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Chomsky on Syria: We Must Help Fleeing Refugees & Pursue Diplomatic Settlement


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in Burlington, Vermont,
where we’re continuing our community tour throughout the country. But we go back now to my conversation with
linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky, speaking on Monday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. AMY GOODMAN: I last interviewed you on April
4th, just a few weeks ago, on Democracy Now!. It was the 50th anniversary of Dr. King giving
his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, why he opposed the war in Vietnam, where he called the U.S.
“the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” And I wanted to turn from North Korea and
Iran to Syria. It was the day of the gas attack in Syria,
so we didn’t get to talk about it very much. And I’m wondering your thoughts on what
you think happened, and then the ensuing U.S. bombing that President Trump would later talk
about, saying he was having chocolate cake with the Chinese president—very, very good
chocolate cake—when they launched the Tomahawk missiles into Iraq, he said. And he was corrected by the interviewer—right?—who
said it was actually Syria. NOAM CHOMSKY: Bunch of “ragheads”; it’s
all about the same. But, well, there are some things we know for
sure. There was a serious chemical weapons attack. Nobody doubts that. It’s plausible that it was the Syrian government,
which does raise some questions. It’s not so obvious why the Assad regime
would have carried out a chemical warfare attack at a moment when it’s pretty much
winning the war, and the worst danger it faces is that a counterforce will enter to undermine
its progress. So it does raise some questions. It also—even though maybe you can think
up some reason why the Assad regime, which is a murderous, brutal regime, might have
done it, there’s even another question as to why the Russians would have allowed it. Now, remember, this is a—the air base is
a joint Russian-Syrian base. Russia has plenty of clout in Syria. And for them, it’s a total disaster. They have global concerns, not just local
concerns in Syria. So there are some concerns. And there are further concerns. There has been—the White House did put out
a careful—you know, a justification, an intelligence report, to explain and account
for, showing why they had absolute confidence that it was a Syrian government attack. This was analyzed closely by a very serious
and credible analyst, Theodore Postol, professor at MIT, who has a long record of highly successful,
credible analysis. He’s a highly regarded strategic analyst
and intelligence analyst. And he gave a pretty devastating critique
of the White House report. You might—you can pick it up online and
take a look at it. So there certainly are some questions. That there’s—that Syria is capable of
a monstrous act like that, the Syrian government, that much is not in doubt. But one question that arises is: Before doing
something, could you find out what happened? OK? I mean, let’s have an inquiry, take a look
and see what in fact actually happened. There are plenty of cases where things—where
it looked as though things happened, but they didn’t. And remember that reporting from Syria is
extremely difficult. If reporters go into the rebel-held areas
and don’t do what they’re told, you know, get your head cut off. Patrick Cockburn and others have written about
this. You just can’t seriously report from those
areas. There are obvious questions when you’re
reporting from the government side. So the reporters are—there are very good
reporters doing a serious, courageous job, but there’s not much you can do. So we just don’t know a lot. Well, those are the circumstances in which
the 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched. That’s pretty easy. It’s easy to sit in Washington and push
a button and say, “Go kill somebody.” That’s considered courage, you know, macho,
showing how strong we are. What did they actually do? Well, apparently, the Tomahawk missiles were
targeting a part of the airfield that doesn’t seem to be used. And, in fact, the next day, planes were taking
off. And, in fact, the village that was attacked
by the chemical weapons has been even more heavily attacked by straight bombing from
the Assad government after the 59 Tomahawk missiles. So whatever they were intended to do doesn’t
seem to have anything to do with Syria. I suspect that what they were intended to
do was pretty much what you described, to shore up Trump’s image as—I think it was
Nikki Haley at the U.N., said, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” So now we’ve got Wyatt Earp, you know, pulling
out his gun and getting rid of the bad guys. No more of this soft stuff. So, it was probably an attempt to shore up
that image. Pretty much like the bomb in Afghanistan. Nobody knows what it was for, what it had
to do with. Probably destroyed a large part of Afghanistan. Shortly after that, there was a mass—an
incredibly brutal and successful Taliban attack, which killed a couple hundred recruits, most
of them unarmed. The young draftees didn’t know what they
were doing. It was so bad, the defense minister resigned. Doesn’t seem to have any effect on—it
was supposedly aimed at ISIS. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. They don’t seem to be affected by it. So these look like—there doesn’t seem
to be any strategic analysis behind any of these actions, as far as anyone can tell. They seem like kind of about at the level
of the twitters that keep coming out: something that kind of occurs to me, so why not do it? It’s cheap. It may kill a lot of people, makes me look
good and, you know, makes it seem as if I’m defending the country, and so on. It’s hard to see it as anything but that. That these things help the people of Syria
and Iraq is very hard to imagine. AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to be done
to solve the crisis, the humanitarian catastrophe, in Syria? NOAM CHOMSKY: In Syria, it’s a terrible
catastrophe. And, you know, unfortunately, there isn’t
a lot that can be done about it. There are some things that can be done. I mean, the idea that you can send in the
Marines and bomb and so on, that has a small problem. If you do, you probably set off a nuclear
war, and not only is Syria destroyed, the rest of Syria, but the rest of the world,
too. So there’s a little difficulty in that scenario,
whatever one thinks about the justification for it. So what can be done? Well, one thing that can be done, which is
really easy, very easy, is to take care of the people fleeing from this disaster. I mean, there are huge numbers of people fleeing
from the disaster. What do we do about them? Make sure they don’t come here, you know,
kind of like people fleeing from—you know, my relatives, in fact, fleeing, trying to
flee from Eastern Europe under the—before when the Nazis were coming along. “We don’t want ’em. Not here.” You know. So the Syrians don’t come—maybe a tiny
trickle, but very few come here. Europe’s not that much better—in fact,
pretty horrible, too. So one thing you could do is just take care
of the people who are fleeing the disaster. Another thing you can do is provide humanitarian
aid for those in the region. Now, there are countries who are absorbing
refugees, remember, like take Lebanon. It’s not a rich country like us. Poor country. About 40 percent of the population are refugees,
many of them fleeing from the Israeli wars as far back as ’48, many—huge number of
Syrians. Jordan, another poor country, has absorbed
a huge number of refugees. Turkey has a couple of million. Iran has accepted refugees. So there are very—there are poor countries
that are accommodating refugees, but not the rich countries. The rich countries, it’s not our business,
certainly not us. It’s even a more serious problem with regard—for
us, moral problem, with regard to Central America, but let’s keep to Syria. So another thing you could do is provide badly
needed aid and assistance for those who have succeeded in fleeing the disaster, or who
remain in parts of Syria where survival is possible, but are living under horrible conditions. Now, that’s all cheap and easy, a tiny fraction
of increasing the military budget to cause more destruction. Now, the other thing that can be done and
is being done is to try to support local efforts throughout Syria at local ceasefires, just
to lower the level of violence. That’s happening in different places. Yeah, maybe the people don’t like each other,
but people sometimes like to survive. And there are accommodations worked out, and
they could be helped. A broader possibility is to try to pursue
the negotiations that will lead to some kind of diplomatic settlement. Now, there have been efforts, but they’re
mixed. And there probably—can’t be certain, but
there seem to be possibilities that were dismissed. So, for example, in 2012, there were reports
from former Finnish minister Ahtisaari—has a very credible record of involvement in international
peacekeeping—who claimed that the—that a republic—that a Russian diplomat had proposed
a settlement in which Assad would be eased out in the course of the negotiations, and
some settlement would be reached in which the Assad regime would be ended. That was apparently dismissed without comment. The U.S. and Britain and France just assumed
at that point that they could overthrow the Assad regime. They didn’t want to have anything to do
with it. That’s the report. The report appeared in England—as far as
I know, it was never even reported here—by good reporters. Is it true? Who knows? Got to look into it to find out whether it’s
true. You have to inquire. You have to pursue the options, if they exist. And they weren’t. But there are things that could be done, not
what we would like to see. You know, it would be nice to see: “Here’s
a solution that will make everybody happy and end the destruction.” But those just don’t seem on the possible
agenda, because—for all kinds of reasons, including the threat of a very serious war
if Russia and the United States don’t act in a high level of concert in pursuing whatever
they may be doing.

36 Comments

  1. Eric H
    Eric H April 26, 2017

    I always read "Chompksy" lol

  2. Kunal Sharma
    Kunal Sharma April 26, 2017

    No, we're not going to bring in more refugees to compete with poor and working class workers. Just STOP BOMBING THEIR COUNTRIES and everything will be fine.

  3. Anthony Rock
    Anthony Rock April 26, 2017

    if you want to vote for someone in 2020 for POTUS who will cut the military budget in half and invest in ppl not bombs, please check out my platform and give me a chance! I will never sell out to these corporate whores that have taken over our government!!!

  4. Mooemoney
    Mooemoney April 26, 2017

    Amy Goodman the Zionist gatekeeper pushing for regime change in Syria with her fellow Zionist MIT gatekeeper SHILL noam..

  5. ewa wyso
    ewa wyso April 26, 2017

    @2:10 sec – shown attempt to intubate an unconscious (or perhaps dead already) young man, is done w/disregard to required aseptic technique: no sterile gloves, the cannula touches many "dirty" surfaces, the whole resuscitation effort, chest compression, ambu-bagging…the whole bit is either phony or super incompetent.

  6. Baruch Hightower
    Baruch Hightower April 26, 2017

    level headed…thank you

  7. Ryan Daniel
    Ryan Daniel April 26, 2017

    I don't want to help any Syrian refugees!

  8. Ghost Food
    Ghost Food April 26, 2017

    How many will Chomsky and the entire staff of Democracy Now take into their private homes+

  9. Cheshire Kat
    Cheshire Kat April 26, 2017

    It's been tried.
    They just won't integrate.
    .Giving them sanctuary in Western countries has only resulted in a skyrocketing increase in Islamic terrorism, and assaults on women in those countries (ex: France).
    Muslim ideology is not just compatible with Western values (freedom of speech, secularism, equal rights for women, tolerance for Jews, Gays, Atheists…etc).
    Send them to a Muslim majority democratic country like Egypt.

  10. Brad Thompson
    Brad Thompson April 26, 2017

    HELL NO!

  11. d. a. Will
    d. a. Will April 26, 2017

    No Illegals , No Refugees , No Excuses !

  12. d. a. Will
    d. a. Will April 26, 2017

    Europe is a Example for America what Not to do ! ! !

  13. motorhead
    motorhead April 26, 2017

    Israel rescued 50,000 Sudanese Christians….and hundred thousand Ethiopians…שלום

  14. Michael Froelich
    Michael Froelich April 26, 2017

    It's a little late now to seek a solution in Syria. The time for that was long ago but Obama was indifferent. He bungled Libya and Egypt so there you have it. If however you want to seek to assist what few people remain then you have to be willing to do something. That means employing Covert Action to eliminate Assad and the Generals around him, as well as targeting the foreign operators who he relies totally on. For that matter you could target Russians there and there's nothing they could do about it. They are not prepared to retaliate. The other problem is in imposing an order on matters after Assad and his butchers are gone. That also will require resolve. All issues require resolve not available in national security institutions which avoid risk and cost unless at least some narrow American interest can be claimed. As long as it's a mere "humanitarian" issue it will fester like the Balkans festered, and all that happened a canoe ride away from the Italians and Viennese. So how we're supposed to make Americans care about Syria is a tough one.

  15. Zurround100
    Zurround100 April 26, 2017

    this is like a lullaby for adults I nod off listening to Noam's monologues.

  16. Homa Monfared
    Homa Monfared April 26, 2017

    #1 terrorist is US then Israkill , terrorist is eating very good chocolate cake and bombing Syria, President Assad is legitimate President unlike Trump, President Assad is in his Country defending his country is anything wrong with that? how many American people don't like Trump and he is not legitimate why we don't bomb US and ask Trump to leave go to Germany where his grandfather is coming from.

  17. Marcus Will
    Marcus Will April 26, 2017

    We can stop bombing them then they wont need to flee to europe.

  18. tigerbalm
    tigerbalm April 26, 2017

    Terrorists, communism, etc are all fabricated by America to justify wars! Think about it!

  19. James S
    James S April 26, 2017

    Ignorant words by Chomsky, if he did his research he would know the Assad has been dropping chemical weapons for years

  20. motorhead
    motorhead April 26, 2017

    500,000 killed by their own people…nothing to do with us "bombing " them…are u a 12 yo?

  21. Laszlo Bernath
    Laszlo Bernath April 26, 2017

    I think the discussion of whether 'we' should take in those refugees or not, or how many we should take, addresses only the symptom and dismisses the actual cause. I believe it's important to give refugees opportunity to survive, but the basic question (besides the issue being much more complex) should rather be how not to make them become refugees in the first place.
    A major mistake, I think, is that in these discussions refugees are treated very similarly to immigrants, which misses the point that becoming a refugee is much less of a free life choice or preference. I myself am an immigrant who wasn't forced to leave and who plan to stay permanently, and as such I realize that I also need to take some measures of adaptation to a different society. But in the case of refugees, many of whom don't want to be where they've come and, most importantly, don't plan to stay permanently, such an attitude can't be expected. Many of them don't want to get accustomed to 'our' ways because they want to return to their home country once the conflict is resolved and it's become a livable place again. And it's quite understandable, nor would I want to internalize the customs of a radically different country or culture I don't want to be in and am not planning to stay in. For people who've been forced to leave their country, being 'here' is an undesirable necessity rather than a decision, so the best way to help them would be to stop the destruction of their countries, in which 'we' have a pretty significant role, so that they could stay or return and live their lives in an at least functional society of their own.

  22. moed al garny
    moed al garny April 27, 2017

    Humanitarian relief will not make a difference and the conflict is meant to continue Why?100 years ago, before colonialism came to an end, it created governments in the Middle East, drew borders and shared the region's wealth The peoples of the Arab Spring revolution shook the governments created by colonialism This is a danger to governments left behind by colonialism guarding their interests The conflict is therefore intended to continue to frighten the rest of the people from the revolution

  23. krakusdomm
    krakusdomm April 27, 2017

    That's right nothing about this Syria thing makes any sense. But, Mr. Noam look at the President from a John Wayne perspective and you got his moves in place: past, present and future. He is definitely following a broken Agenda.

  24. GohModley
    GohModley April 27, 2017

    Only MOAB can solve this crisis. Praise be to MOAB.

  25. Ilmari Määttänen
    Ilmari Määttänen April 27, 2017

    What has gone wrong in journalism, when one 88 year old linguist/cognitive scientist/activist knows more about the Syrian Civil war and the possible solutions for it, than the WHOLE international main stream media combined?

  26. D Personal
    D Personal April 27, 2017

    The only path to peace is to wipe the slate clean and start over with a ONE-STATE with equal rights for ALL, including the RIGHT OF RETURN and REPARATIONS for Palestinians, not the fake two-state "solution" that Zionists like Dershowitz, Netanyahu, Chomsky, Sanders and Amy Goodman push – that's just continued slow-motion genocide of Palestinians.

  27. Rachel Golem
    Rachel Golem April 27, 2017

    The solution to Syria is to relocate the entire population to France. I don't care. I don't live there!!!!

  28. Rachel Golem
    Rachel Golem April 27, 2017

    The best thing we can do to help Syria is to blame all their problems on white people who have never been there.

  29. Rationalization is irrational
    Rationalization is irrational April 27, 2017

    Noam Chomsky said ragheads lol

  30. AirandThoughts
    AirandThoughts April 29, 2017

    Considering it's been the west's wealthy countries who have destabilized the mid-east the most, it would only be right for them to take their fair share of refugees. Every one of these retards who stand up against that, should ask themselves why they were okay with saying nothing while their governments were bombing civilians and funding terrorists for their greedy interests.

    Yes, even regular citizens share some of the blame for the atrocities that have happened in the middle east, doing nothing to oppose such injustice from their corrupt governments was a choice, and the least they could do now is share some of the load from this humanitarian crisis that they ignored before.

    So, fuck off any retards spewing the idiotic lines of "why don't you take them into your own home". The real question is, "why did you say nothing as your leaders armed terrorists and bombed secular, socialist governments into oblivion?". The people you're so disgusted by now, are the people whose lives were destroyed by your inaction.

  31. Merrilou Neigenfind
    Merrilou Neigenfind April 30, 2017

    Trump is the bad person.

  32. Sherry Berry
    Sherry Berry April 30, 2017

    I doubt very much current administration will support the people/refugees ever.

  33. MsWonderful79
    MsWonderful79 May 1, 2017

    Trump should use the money he wants to give to the richest .01% and help the nations who have taken in refugees to care for them.

  34. Steve Farrell
    Steve Farrell May 4, 2017

    You forgot to mention the 2mil refugees Germany has taken in!! Or was that done on purpose?

  35. thelittlepilgrim
    thelittlepilgrim July 16, 2017

    Why aren't diplomatic settlements pursued more? Why is it always militarily escalated with international contributions?

  36. Max Fritts
    Max Fritts October 19, 2017

    It is the fault of the US that these people are fleeing to other countries after yet another invasion by the US into these now fleeing immigrants whose homes and businesses were destroyed in the changing of regimes, all in the guise of democracy

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