Speaking from MIT, Boston, on the 12th July 2012.
Q:President Bashir al-Assad claims the USA are helping to destabilize Syria. Are they?
Chomsky: Take a look at what the US is doing. This goes for a year up to a kind of standing off. They claim that they can’t intervene because of the Russian veto. That has no credibility. If they wanted to intervene, they wouldn’t care what the Security Council says. I mean, evidence about that is just overwhelming. But I think they are using...they’re probably internally quite happy about the Russian veto because it is a pretext for not doing anything. So what they’re doing is giving some support to the rebel forces. They’re obviously giving some arms and other support to them but not enough to make much of a difference.
And I think the reason is--they don’t particularly like Assad, but they are even more worried about what might follow. I mean the fact that he’s a brutal dictator, that doesn’t get in anyone’s way. They’ve supported much more brutal dictators quite happily in the past. So you put rhetoric aside and take a look at the historical record and the circumstances in Syria and you can see that there’s that kind of dilemma.
Assad is not our favorite person but he’s been pretty much playing the western game, not perfectly but pretty well. But what follows him might be worse. Actually, that was the same with Gaddafi. The US and Britain were supporting Gaddafi pretty strongly, almost up to the day, the Arab Spring. Sometimes it was comical. You recall the LSE scandal. That was one example. There was another one right here down the street at Harvard. The Business School has a group called, I think, the Monitor Group, which offers advice and aid to other countries. One of their main clients was Gaddafi. They were organizing--they’re apparently the ones who wrote the thesis for Gaddafi’s son who got a degree at the LSE. You know, apparently they took care of that. But they were also bringing leading American intellectuals to Libya to meet with a great thinker in his tent and to discuss the Green book and so on.
There is a report by a London Times reporter, which I haven’ t seen anyone investigate. But I think it’s at least credible. Shortly before the bombing of Libya, the international tribunal dealing with Charles Taylor in Liberia, the prosecution rested its case. But according to this report--they had interviews with prosecutors, one of them is American law professor and one of them is British Barrister--they said they were quite unhappy to rest the case because what they wanted to do is to indict Gaddafi since he was responsible for arming and training the forces that carried out the atrocities. But they said they couldn’t do it because Britain and the United States threatened to defund the Tribunal if they did. When the American law professor was asked why, he said “Welcome to the world of oil.” That’s the answer. That was right before the bombing.
But he wasn't, again, not the favorite person for the US and Britain. He was more or less cooperative for these kind of mercurial, doing all kind of things they didn’t like. For example, he’d been the main funder of the African National Congress at the time when the US was supporting the apartheid regime and in fact condemning Mandela’s African National Congress and it was one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world. So they didn’t want Gaddafi funding him. There are other things they didn’t like. So when an opportunity came, maybe to get something better, the imperial triumphant took up the opportunity.
You can debate whether it was a right thing to do or not but it was certainly, it was pretty isolated in the world. There were alternatives that could have at least been explored. But it’s the same---there’s nothing new about it. I mean that’s the history of imperialism as far back as you want to go.