosity should have certain limits, because if generosity goes too far, it becomes harmful to everybody. So we should be generous as always, but not too generous, while we're robbing them of their lands.

This is a refrain which is such a deep element of the national culture that to refer to it in this case is misleading. There's no atrocity that's been carried out that hasn't been described as humanitarian and beneficial to the victims.

DB: Comment on the events in the former Yugoslavia. This constitutes the greatest outburst of violence in Europe in fifty years -- tens of thousands killed, hundreds of thousands of refugees. This isn't remote East Timor we're talking about -- this is Europe. It's a living room war on the news every night.

In a certain sense what's happening is that the British and American right wings are essentially getting what they asked for. Since the 1940s they've been quite bitter about the fact that Western support for a short time turned to Tito and the partisans and against Mikhailovich and his Chetniks and the Croatian anti-Communists, including the Ustasha, who were outright Nazis. The Chetniks were also playing with the Nazis and were mainly trying to overcome the partisans. They won. The partisan victory imposed a communist dictatorship, but it also federated the country. It suppressed ethnic violence, and created the basis of some sort of functioning society in which the parts had their role. That collapsed for a variety of reasons, and now we're essentially back to the 1940s, but without the partisans. Serbia now has inherited the ideology of the Chetniks. Croatia has inherited something of the ideology of the Ustasha, far less ferocious than the Nazi original, but similar in some ways. They are now doing pretty much what they would have done if it hadn't been for the partisan victory.

Of course, the leadership of Serbia and Croatia come from the Communist Party, but that's because every thug in the region was part of the ruling apparatus. (Yeltsin, for example, was a tough CP boss.) It's interesting that the right wing, at least its more honest elements, approve. For example, Nora Beloff, a right wing British commentator on Yugoslavia, had a letter in the London Economist condemning the people who are denouncing the Serbs in Bosnia. She's saying it's the fault of the Muslims. They are refusing to accommodate the Serbs who are just defending themselves. She's been a supporter of the Chetniks from way back, no reason why she shouldn't continue to support Chetnik violence, which is what this amounts to. Of course there's another factor. She's a super fanatic Zionist, and the fact that the Muslims are involved already makes them guilty in her eyes.

DB: Some say that just as the Allies should have bombed the rail lines to Auschwitz to prevent the deaths of many people in concentration camps, so we should now bomb Serbian gun positions surrounding Sarajevo that have kept that city under siege. Would you advocate the use of force?

First of all, there's a good deal of debate about the Second World War, and how much of an effect bombing would have had. Putting that aside, it seems to me that a judicious threat of force, not by the Western powers but by some international, multinational group could have, at an earlier stage, suppressed a good deal of the violence and maybe blocked it. Whether that would mean bombing gun positions or not is a question that you can't make a decision about lightly. For one thing, you have to ask not only about the morality of it, but also about the consequences. The consequences could be quite complex. For example, conservative military forces within Russia might move in. They already are there, in fact, to support their Slavic brothers in Serbia, and they might decide to move in en masse. (That's traditional, incidentally. Go back to Tolstoy's novels and you can read about how the Russians saved their Slavic brothers from attacks. That's now being reenacted.) At that point you're getting fingers on nuclear weapons. It's also entirely possible that an attack on the Serbs, who feel that they're the aggrieved party, could inspire them to move more aggressively in Kosovo, the Albanian area, which could very well set off a large-scale war, with Greece and Turkey involved. So it's not so simple.

Or what if Bosnian Serbs, with the backing of both the Serbian and maybe even other Slavic regions, started a guerrilla war? Western military "experts" have suggested it would take maybe a hundred thousand troops just to hold the area. So bombing Serbian gun emplacements sounds simple, but one has to ask about the consequences. That's not so simple.

If it were possible to stop the bombardment of Sarajevo by threatening to and maybe even actually bombing some emplacements, I think you could give an argument for it. But that's a very big if.

DB: Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as Arkan, a fugitive bank robber wanted in Sweden, was elected to the Serb Parliament in December 1992. His Tiger's Militia is accused of killing civilians in Bosnia. He's among ten people listed by the U.S. State Department as a possible war criminal. Arkan dismissed the charges and said, "There are a lot of people in the United States I could list as war criminals."

That's quite correct. By the standards of Nuremberg, there are plenty of people who could be listed as war criminals in the West. It doesn't absolve him in any respect, of course.

DB: Christmas came early in 1992 for at least six former Reagan administration officials implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. There was a presidential pardon on Christmas Eve. Bush said of the pardonees, "The common denominator of their motivation, whether their actions were right or wrong, was patriotism." That doesn't sound like the position of German defense lawyers at Nuremberg.

No. They couldn't have gotten away with it, but it was quite accurate. Probably Himmler and Goering were acting as patriotic Germans. I frankly didn't take the pardons all that seriously. It was a highly selective prosecution. They didn't go after top people or the important issues. What they were being charged with is minor issues. Lying to Congress is bad, it's a serious violation of law which carries a five-year jail sentence. But as compared with carrying out huge international terrorist operations, it's pretty small potatoes. Nobody was charged with conducting an illegal war against Nicaragua. They were only charged with lying to Congress about it. It indicates the values that lie behind the prosecution. In other words, kill and torture whoever you like, but be sure to tell us. We want to take part too. If you think about it, that's exactly what happened in Watergate. The charges against Nixon never included bombing Cambodia. It did come up in the hearings, but the only respect in which it came up was that Nixon had lied to Congress about it. There was no charge ever that he had sent U.S. bombers to devastate Cambodian peasant society, killing tens of thousands of people. That was never even considered a crime. So to pardon people for lying to Congress makes a certain amount of sense if we understand it as meaning, Look, the major crimes are never even being discussed. It's kind of like catching Al Capone on his income tax.

DB: I've never heard you talk about Gandhi. Orwell wrote of him that "...compared to other leading political figures of our times, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind." What are your views on the Mahatma?

I'd hesitate to say without undertaking a much closer analysis of what he did and what he achieved. There were some positive things there. For example, his emphasis on village development and self-help and communal projects. That would have been very healthy for India. Implicit in what he was suggesting was a model of development for India that could well have been a much more successful and humane one than the Stalinist model that was adopted, the development of heavy industry, etc. The talk about nonviolence you really have to think through. Sure, everybody's in favor of nonviolence rather than violence, but under what conditions and when? Is it an absolute principle?

DB: You know what he said to Louis Fischer in 1938 about the Jews in Germany. He said that German Jews ought to commit collective suicide which would "have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler's violence."

That is a tactical proposal, not a principled one. He's not saying they should have walked cheerfully into the gas chambers because that's what nonviolence dictates. He's saying, If you do it you may be better off. So that's a tactical proposal. It reflects no moral principle. It has to be evaluated on its merits. If you evaluate it on its merits, from that point of view, divorcing it from any principled concern other than how many people's lives can you save by doing this, it's conceivable that it was true. I don't think it's likely, but it's conceivable, not out of the question, that that would have aroused world concern in a way in which the Nazi slaughter surely did not. I think that the argument for it is very slight. On the other hand, there's nothing much that the Jews could have done anyway.

DB: Orwell adds that after the war Gandhi justified his position, saying, "The Jews had been killed anyway and might as well have died significantly."

Again, he's making a tactical, not a principled statement. One has to ask the question what the consequences would have been of the actions he recommended. That's speculation based on little evidence. For him to have directed that recommendation at the time is kind of grotesque. What he should have been emphasizing was: Let's do something to prevent them from being massacred. The right position to take at the time was, Look, they can't do anything. Powerless people who are being led to slaughter can't do anything. Therefore it's up to others to do something for them. To give them advice on how they should be slaughtered is not very uplifting, to put it mildly. You can say the same about other things all the time. Take people being tortured and murdered in Haiti. You want to tell them, The way you ought to do it is to walk up to the killers and put your neck in front of their knife and maybe people on the outside will notice. Could be. But a little more significant would be to tell the people who are giving the murderers the knives that they should do something different.

DB: India today is torn asunder by various separatist movements, Kashmir is an incredible mess, occupied by the Indian army, and there are killings, detentions, and massive human rights violations, in the Punjab and elsewhere. I'd like you to comment on a tendency in the Third World to blame the colonial masters for all the problems that are besetting the countries today. They seem to say, "Yes, India has problems but it's the fault of the British," as if India was once a great big happy place.

How to assess blame for historical disasters is a difficult matter. You could ask the same thing about the health of a starving and diseased person. There are a lot of different factors that enter into it. If there was a torturer around who was torturing them, that certainly had a role. But maybe after the torture is over, the person eats the wrong diet and lives a dissolute life and dies from the effects of that. That's what we're talking about here. It's not easy to sort out the proportion of blame. There's no doubt that imperial rule was a complete disaster. Take India. Bengal was one of the richest places in the world when the first British merchant warriors arrived there. They described it as a paradise. Today this area is Bangladesh and Calcutta, the very symbols of despair and hopelessness. These rich agricultural areas produced unusually fine cotton, the major commodity of that period. They had, by the standards of the day, advanced manufacture. Dacca, which is the capital of Bangladesh, was compared by Clive, the British conqueror, to London.

About a century later, in debates in the House of Lords, Sir Charles Trevelyan described how Dacca had collapsed from a major manufacturing center and thriving city to a marginal slum under the impact of British rule. In Bengal, and throughout the parts of India that they controlled, the British undermined and tried to destroy the existing manufacturing system, which was comparable to their own in many respects. As the industrial revolution was urbanizing and modernizing England, India was becoming ruralized, a poor, agrarian country. Adam Smith, over two hundred years ago, deplored the depredations that the British carryied out in Bengal, which, as he puts it, first of all destroyed the agricultural economy, and then turned "dearth into a famine." The British overseers even took agricultural lands and turned them over to poppy production for the opium trade to China. The only thing that the British could sell to China was opium, and Bengal was one of the places where they produced it. There was huge starvation.

Indian manufacturing in other areas was considerable. For example, an Indian firm built one of the flagships for the English fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain imposed harsh tariff regulations, starting in about 1700, to prevent Indian manufacturers from undercutting British textiles. That's the beginning of the industrial revolution, beginning with textile production and extending to other things. They had to undercut and destroy Indian textiles because India had a comparative advantage. They were using better cotton and had, by the standards of the day, a relatively advanced industry. It wasn't until 1846 that Britain suddenly discovered the merits of free trade. By that time their competitors had been destroyed and they were way ahead. They were very well aware of it. The British liberal historians, the big advocates of free trade in that period they say: "Look, what we're doing to India is not pretty, but there's no other way for the mills of Lancaster to survive. We have to destroy the competition."

And it continued. Nehru, in 1944 in a British prison, wrote an interesting book (The Discovery of India) in which he pointed out the correlation between how long the British have influenced and controlled each region, and the level of poverty. The longer the British have been in a region the poorer it is. The worst, of course, was Bengal, where the British arrived first.

In Canada and North America, they just wiped out the population. You don't have to get to current, "politically correct" commentators to describe this. You can go right back to the founding fathers. The first Secretary of Defense, General Henry Knox, who was in charge of Indian removal from 1784 on, said that what we're doing to the native population is worse than what the Conquistadors did in Peru and Mexico. He said future historians will look at these actions, what would be called in modern terminology "genocide," and paint them with "sable colors." They weren't going to look good to history.

John Quincy Adams, the intellectual father of Manifest Destiny, became an opponent of both slavery and the policy toward the Indians long after he left power. He felt that he himself had been involved in a crime of extermination of such enormity that he believed God would punish the country for this monstrous deed. So in North America we just essentially exterminated and expelled the population.

Latin America was more complex, but the initial population was virtually destroyed within a hundred and fifty years. What was left was a mixture. Meanwhile, Africans were brought over as slaves, which had a major effect on devastating Africa even before the colonial period. The conquest of Africa drove it back even further. After the West had robbed the colonies -- as they did, no question about that, and there's also no question that it contributed to their own development -- they changed the relationships to so-called "neo-colonial", domination without direct administration, which was also generally a disaster.

How do you sort the guilt at this point? If Israel is committing crimes against the Palestinians, does that justify the Holocaust? I suppose some unreconstructed Nazi could say, look at what those guys do as soon as you let them go. Just means we didn't do anything. It's all their fault.

DB: To continue with India: talk about the divide-and-rule policy of the British Raj, playing Hindus off against Muslims. You see the results of that today.

Which is not to say that it was pretty before, because it wasn't. The Marathi invasions were ugly and brutal. But the fact is that the level of brutality introduced by the Europeans was novel almost everywhere in the world. Naturally, any conqueror is going to play one group against another. In India, for example, I think about ninety percent of the forces that the British used to control India were Indians.

DB: There's that astonishing statistic that at the height of British power in India, they never had more than 150,000 people there.

That was true everywhere. It was true when the American forces conquered the Philippines, killing a couple hundred thousand people. They were helped by Philippine tribes. They exploited conflicts among local groups. There are always plenty who will side with the conquerors. Just take a look at the Nazi conquest of Europe. Take Western Europe; let's forget the Third World. Nice, civilized Western Europe. Places like Belgium and Holland and France. Who was rounding up the Jews? The local people. In fact, in France they turned them over faster than the Nazis could handle them. If the United States was conquered by the Russians, George Bush, Elliott Abrams, and the rest of them would all be working for the invaders and sending people off to concentration camps. Ronald Reagan would be reading their ads on TV. That's the traditional pattern. Invaders very naturally play upon any kind of rivalries and hostilities that they find to get one group to work for them against others.

You can see it right now with the Kurds. The West is trying to mobilize Iraqi Kurds to destroy Turkish Kurds. Turkish Kurds are by far the largest number, and historically, they were the ones who were the most repressed. It's not covered much in the West because Turkey is an ally, so you don't cover the atrocities they carry out. But right into the Gulf War they were bombing in Kurdish areas. Tens of thousands of people were driven out. But now the western goal is to use the Iraqi Kurds as a weapon to try to restore what they call "stability" in Iraq, meaning their own kind of system.

Last October there was a very ugly incident in which there was a kind of pincer movement between the Turkish army and Iraqi Kurdish forces to expel and destroy Kurdish guerrillas from Turkey. Independently of what we might think of those guerrillas, there's no doubt that they had substantial popular support in southeastern Turkey. But the Iraqi Kurdish leaders and some sectors of Kurdish population were going to cooperate because they thought they could gain something by it. You could understand their position. Not necessarily approve of it -- that's another question. These are people who are being crushed and destroyed from every direction. If they grasp at some straw for survival, it's not surprising, even if grasping at that straw means helping to kill their cousins across the border. That's the way conquerors work. They've always worked that way. They worked that way in India.

India wasn't a peaceful place before the British, no, nor was the western hemisphere a pacifist utopia. But that aside, everywhere the Europeans went they raised the level of violence to an extraordinary degree. On that serious military historians have no doubts. As the most recent historian of the East India Company puts it, "warfare in India was still a sport, in Europe it had become a science."

Europe had been fighting vicious, murderous wars internally and it had developed a culture of violence, as well as the means of violence, which were unsurpassed. The culture of violence was extraordinary. European wars were wars of extermination. Everywhere the Europeans went, whether it was the Portuguese or the Spanish or the English or the Dutch, they fought with a level of violence which appalled the natives. They had never seen anything like it. That was true virtually over the entire world, with very few exceptions. In fact, from Europe's viewpoint, these colonial wars were what we call today small wars. It didn't take very many forces to destroy huge numbers of natives, not so much because the technology was better, but because the Europeans fought differently. If we were to be honest about the history, we would describe European colonialism simply as a barbarian invasion.

The British and Dutch merchants who moved into Asia broke into relatively free trading areas which had been functioning for long, long periods with pretty well established rules. More or less free, fairly pacific. Sort of like free trade areas. The description of what they did is just monstrous. They introduced a level of violence which had never been felt before. They destroyed what was in their way.

The only ones who were able to fend it off for a while were Japan and China. Japan did manage to fend it off almost entirely. That's why Japan is the one area of the Third World that developed. That's striking. The one part of the Third World that wasn't colonized is the one part that's part of the industrial world. That's not by accident. To strengthen the point, you need only look at the parts of Europe that were colonized. Parts of western Europe were colonized, like Ireland, which is very much like the Third World, for similar reasons. The patterns are striking. China sort of made the rules and had the technology and was powerful, so they were able to fend off Western intervention for a long time. But when its defense finally broke down in the nineteenth century, the country collapsed.

So it's completely correct that the post-colonial period had seen many brutal monsters develop. But when people in the Third World blame the history of imperialism for their plight, they have a very strong case to make. It's interesting to see how this is treated in the West these days. On January 7, 1993 there was an amazing article in the Wall Street Journal by Angelo Codevilla, a so-called scholar at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, criticizing the intervention in Somalia. He says, Look, the problem in the world is that Western intellectuals hate their culture and therefore they terminated colonialism. Only civilizations of great generosity can undertake tasks as noble as colonialism to try to rescue these barbarians all over the world from their miserable fate. The Europeans did it and of course gave them enormous gifts and benefits. But then these western intellectuals who hate their own cultures forced them to withdraw. The result is what you now see. You really have to go to the Nazi archives to find anything comparable to that. Apart from the stupendous ignorance that is so colossal that it can only appear among respected intellectuals, the moral level is -- you have to go back to the Nazi archives. But it's an op ed in the Wall Street Journal. It probably won't get much criticism.

There are counterparts in England, the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph. It's interesting to read the right-wing British press after Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Prize. They were infuriated, especially their Central America correspondent. Their view is, true, there were atrocities in Guatemala. But either they were carried out by the left wing guerrillas or they were an understandable response on the part of the respectable sectors of the society to the violence and atrocities of these Marxist priests. So to give a Nobel Prize to the person who's been torturing the Indians all these years, Rigoberta Menchu ... it's hard for me to reproduce this. You have to read the original. Again, at it's worst, it's straight out of the Stalinist and Nazi archives. It's very typical of British and American culture.

DB: That brings in the whole question of race and racism and how that factored into the relationship between what I'll call the "North" and the "South."

There has always been racism. But it developed as a leading principle of thought and perception very much in the context of colonialism. It's not that it wasn't there before. It obviously was. But it gained entirely new dimensions and new significance in the imperialist context. That's understandable. When you have your boot on someone's neck, you have to have a justification for it. The justification has to be their depravity. If you can find anything to hang their depravity on, like the color of their eyes, it's that. It's very striking to see this in the case of people who are not very different from one another. Take a look at the British conquest of Ireland, which was the earliest of the western colonial conquests. It was described in the same kind of terms as the conquest of Africa. The Irish were a different race. They weren't human. They were a depraved race of people who had to be crushed and destroyed.

DB: Some Marxists connect racism as a product of the economic system, of capitalism. Would you accept that?

No. It has to do with conquest. It's oppression. If you're oppressing somebody, maybe you're robbing them, it doesn't have to be torture. If you're robbing somebody, oppressing them, controlling them, dictating their lives, it's a very rare person who can say, Look, I'm a monster. I'm doing this for my own good. Even Himmler didn't say that. There's a standard technique of belief formation that goes along with oppression, whether it's throwing them in the gas chambers or charging them too much at a corner store or anything between those. There's a standard mode of reaction, and that is to say that it's their depravity. That's why I'm doing it. Maybe I'm even doing them good. If it's their depravity, there's got to be something about them that makes them different from me. What's different about them will be whatever you can find.

DB: And that's the justification.

Then it becomes racism. You can always find something, like a different color hair or eyes, they're too fat, they're gay. Whatever it might be. You find something that's different enough. Of course you lie about it, so it's easier to find more.

DB: Do you know the scorpion and camel story? There's a scorpion who wants to cross the river. He needs the camel to help him across. He asks the camel, "Hey, come on. Give me a lift." The camel says, "What are you, crazy? I know who you are. You're going to sting me." The scorpion says, "No, no, no. I'm a reformed scorpion. I'm a good guy. I wouldn't do something like that." So after much persuasion the camel finally relents and says, "OK. Hop on." So the scorpion gets on the camel's back. In the middle of the river, the camel feels a sting in his back and realizes that the scorpion has just stung him. He starts howling and cursing and says, "You promised me you wouldn't do this! We're both going to die now. We're going to drown. You're insane." The scorpion says, "Well, it's in my nature." This leads to human nature. Is racism something that's acquired or learned, or is it innately endowed?

I don't think either of those is the right answer. There's no doubt that there's a rich human nature. We're not rocks. Anybody sane knows that an awful lot about us is genetically determined, in our behavior, our attitudes. That's not even a question among sane people. When you go beyond that and ask what it is, you're entering into near-total ignorance. We know there's something about human nature that forces you to grow arms, not wings, and to undergo puberty at roughly a certain age. And by now we know that things like acquisition of language are part of human nature even in its very specific forms, things about the visual system and so on. When you get to cultural patterns, belief systems, etc., the guess of the next guy you meet at the bus stop is as good as the best scientist. People can rant about it if they like, but they basically know virtually nothing.

In this particular area we can make some kind of reasonable speculation. I think most reasonable is the one I've just outlined. It's not so much that racism is in our genes. What is in our genes is the need for improving your own self-image.

DB: For domination.

No. For justifying what you do. I can't believe that everybody doesn't know this from their own lives. If any person thinks about their own life honestly for a minute, they'll think of plenty of things that they did that they shouldn't have done. Maybe they stole something from their brother when they were ten. If you look back honestly and ask yourself, Did I say to myself at the time, I'm a rotten bastard but I'm going to do this because I want it? Or did you say, Look, I'm right to do this for this and that reason? The answer almost invariably is the second. It doesn't matter whether it was a minor or major thing. That's probably in our nature. It's probably in our nature to find a way to recast anything that we do in some way that makes it possible for us to live with it.

If we move into the social sphere, the sphere of human interactions, where there are institutions and systems of oppression and domination, people who are in those positions of authority and domination, who are in control, who are doing things to others, who are harming them, are going to pursue this course of constructing justifications for themselves. They may do it in sophisticated ways or non-sophisticated ways, but they're going to do it. That much is in human nature. One of the consequences of that can turn out to be racism. It can turn out to be other things, too.

Take the sophisticated ones. One of the intellectual gurus of the modern period in the United States is Reinhold Niebuhr, who was called the "theologian of the establishment." He was revered by the Kennedy liberal types, by people like George Kennan. He was considered a moral teacher of the contemporary generation. It's interesting to look at why he was so revered. I actually went through his writings once. The intellectual level is depressingly low. But there's something in there that made him appealing. It was what he called the "paradox of grace." What it comes down to is, no matter how much you try to do good, you're always going to do harm. Of course, he's an intellectual, so they have to dress it up with big words and big volumes. But that's what it comes down to.

That's very appealing advice for people who are planning to enter into a life of crime. To say, no matter how much I try to do good I'm always going to harm people. That's the paradox of grace. You can't get out of it. A wonderful idea for a Mafia don. Then he can go ahead and do whatever he feels like, and if he harms people, Oh my God, the paradox of grace. That, I think, explains why he was so appealing to American intellectuals in the post-World War II period. They were preparing to enter into a life of major crime, major criminal actions. They were going to be either the managers or else the commissars for a period of global conquest, running the world, which is obviously going to entail enormous crimes. Isn't it nice to have this doctrine before us? Of course we're superbenevolent and humane, but the paradox of grace! Again, if you're an intellectual you dress it up and write articles about it.

The mechanisms, however, are quite simple and elementary. I think all of that is, if you like, part of our nature, but in such a transparent way that you don't even call it a theory. Everybody knows this from their own experience, if they stop to think about it. Like just about everything that's understood about human beings, everybody knows it if they stop to think about it. It's not quantum physics. Mostly what's known is on the surface. Think about yourself and you can see it right there. Forget the big words and the polysyllables and the intellectual apparatus and just think about it. It's easy to see how that transmutes itself into racism.

Take the Serbs and the Croats. All they want to do right now is murder each other. They're indistinguishable. They use a different alphabet, but they speak the same language. They belong to different branches of the Catholic Church. That's about it. But they're perfectly ready to murder and destroy each other. They can imagine no higher task in life.

DB: What about the so-called "competitive ethic" of competition? Is there any evidence that we are naturally competitive? Proponents of the free market theory and the advocates of market capitalism say that you've got to give people the ability to compete -- it's a natural thing.

There are certainly conditions under which people will compete. There are conditions under which people will cooperate. For example, take a family. Suppose that whoever is providing the money for the family loses his or her job, so they don't have enough food to eat. The father is probably the strongest one in the family. Does he steal all the food and eat it, so all the kids starve? I guess there are people who do that, but then you lock them up. They're pathological. There's a defect there somewhere. No, what you do is share. Does that mean they're not competitive? No. It means that in that circumstance you share. Those circumstances can extend quite broadly. For example, they can extend to the whole working class. When you have periods of working class solidarity, people struggling together to create unions and decent working conditions, a republic of labor in which people would control their work and not have to suffer wage slavery. That's the United States, after all. Take a look at the Homestead lockout a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie established the world's first billion-dollar corporation by destroying the biggest union in the country.

He destroyed it right in Homestead, which was a working-class town with working-class solidarity. That was a period of enormous ethnic hatred and rivalry and racism, at that time directed mostly against the Eastern European immigrants, the Huns and the Slovaks. But during that conflict they worked together. It's one of the few periods of real ethnic harmony. They worked with Anglo-Saxon Americans and Germans and the rest of them. There are circumstances in which competition shows up and in which cooperation does. Again, I doubt that any person can fail to see this in their own life.

Let me tell you a personal story. I'm not particularly violent. But when I was in college, I had to take boxing. The way you did it was to spar with a friend, but we all found, and we were amazed, that pretty soon we wanted to kill each other. After doing this pushing around for a while, you really wanted to hurt that guy, your best friend. You could feel it coming out. It's horrifying to look at, and again I doubt that people have failed to see this in themselves and something about their lives. Does that mean that the desire to hurt people is innate? In certain circumstances, this aspect of our personality will dominate. There are other circumstances in which other aspects will dominate. You want to create a humane world, you change the circumstances.

DB: How crucial is social conditioning in all of this? Let's say you're a child growing up in Somalia today.

How about a child growing up in Boston, just down the street? Or even here, in Cambridge. Just last summer a foreign student at MIT was killed, knifed, just a few blocks from here, by a couple of teenagers from the local high school. They were engaged in a sport that works like this: high-school kids are supposed to walk around and find somebody walking the street. One of the kids is picked, and he's supposed to knock the person down with one blow. If he fails to do it, the other kids beat up the kid who failed. So that's the sport. So they were walking along and saw this MIT kid. One of them was chosen and knocked him down with one blow. For unexplained reasons they also knifed him and killed him. They didn't see anything especially wrong with it. They walked off and went to a bar somewhere. Somebody had seen them, and they were later picked up by the police. They hadn't even tried to get away. They didn't see anything wrong with it. They're growing up in Cambridge, not on Brattle Street, but probably in the slums, which are not Somali slums by any means, not even Dorchester slums. But surely kids in the western suburbs wouldn't act like that. Are they different genetically? No. There's something about the social conditions in which they grew up that makes this an acceptable form of behavior, even a natural form of behavior. Anyone who has grown up in an urban area must be aware of this. I can remember from childhood, there were neighborhoods where if you went in you'd be beaten up. You were not supposed to be there. The people who were doing it, kids, felt justified and righteous about it. They were defending their turf. What else do they have to defend?

DB: Speaking of Brattle Street, just last night I was there. Panhandlers, people asking for money, people sleeping in the doorways of buildings. This morning at Harvard Square in the T station it was more of the same. The spectre of poverty and despair has increasingly come into the vision or the sightlines of the middle- and upper-class. You just can't avoid it as you could years ago when it was limited to a certain section of town. This has a lot to do with the pauperization, the internal Third Worldization, I think you call it, of the United States.

There are several factors, which we've discussed before. In part it's an immediate corollary to what's called the globalization of the economy. Furthermore, there is a tremendous expansion of unregulated capital in the world seeking stable currencies and low growth. These factors have immediate, obvious consequences, namely extension of the Third World model to industrial countries. The Third World model is a sector of extreme wealth and privilege amidst huge misery and despair among useless, superfluous people. The model is extending to the entire world.

Take a look at the NAFTA discussions. The argument for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is that it's not going to hurt many American workers, just unskilled workers, defined to mean about seventy percent of the work force. That's one of the things you're seeing.

Look at South Central Los Angeles. That's an area where there were factories, but not any more. They moved to Eastern Europe, Mexico, and Indonesia, where you can get peasant women off the land. That's the part of free trade the elites advocate. They don't advocate the other parts of it. But the parts they can benefit from they advocate. That internationalization of production will have the effect, over the long term, of giving the industrial countries a sort of Third World aspect themselves.

There are other things happening everywhere in the industrial world, but most strikingly in four major English speaking countries -- England, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. I think the reason for that is pretty obvious. These are the countries that in the 1980s took at least minimally seriously some of the rhetoric that they preached. In most of the world, the free market rhetoric is not taken seriously. But England under Thatcher and the United States under the Reaganites and Australia and New Zealand under Labor governments to a limited extent adopted some of the doctrines they preached for the Third World. Naturally, the population suffered for it.

DB: Deregulation?

Deregulation, something a little bit like structural adjustment, which in the Third World means eliminate welfare, eliminate subsidies, stop building roads, give everything to the investors and something will trickle down by some magic, some time after the Messiah comes. The western countries of course would never really play this game completely. It would be too harmful to the rich. But they flirted with it in these English-speaking countries. And they suffered. When you say "they" suffered, you've got to be careful. The population suffered. The rich did fine, just as they do in the Third World. When I say there's a catastrophe of capitalism in the Third World, that doesn't mean for the rich people. They're doing just great.

DB: That's the paradox of 1992.

The New York Times did have a headline in the business pages: "Paradox of 92: Weak Economy, Strong Profits." Big paradox. That's the story of the Third World. It's the story now of Eastern Europe. And it's also the story in Thatcherite England, Reaganite America, and Labor party Australia and New Zealand. Most of the population suffered as the societies moved more towards the Third World pattern than is the case, say, in continental Europe or Japan. In the periphery of Japan what you're getting is a move out of the Third World pattern into an industrial pattern, as in South Korea and Taiwan, who dismiss neoliberal economics as a joke, are able to develop internally.

DB: Thank you.

Introduction ] 1. The World Bank, GATT and Free Trade ] 2. They Don't Even Know That They Don't Know ] [ 3. Race ] 4. Class ] 5. Media, Knowledge, and Objectivity ] 6. Crime and Gun Control ] 7. The Emerging Global Economic Order ] 8. Reflections on Democracy ] 9. Health Care ]


 ] Deterring Democracy ] Necessary Illusions ] The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many ] Keeping the Rabble in Line ] Rethinking Camelot ] Powers and Prospects ] Year 501 ] Secrets, Lies and Democracy ] What Uncle Sam Really Wants ] Interviews, Debates and Talks ] About Noam Chomsky ]


 
 
 

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