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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
the War and Peace Report, I'm Amy Goodman.
In this Democracy Now! special, we spend the
hour with the world-renowned linguist and
political dissident Noam Chomsky.
In a public conversation we had in April,
we talked about climate change, nuclear weapons,
North Korea, Iran, the war in Syria and the
Trump administration’s threat to prosecute
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
We also talked about Noam Chomsky’s new
book, Requiem for the American Dream: The
10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
Hundreds of people packed into the First Parish
Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for our
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about this
comment that you made that the Republican
Party, you said, is the most dangerous organization
in world history.
Can you explain?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I also said that it’s an extremely
But the question is whether it’s true.
I mean, has there ever been an organization
in human history that is dedicated, with such
commitment, to the destruction of organized
human life on Earth?
Not that I’m aware of.
Is the Republican organization—I hesitate
to call it a party—committed to that?
There isn’t even any question about it.
Take a look at the last primary campaign—plenty
of publicity, very little comment on the most
Every single candidate either denied that
what is happening is happening—namely, serious
move towards environmental catastrophe—or
there were a couple of moderates, so-called—Jeb
Bush, who said, "Maybe it’s happening.
We really don’t know.
But it doesn’t matter, because fracking
is working fine, so we can get more fossil
Then there was the guy who was called the
adult in the room, John Kasich, the one person
who said, "Yes, it’s true.
Global warming’s going on.
But it doesn’t matter."
He’s the governor of Ohio.
"In Ohio, we’re going to go on using coal
for energy, and we’re not going to apologize
So that’s 100 percent commitment to racing
Then take a look at what’s happened since.
The—November 8th was the election.
There was, as most of you know, I’m sure,
a very important conference underway in Morocco,
Almost roughly 200 countries at the United
Nations-sponsored conference, which was—the
goal of which was to put some specific commitments
into the verbal agreements that were reached
at Paris in December 2015, the preceding international
conference on global warming.
The Paris conference did intend to reach a
verifiable treaty, but they couldn’t, because
of the most dangerous organization in human
The Republican Congress would not accept any
commitments, so therefore the world was left
with verbal promises, but no commitments.
Well, last November 8th, they were going to
try to carry that forward.
On November 8th, in fact, there was a report
by the World Meteorological Organization,
a very dire analysis of the state of the environment
and the likely prospects, also pointed out
that we’re coming perilously close to the
tipping point, where—which was the goal
of the—the goal of the Paris negotiations
was to keep things below that—coming very
close to it, and other ominous predictions.
At that point, the conference pretty much
stopped, because the news came in about the
And it turns out that the most powerful country
in human history, the richest, most powerful,
most influential, the leader of the free world,
has just decided not only not to support the
efforts, but actively to undermine them.
So there’s the whole world on one side,
literally, at least trying to do something
or other, not enough maybe, although some
places are going pretty far, like Denmark,
couple of others; and on the other side, in
splendid isolation, is the country led by
the most dangerous organization in human history,
which is saying, "We’re not part of this.
In fact, we’re going to try to undermine
We’re going to maximize the use of fossil
fuels—could carry us past the tipping point.
We’re not going to provide funding for—as
committed in Paris, to developing countries
that are trying to do something about the
We’re going to dismantle regulations that
retard the impact, the devastating impact,
of production of carbon dioxide and, in fact,
other dangerous gases—methane, others.
So the conference kind of pretty much came
to a halt.
The question—it continued, but the question
was: Can we salvage something from this wreckage?
And pretty amazingly, the countries of the
world were looking for salvation to a different
Here we have a world looking for salvation
to China, of all places, when the United States
is the wrecking machine that’s threatening
destruction, in—with all three branches
of government in the hands of the most dangerous
organization in human history.
And I don’t have to go through what’s
happened since, but the—in general, the
Cabinet appointments are designed to—assigned
to people whose commitment and beliefs are
that it’s necessary to destroy everything
in their department that could be of any use
to human beings and wouldn’t just increase
profits and power.
And they’re doing it very systematically,
one after another.
EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has
been very sharply cut.
Actually, the main department that’s concerned
with environmental issues is the Department
of Energy, which also had very sharp cuts,
particularly in the environment-related programs.
In fact, there’s even a ban on posting and
publishing information and material about
And this is not just at the national level.
The Republican Party, whatever you want to
call it, has been doing this at every level.
So, in North Carolina, a couple of years ago,
where the Legislature, mostly thanks to gerrymandering,
is in the hands of the Republicans, there
was a study.
They called for a study on the effect of sea
level rise—on what sea level rise might
be on the North Carolina coast.
And there was a serious scientific study,
which predicted, in not—I forget how many
years—not a long time, about roughly a meter
rise in sea level, which could be devastating
to eastern North Carolina.
And the Legislature did react, namely, by
passing legislation to ban any actions or
even discussion that might have to do with
Actually, the best comment of this—I wish
I could quote it verbatim—was by Stephen
Colbert, who said, "If you have a serious
problem, the way to deal with it is to legislate
that it doesn’t exist.
You know, this is going on all over the country.
And it’s not just—it’s not simply climate
That’s bad enough.
But there’s another huge specter that we’re
kind of trying to survive under, and that’s
That’s a whole other story.
Here, both the Obama administration and, increasingly,
Trump are radically increasing that danger.
This—the threat of the new developments
is captured very effectively in the best,
simple monitor of the state of the world,
established at the beginning of the nuclear
age by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
I’m sure you all know about this, but the
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists regularly brings
together a group of scientists, political
analysts, other very serious people, to try
to give some kind of estimate of what the
situation of the world is.
The question is: How close are we to termination
of the species?
And they have a clock, the Doomsday Clock.
When it hits midnight, we’re finished.
End of the human species and much else.
And the question every year is: How far is
the minute hand from midnight?
Well, at the beginning, in 1947, beginning
of the nuclear age, it was placed at seven
minutes to midnight.
It’s been moving up and back ever since.
The closest it’s come to midnight was 1953.
1953, the United States and Russia both exploded
hydrogen bombs, which are extremely serious
threat to survival.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles were all
This, in fact, was the first serious threat
to the security of the United States.
There’s an interesting story behind that,
but I’ll put it aside, unless there’s
time to talk about it.
But then, it came to two minutes to midnight.
And it’s been moving up and back since.
Two years ago—2014, I think it was—the
analysts took into account for the first time
something that had been ignored: the fact
that the nuclear age—the beginning of the
nuclear age coincided with the beginning of
a new geological epoch, the so-called Anthropocene.
There’s been some debate about the epoch
in which human activity is drastically affecting
the general environment.
There’s been debate about its inception.
But the World Geological Organization has
recently determined that it’s about the
same time as the beginning of the nuclear
So we’re in these two eras in which the
possibility of human survival is very much
at stake, and, with us, everything else, too,
of course, all living—most living things,
which are already under very severe threat.
Well, a couple of years ago—I think it was
2014—the Bulletin began to take that into
account and moved the minute hand up to three
minutes to midnight, where it remained last
A couple of—about a week into Trump’s
term, the clock was moved again, to two-and-a-half
minutes to midnight.
That’s the closest it’s been since 1953.
And that means extermination of the species
is very much an—very much an open question.
I don’t want to say it’s solely the impact
of the Republican Party—obviously, that’s
false—but they certainly are in the lead
in openly advocating and working for destruction
of the human species.
I agree that’s a very outrageous statement.
So I therefore simply suggest that you take
a look at the facts and see if it has any
merit or if it just should be bitterly condemned.
That’s up to you.
My view, the facts are pretty clear.
AMY GOODMAN: At this point, as President Trump
nears his 100th day, North Korea and Iran
have been a major focus.
Are you concerned that with the president
at the lowest popularity rating, I think,
in any president’s history at this point,
that he will focus abroad, as he has in the
last few weeks, dropping the MOAB, the "Mother
of All Bombs," in Afghanistan, bombing the
Syrian government, and yet focusing specifically
on North Korea and Iran—in North Korea,
McMaster, General McMaster, the national security
adviser, saying tensions with North Korea
are coming to a head.
Do you think there is a possibility that the
U.S. would attack North Korea?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I mean, this administration
is extremely unpredictable.
Trump probably has no idea what he’s going
to do five minutes from now, so you can’t—literally—so
you can’t really make predictions with much
But I doubt it very much.
The reason is very simple: An attack on North
Korea would unleash—no matter what attack
it is, even a nuclear attack, would unleash
massive artillery bombardment of Seoul, which
is the biggest city in South Korea, right
near the border, which would wipe it out,
including plenty of American troops.
That doesn’t—I mean, I’m no technical
expert, but as far as I can—as I read and
can see, there’s no defense against that.
Furthermore, North Korea could retaliate against
American bases in the region, where there’s
plenty of American soldiers and so on, also
They’d be devastated.
North Korea would be finished.
You know, so would much of the region.
But if attacked, presumably, they would respond,
In fact, the responses might be automatic.
McMaster, at least, and Mattis understand
How much influence they have, we don’t know.
So I think an attack is unlikely.
But the real question is: Is there a way of
dealing with the problem?
There are a lot of proposals: sanctions; a
big new missile defense system, which is a
major threat to China, it’ll increase tensions
there; military threats of various kinds;
sending an aircraft carrier, the Vinson, to
North Korea, except by accident—it happened
to be going in the opposite direction, but
we’ll forget that.
But these are—those are the proposals, that
kind of proposals, as to how to solve.
Actually, there’s one proposal that’s
I mean, you see a mention of it now and then.
It’s a pretty simple proposal.
Remember, the goal is to get North Korea to
freeze its weapons systems, weapons and missile
So one proposal is to accept their offer to
They’ve made a proposal.
China and North Korea proposed to freeze the
North Korean missile and nuclear weapons systems.
And the U.S. instantly rejected it.
And you can’t blame that on Trump.
Obama did the same thing a couple of years
Same offer was presented.
I think it was 2015.
The Obama administration instantly rejected
And the reason is that it calls for a quid
It says, in return, the United States should
put an end to threatening military maneuvers
on North Korea’s borders, which happen to
include, under Trump, sending of nuclear-capable
B-52s flying right near the border.
Now, maybe Americans don’t remember very
well, but North Koreans have a memory of not
too long ago, when North Korea was absolutely
flattened, literally, by American bombing.
There was—there was literally no targets
And I really urge people who haven’t done
it to read the official American military
histories, the Air Quarterly Review, the military
histories describing this.
They describe it very vividly and accurately.
They say, "There just weren’t any targets
So what could we do?"
Well, we decided to attack the dams, the huge
That’s a major war crime.
People were hanged for it at Nuremberg.
But put that aside.
And then comes an ecstatic, gleeful description
of the bombing of the dams and the huge flow
of water, which was wiping out valleys and
destroying the rice crop, on which Asians
depend for survival—lots of racist comment,
but all with exaltation and glee.
You really have to read it to appreciate it.
The North Koreans don’t have to bother reading
They lived it.
So when nuclear-capable B-52s are flying on
their border, along with other threatening
military maneuvers, they’re kind of upset
And they continue to develop what they see
as a potential deterrent that might protect
the regime from—and the country, in fact—from
This has nothing at all to do with what you
think about the government.
So maybe it’s the worst government in human
But these are still the facts that exist.
There are similar questions to raise about
So, Iran is, you know, the—again, the adults
in the room, like Mattis and so on, say it’s
the greatest threat to peace, you know, the
greatest sponsor of terrorism, on and on.
How is it a sponsor of terrorism?
Well, could go through that.
So, for example, in Yemen, it’s claimed
that they are providing some aid to rebel
tribesmen, Houthi tribesmen, in Yemen.
OK, maybe they are.
What is the United States doing in Yemen?
It’s providing a huge flood of arms to its
Saudi Arabian ally, who are destroying the
country, who have created a huge humanitarian
crisis, huge numbers of people killed, massive
They’re threatening now to bomb a port,
which is the only source of aid for surviving
But Iran is the major source of terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor emeritus Noam Chomsky
in a public conversation we recorded in April
at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
When we come back, we’ll talk about Syria,
WikiLeaks and more.