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Noam Chomsky

The Intercept published co-founder Jeremy Scahill's interview with dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky on April 14, 2022. (Photo: The Intercept/screenshot)

Chomsky on Global Response to Biden Calling Putin a War Criminal: 'Takes One to Know One'

The dissident says that while outraged by Russia's war on Ukraine, much of the rest of the world is reacting to U.S. condemnation by asking, "Why should we get involved in your hypocrisy?"

Jessica Corbett

World-renowned dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky highlighted the hypocrisy of U.S. government leaders denouncing and demanding accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces waging war on Ukraine during an interview published Thursday.

For just over an hour, Chomsky spoke with The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill about Russian President Vladimir Putin's February invasion of Ukraine, media coverage of the war, how governments around the world have responded, and the need to move toward "a diplomatic settlement."

Their conversation follows U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month reiterating his condemnation of Putin as a "war criminal" and urging a war crimes trial—which sparked global discussions about the United States' longtime opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We're a rogue state, the leading rogue state by a huge dimension—nobody's even close," Chomsky said of the United States. "And yet we can call for war crimes trials of others, without batting an eyelash."

"It's interesting to look at the reaction to all of this in the more civilized part of the world, the Global South," he continued. "They look at it; they condemn the invasion, say it's a horrible crime. But the basic response is: What's new? What's the fuss about? We've been subjected to this from you from as far back as it goes. Biden calls Putin a war criminal; yeah, takes one to know one. It's the basic reaction."

As proof of this position, Chomsky pointed to which nations have and have not responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine—which has caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries and led millions of people to flee to neighboring countries—with sanctions.

"The United States doesn't understand why most of the world doesn't join in sanctions," Chomsky said. "Which countries join in sanctions? Take a look. The map is revealing. The English-speaking countries, Europe, and those who apartheid South Africa called honorary whites: Japan, with a couple of its former colonies. That's it. The rest of the world says: Yeah, terrible, but what's new? What's the fuss about? Why should we get involved in your hypocrisy?"

"The U.S. can't understand that," he claimed, going on to add that "there's a lot of work to do in the United States simply to raise the level of civilization to where we can see the world the way the traditional victims see it. If we can rise to that level, we can act in a much more constructive way with regard to Ukraine as well."

Scahill's interview with the University of Arizona professor comes as Biden pumps more weapons into Ukraine amid uncertainty about a potential diplomatic deal and after Chomsky warned last week that Russia and the United States are pushing the planet toward "the most dangerous point in human history," citing both the war on Ukraine and the climate emergency.


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