All superpowers feel exceptional

… and inflate security myth for frightened population – Interview with Noam Chomsky, 19.05 min, published on Russia Today RT, Oct 10, 2013.

The United States is not the first superpower to act as if it’s exceptional and will likely not be the last, although US leaders could be squandering a fruitful opportunity for improved international relations, Noam Chomsky said in an interview with RT … //

… (transcript excerpt): ‘Exceptional in its right to use force and violence‘   

  • It’s also worth remembering that every day the United States and Israel are violating international law on this issue. The UN charter, if anybody cares, bans the threat or use of force in international affairs. Every time an official says “All options are open,” that is a criminal act. Here nobody cares. We are supposed to be able to carry out criminal acts and in fact that was a dramatic illustration of that yesterday.
  • If you read yesterday’s New York Times big front page article on the capture of Abu Anas, the jihadi target in Libya, read down to the bottom of the article and there’s a quote from the Secretary of State who is asked in a press conference whether this was legal and he says “Yes this is legal it’s in accord with American law.” That means American law says we can go into any country we like and kidnap somebody we want and that’s legal. Of course is that anybody else’s law? Suppose Al-Qaeda or some other country, Yemen or whoever, comes to the United States and kidnaps John Kerry. Is that legal? If it’s legal by their laws. What this says is we claim that we own the world: What we decide applies universally. It doesn’t matter what international law is, no one else has these rights. An honest report would have had this as the headline and would have explained what it means but nobody is going to comment on that in the United States or England or probably most of the world but these are very important facts.
  • Every great power that I know of has claimed to be exceptional
  • The United States has always adopted the principle of American exceptionalism, this goes back to the early colonists, but it’s not a uniquely American position.
  • Every great power, at least every one I know of, has taken the same position. So France was unique in its civilizing mission, which was announced proudly as the Minister of War was calling for the extermination of the people of Algeria. Russia under Stalin was uniquely exceptional and magnificent while it was carrying out all kinds of crimes. Hitler pronounced German exceptionalism when he took over Czechoslovakia, it was done to end ethnic cleansing and put people under the broader German high culture and German technology. In fact I can’t think of an exception.
  • Every great power that I know of has claimed to be exceptional, the United States among them: exceptional in its right to use force and violence.

RT: Doesn’t the US take it a step further with exceptionalism?

  • NC: Only because the US is more powerful. If you go back a hundred years British and French exceptionalism was far more powerful. The US had the same doctrine but what really mattered for the world was the major imperial powers. And in Russia’s domains it was Russia that was exceptional. Try to find an exception. So the exceptionalism is kind of interesting in that it seems to be without exception. Everybody accepts it, and of course it’s ludicrous in each case.

RT: I’d like to ask you about Syria. They’ve just begun to dismantle their chemical arsenal. The US now seemingly agrees with Russia that perhaps military intervention is not the best way, although it seems to be dragging its feet on Syria policy. Do you expect provocations from the armed rebels in terms of trying to hamper this step to disarm?

  • NC: There are many armed rebel groups and they’re kind of unpredictable. A lot of them are fighting each other and a lot of them are local. Some of them are even pushing for autonomy, like in the Kurdish area the armed rebels are really pressing for Kurdish autonomy and there’s also all sorts of others. There are also secular democratic elements, they’re personally the kind of people I’d like to see take over but the dynamics of armed conflict are that the harshest and most brutal elements on all sides tend to come to the fore. That’s almost inevitable so one may like them, as I do, but I don’t think their prospects are very good. I don’t think what they will do is predictable.
  • Actually it’s fine to get rid of Syrian chemical weapons, that’s great, but it’s not what the policy ought to be. When President Obama and the press and so on talk about the chemical weapons convention they crucially misstate it, purposefully. What’s stated is that the chemical weapons convention bans the use of chemical weapons, it’s only part of the story. The convention bans the production, storage, or use of chemical weapons. Now production and storage can’t be mentioned because if you mention them you’ve got to dismantle Israel’s chemical weapons therefore that can’t be mentioned. But this is a perfect opportunity to move to eliminate chemical weapons from the region, not just from Syria but remove them from the region.
  • Syrian chemical weapons are not there just for fun, they were there as a counter to Israeli nuclear weapons
  • Israel is the only country with a massive nuclear capacity in the region. So there’s a broader issue which goes back to the question of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East, which the US has been blocking for the same reason. So this is a partial solution, it’s good in itself but very partial. The broader opportunities are not being pursued and not even being discussed outside of really marginal areas.

RT: Recent information released by whistleblower Edward Snowden stirred up a whole lot of scandal across the globe. Some see him as a villain, others as a hero. The US wants to try him while other people are calling for him to receive the highest human rights prizes. What do you think of him?

  • NC: I think he performed the responsibility of an honest citizen. Let the population know what your elected representatives are doing, the same for Bradley Chelsea Manning. Let people know what your government is doing. Those who want him hanged as a traitor, etc. what they say is he harmed security.
  • Genuine security is a very low concern
  • There are two problems with that defense. One is that when a government or others related to its claim security, it literally carries no information. The reason is it’s predictable. No matter what any state does, no matter how awful it’s going to say it’s necessary for security. A message that is completely predictable is completely uninformative. So first it’s uninformative. We can however look and see what the claim of security amounts to and here it’s pretty easy in a society like the United States, precisely because it is a very free and open society, maybe the most in the world … //

… (full interview transcript).


Dr. Noam Chomsky breaks the set on war, imperialism and propaganda, on Russia Today RT, May 22, 2013;

Assange Episode 10: Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali, on Russia Today RT, July 3, 2012;

Noam Chomsky denied entry at Israeli border, on Russia Today RT, May 17, 2010.

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