Noam Chomsky, world-renowned dissident, linguist and author, and University of Arizona professor, joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Friday morning to discuss a myriad of issues in a four-part series, including U.S. role in today's refugee crisis, the growing divide in the Democratic party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's win, money in government and the media's obsession with covering President Donald Trump's alleged contacts with Russia.
The following is a compilation of standout excerpts from each segment:
Part 1: "Brutal and Sadistic": Noam Chomsky on Family Separation & the U.S. Roots of Today’s Refugee Crisis
On family separation:
Taking children away from their parents, sending them off somewhere, losing track of them, you know, it’s hard to think of a more brutal and sadistic policy.
On U.S. role in Central America and immigration policies:
The U.S. does not hire terrorists, it hires terror states.
These people are fleeing from the wreckage and horrors of U.S. policies.
Take Guatemala. No need to go through the whole history, but back in 1954, the U.S. intervened, sponsored a military coup, overthrew a mildly reformist elected government. Since then, the country has been a complete horror story—hundreds of thousands of people killed, all kinds of atrocities, every imaginable sort of torture.
Same with El Salvador, where about 70,000 people were killed during the 1980s, almost all by the security forces, armed, trained, directed by the United States. Again, horror story since.
You’ll notice there’s one—there’s two countries in the region from which there haven’t been refugee flows. One is Costa Rica, which happens to be the one country that sort of functions, and not by accident, the one country that the United States has not—in which the United States does not intervene militarily to overthrow the government and run a military regime. The other is Nicaragua, which differed, which also suffered severely in the 1980s from Reagan’s assaults. But Nicaragua was unlike the other countries of the region: It had an army to defend it.
So, essentially, what President Trump is saying is, we’ll destroy your countries, slaughter you, impose brutal regimes, but if you try to get out, you’re not going to come here, because America is full.
Part 2: Chomsky Criticizes "Autocratic" Nicaraguan Government, Urges Ortega to Call for New Elections
We should bear in mind that the United States is the only country ever to have been condemned by the International Court of Justice for international terrorism—technically, unlawful use of force—and ordered to pay substantial reparations to Nicaragua for the attack that it was carrying out.
And my own view is that I think it would be a good thing for Nicaragua if Ortega were to call early elections and allow them to be run without corruption and brutality. But that doesn’t look as if it’s—it’s hard to hard to see a simple way out at this point.
On U.S role in immigration and refugee crisis:
We should bear in mind that the immigrants do not want to leave their countries. They would be very happy to stay in their own countries instead of coming here to unpleasant and harsh situations. They can’t, because we have ruined their countries. So, the first step in dealing with the immigration crisis should be to help reconstruct and rebuild what we have destroyed, so they won’t be fleeing from the homes where they would like to live.
So, take Lebanon, poor country. Probably 40 percent of the population are refugees at this point, driven out from Israel by the Israeli—several Israeli wars, '48, ’67, Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees fleeing from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It's a poor country, and there are plenty of internal problems, but they’re somehow surviving with 40 percent of the population refugees."
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But the rich countries of the world—the United States, European Union—the ones who have an overwhelming responsibility for the circumstances from which the refugees are fleeing, they can’t help with it. They can’t deal with it. Too much for us. Go somewhere else.
Part 3: Noam Chomsky on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s "Spectacular" Victory & Growing Split in Democratic Party
On Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
Well, I think there’s—her victory was a quite spectacular and significant event. I think what it points to is a split in the Democratic Party between the—roughly speaking, between the popular base and the party managers.
On the Democratic Party:
But the split within the Democratic Party is significant, and it’s showing up in primary after primary. Will the party move in the direction of its popular base, with a, essentially, social democratic, New Deal-style programs, even beyond? Or will it continue to cater to the donor class and be essentially a moderate wing—a more moderate wing of the Republican Party?
On class warfare and inequality:
The Republicans are on a binge of pursuing the most savage form of class warfare. The tax scam is a good example, the attacks on workers’ rights, on—Public Citizen just came out with a report on corporate impunity, which is almost comical when you read it.
This is a time when a lot of crowing about the marvelous economy, you know, full employment and so on, but wages continue to stagnate. And furthermore, it’s plainly going to get worse.
Notice, as everybody’s well aware, the tax scam was a purposeful effort not only to enrich the super-rich and the corporate sector—corporate profits, of course, are overflowing—but it was also an effort to sharply increase the deficit, which can be used—and Paul Ryan and others kindly announced to us right away what the plans were—the deficit could be used to undermine any elements of government structure which benefit the general population—Medicare, Social Security, food for poor children. Anything you can do to shaft the general population more can now be justified under the argument that we have a huge deficit, thanks to stuffing the pockets of the rich. This is an astonishing phenomenon. And under those conditions, a properly designed progressive program should appeal to a large majority of the population. But it has to be done correctly and not shaped in ways which will appease the donor class.
Large-scale civil disobedience could achieve a great deal more. But I would again urge that we think in broader terms. We should be considering why people are fleeing from their homes. Not because they want to live in slums in New York. They’re fleeing from their homes because their homes are unlivable, and they’re unlivable, largely, because of things that we have done.
Part 4: Noam Chomsky on Mass Media Obsession with Russia & the Stories Not Being Covered in the Trump Era
On climate change:
Trump’s policies, the one that is the most dangerous and destructive, in fact poses an existential threat, is his policies on climate change, on global warming. That’s really destructive. And we’re facing an imminent threat, not far removed, of enormous damage. The effects are already visible but nothing like what’s going to come. A sea level rise of a couple of feet will be massively destructive. It will make today’s immigration issues look like trivialities. And it’s not that the administration is unaware of this.
I don't know what word in the language—I can’t find one—that applies to people of that kind, who are willing to sacrifice the literal—the existence of organized human life, not in the distant future, so they can put a few more dollars in highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach it.
On disenfranchised voters:
Lobbyists practically write legislation in congressional offices. In massive ways, the concentrated private capital, corporate sector, super wealth, intervene in our elections, massively, overwhelmingly, to the extent that the most elementary principles of democracy are undermined.
On Russian meddling:
So, if you’re concerned with our elections and how they operate and how they relate to what would happen in a democratic society, taking a look at Russian hacking is absolutely the wrong place to look.