Warfare Technology has a self generating capacity, says US critic Noam Chomsky. For instance, Laos was massively bombed in the Indochina war because the US had all these planes in North Vietnam that they couldn't use during a cessation period. This would be the lesson from history: "These resources are there, they are growing, (...) they want to have more and more to do and when one target disappears the next comes up somewhere else." Furthermore these technologies are used as surveillance technology in the occupied countries like in the US war against the Philippines and as such even imported domestically. That can also be seen now, Chomsky points out. The concept of dirty wars is not new ideas, says Scahill. The special forces JSOC were founded after the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1980. But it were Cheney and Rumsfeld who gave the JSOC real life. Regarding National Security they saw the White House essentially as a dictatorship. Obama then expanded the executive power even further, began chasing whistleblowers and critical journalists like Abdulelah Haider Shaya who had exposed a US missle attack. Shaya was thrown back in prison by the Yemeni dictator Saleh after a phone call by Obama. Chomsky: "If we can't bring them to some kind of judgment if not at the courts at least in public opinion then as Jeremy said we are not doing our duty just as responsible people."
Jeremy Scahill: National Security correspondent of "The Nation", author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army"
Noam Chomsky: Linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US critic, author of several books including "Hegemony or Survival" and "Manufacturing Consent"
Amy Goodman: Founder and host of "Democracy Now", first journalist to have received the Alternative Nobel Prize ("Right Livelihood Award")
David Goessmann: At the end we want to show parts of the discussion between Jeremy Scahill, author of “Dirty Wars” and renowned linguist and US critic Noam Chomsky. The discussion was moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
Amy Goodman: What an honor it is to be here with Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky and I wanted to start with Noam responding to Jeremy's investigations and the descriptions putting into the context of the history of U.S. foreign policy.
Noam Chomsky: In response to Amy's question I'd like to say that I've received an E-Mail this morning from a person that is known to a lot of you Fred Branfman who is a counterpart of Jeremy from back in the 60s. And he is the person who worked for years with enormous courage and effort to try to expose what he called the 'secret wars'. The 'secret wars' where perfectly public wars which the media was keep in secret, and Fred, this was in Laos, finally did succeed and breaking through and ran this exposure of huge wars going on. A war in Northern Laos attacking a peasant society that was so remote from what was happening in the Indochina wars that many of them probably didn't even know they where in Laos. And Fred met many of them in refugee camps after CIA mercenary army drove them out from areas where they have been hiding in caves for 2 years under intense bombardment. He then decided to help to expose the even worse wars in Cambodia and then the air wars in general. One thing he pointed out was that he is a great admirer of Jeremy for very good reasons as you just heard and I hope will read and see. But Fred made an interesting point, he reminded me of a comment by a high American official back in 1968 who Fred was trying to get to speak, it's not easy to get these people to speak but he did. And he was asking this official „Why is this intensive bombing going on in Northern Laos”? It has nothing to do with the war in Indochina, it's just the destruction of a poor peasant society, one of the most benevolent acts of modern history. And then the official finally explained. He said „Look, there is an cessation of bombarding of North Vietnam and we have all these planes, and we don’t know what do with them, so we will bomb Laos“. I think that's the lesson of history that we should keep in mind and reading Jeremy's exposure on the Blackwater and the mercenary army and now of JSCO, so called secret army. Secret in the same way the secret wars where secret. If we have a reporter who is willing to and have the courage and the integrity to exposure, he is going to expose. These resources are there, they are growing, they have a self-generating capacity and they are gonna get larger and larger and they want to have more and more to do and when one target disappears the next comes up somewhere else. And as Jeremy hinted and there is a history to that too, so we want to read about it. There is a very important book by a historian Al McCoy, who, among other things described drugs, torture and so on, but he has done a study of the Philippine War, the U.S. war in the Philippines over a century ago. It was a really cruel war, hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered. But he pointed out that at that time, after the war was over and the investigation began, the U.S. forces where using the highest technology available to develop a surveillance system over the Philippine society. So they could do what, by our standards now are trivial criminal things that Jeremy described. And the Philippines a hundred years later never escaped from this. The Philippine society is still suffering from the consequences of this long terror war. But McCoy pointed out that these measures from before the Word War I where very quickly picked up domestically, both by the British and the U.S. and applied to improve surveillance techniques within their own societies, the FBI here and so on. This is what we can expect and the signs are already around. The resources are there, they are self-generating, they are kept under veils, not too much inspection on them. They are going to grow, they will developed, if the old targets disappear they move on to new targets, that's the nature of these systems, just like the planes we had nowhere to bomb so they decided to set off the bombs in Northern Laos. And they’ll come home. Already happening and we can expect more and more of it. And I think that's the historical background of it that should very much kept in mind.
Jeremy Scahill: One thing in response to this, I think that one thing that is important to keep in mind is that very little about what this administration or the Bush administration did was actually new ideas. They were old existing ideas, resurrections of certain plans and programs. I mean if you look at the Phoenix program in Vietnam, which was this assassination program that was run in Vietnam, there were very serious parallels to what the U.S. was doing in Iraq. The dominant historical narrative is that the surge won the Iraq war. General Petraeus had he not going down - the only thing capable of taking down the powerful … What they do in their top secret chambers. They can wage all their so called secret wars but if they do something in their own secret life then you can bring them down. But Petraeus is often celebrated as the hero of the Vietnam war because of the search but in reality you have this merciless killing campaign that was run by General Stanley McChristal and Admiral William McRaven that where just bombing off the leadership of every cell that would pop up. But also just killing a tremendous number of people in general. And so you have military figures that grew up in a certain era with an understanding of these programs and when Cheney and Rumsfeld came into power with Bush they really saw even before 9/11 happened, saw the historical moment that they had in front of them to sort of redraw maps and implement a vision of the world where run contract was a noble act and sort of the model of how the U.S. government should be conducting it's foreign policy. I don't know if many of you know this but Cheney was in Congress at the time that Iran contract was being investigated and he authored the Minority report in the House defending Iran contract and viewed it as a sort of necessary heroic action. And they have this view of the utilitarian executive, the idea that when it comes to these national security issues that the White House is essentially a dictatorship and that Congress is only functioning as to fund the operations but not deal with them or overseeing them or having any meaningful oversight at these operations. And President Obama really had an opportunity to roll back some of the executive branch power grasp that Bush and Cheney had engaged in and instead he doubled down on them and pressed on unprecedented war against Whistle blowers, using the Espionage act and reserving the right of the state to keep secret from the American people evidence that would indicate why someone was assassinated, to keep secret by use the state secret privilege in repeated law suits brought against former officials or tortures, having cases thrown out of court, using the full power structure of the executive branch in the same excessive way it was used under Bush and Cheney. So he is put into this prison, he is put on trial, total sham trial, his lawyers refused to present the defense. No lawyer would represent him at his own request because he said „I don't want to recognize the legitimacy of this process“. And we have video of when he is in prison, they bring him into the court room in a cell, they have him in a cage in a cell, and as they are putting him away he said „My crime is exposing the American missile attack on the tiny beduin village of Al-Ma’jalla in Abyan province, they are putting me in jail because I exposed their cruel missile attacks.“ And he said „This is what happened when Yemeni journalists are real journalists, they put them away.“ and they disappeared him into this prison. There was so much outrage in Yemen, from his tribe and from human rights organizations and from mainstream civil society in Yemen, that the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh had no choice but to issue a pardon against Abdulah Haider Shayeh. This happens a lot in Yemen, someones getting arrested, the tribes protest and he gets released. It's a game in the country for a long time. So he is going to issue the pardon and then the official news service, the Saba News Agency, does a report saying that this journalist is going to be pardoned. That day the dictator of Yemen receives a phone call from the White House, not from the Secretary of State, but from President Obama himself, personally. And President Obama tells the dictator of Yemen that he is deeply concerned about news that Abdulaleh Haider Shaye is going to be released and the pardon is torn up. And if you think I am making this up I know this from the White House's own website, a read out of the phone call from that day. And when I called the state department to ask them, that was a year and a half after Abdulaleh Haider Shaye had been in prison since this phone call, what is the U.S. state departments position on Abdulaleh Haider Shaye, they said our position remains the same as it was articulated by President Obama in that phone call, we believe he should be kept in prison. So this journalist is in prison because of the President of the U.S. making a phone call and having his pardon ripped up. And he is not doing well in prison, I am in touch with his family, I understand that he is starting to loose his mind, which is very common with people kept in solitary confinement or in these conditions. And none of the news organizations that worked with him in the U.S. ABC news, Washington post, none of them has said anything about his case, where are they? When he is giving them sensational footage, when he interviewed Anwar Alwaki they all wanted to broadcast his comments about Nedhal Hasan, who conducted the massacre in Fort Hood Texas and they wanted to know what Alwaki said about the underwear bomber. You know why they know what Alwaki thought about that? Because Abdulaleh Haider Shaye found him, interviewed him and published it, in the Washington Post, on NBC. And yet when he is in prison, they say nothing. It is shameful. And that's often what happens in these cases.
Amy Goodman: As we wrap up this is the week that the Bush Library is being opened in Dallas. And there is a new evaluation going on about his record. It's the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq. And today we are talking about the years of the Obama administration, can you talk about President Obama's record?
Noam Chomsky: I can tell you what I felt and may be some of the rest of you here felt when I saw the pictures of the Bush Library. There was a group of men standing there, former presidents, and every one of them is a major criminal. And Obama is continuing the grand tradition. I guess that the sentence that came to my mind at that time was actually from Thomas Jefferson who said once that „I tremble for my country when I think that god is just and someday will bring us before his judgment.“ Well if we can't bring them to some kind of judgment, either if not at the courts at least in public opinion then, as Jeremy said, we are not doing our duty just as responsible people.
Amy Goodman: Your first book was 'Blackwater The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army ' where you really re-framed the whole discussion about Mercenaries in the privatization of the U.S. military. So here we are 6 years later and Eric Prince had to move the founder of Blackwater to Abu Dhabi and you remain here in the U.S. And I wanted to ask, with this second book and I encourage everyone to get this book, not just for interesting reading but so that we can see a spring in the summer of U.S. armed policy. When we are informed, what a different it makes to begin with those tools, to be empowered, to challenge how we are represented in the rest of the world, but I want to ask you Jeremy finally, your new book is called 'Dirty Wars. The world is a battlefield.' what are you hoping to accomplish with this book and why do you even call it 'Dirty Wars'.
Jeremy Scahill: One thing I'll think you notice if you read the book, you know I talked with friends when I wrote Blackwater and I think I've growing up a lot since I wrote this book in a sense because something really strange happened to me after a wrote Blackwater. And that was that I started to get E-Mails and other electronic communications from people that have served in Special Operation Forces or worked for the CIA. Not Senior officials, not the powerful, when I was talking about this official who told me what he said about the killing of Abdulrahman. I had to chase him around the Campus of a University I found him on and he did not want to speak to me, I had to chase him. That is pretty much the only interaction I have with powerful officials is chasing them somewhere. But I started to get communications from operators and people that where doing these operations and there is a sort of a pattern to them and sometimes they come to events and come to me afterward and they say „You know I don't really care about your politics but you are totally right about Blackwater, I can't stand them.“ And I got to know people in that world and they also have problems with Blackwater, they didn't like various actions or problems the company's action have caused because of their units or the fact that they were getting paid so much more than conventional soldiers. Whatever it was. But I started to dialogue with some of these people that continues to this day and I've learned that a tremendous amount from them about how these operations run and what I try to do with the book, and I hope I succeeded to a degree with it, is to weaven in and out stories that show the complicated landscape of the killing fields. And the men who do the operations on the ground, the figures who are identified as the targets, the civilians that are forced to live on the other side of the barrel of the gun or in the place where the bombs are going off and I put it into this historical context. I think if you would have asked me years ago what I want to accomplish or what I think should be done I would have pretended to have an answer because I was bold headed. I think that we are unfortunately at the very beginning of a conversation that we have to that's urgent and that we have to have in this country about, how far are we as a society have let things go since 9/11 in the name of protecting our security. And I concur very much with what Noam said about 'we are getting ripped by fear'. You know fear is a very powerful force and if you don't think about a way to confront it and not be owned by it then things like the Patriot Act happen and civil liberties get rolled back. And people say 'Oh NDAA' (National Defense Authorization Act) and they are wining about that they are crazy and that's conspiracy theory and all these things but just study history, it starts somewhere, it starts with an idea and then a crisis happens and then they implement the idea that's been laying around, it's a very acient concept. And my hope is that people use the book as actionable intelligence, which is actually a term in the CIA or in the targeting business but I want it to be actionable intelligence to work toward a democratic process of confronting our own fear and also holding those in power accountable whether they are democrats or republicans. I think all of us should be defined not by the public pronouncements of politicians but by what we do in response to the actions that they are doing in our name. And that's the spirit I wrote this book for.
David Goessmann: This was Kontext TV. Thanks for joining us. David Goeßmann says Goodby from Harvard University in Cambridge.