Various individuals and media outlets in Pakistan have been disseminating all over social media comments which were supposedly attributed to Prof. Noam Chomsky, the well-known dissident American intellectual. Chomsky is portrayed as being entirely dismissive of the possibility of any American involvement in the political developments of the country over the past two months. The obvious intent here is to discredit the claim that's been made by former PM Imran Khan and his supporters.
While Chomsky may genuinely hold this view, since he sees no 'substantial evidence,' it turns out that he has been deliberately misrepresented. His response to the question of foreign interference was not reported in full. Our friends in media have been deliberately deceptive on this occasion. We expect better from them.
As shown in the response below (and by now, responses to various others who have contacted him), Chomsky concedes the possibility of "a US hand."
Below, we begin by first quoting one of Chomsky's closest friends, the prominent progressive Pakistani-British intellectual and prolific writer, Tariq Ali, on his thoughts on the subject of American meddling in Pakistan. That is then followed by Chomsky's own views on the difficult nature and process of discovering information often years later through declassified documents, as well as Chomsky's views about propagandists of power dismissing legitimate and reasonable claims as 'conspiracy theory.'
"Tariq Ali: Now, the question — Imran is saying, “The Americans got rid of me.” Well, they may have. We don’t know. And by the way, there’s never paper evidence when the United States decides to remove a regime, except general 15 years later, unless WikiLeaks releases it. So it’s not impossible that the United States expressed displeasure because Imran had described the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan as an American mess. That didn’t please the State Department. On Ukraine, he took a position similar to that of India and China. That didn’t please the United States. And General Bajwa — you know, talk about democracy — General Bajwa issues a foreign policy statement clarifying Pakistan’s position on Ukraine the same week. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the United States said he’s becoming a nuisance or something like that. I mean, they’re well known to topple governments all over the world."
"…I mean, there have been clandestine operations — I don’t want to suggest that it’s novel. Like, overthrowing the government of Iran in 1953 was clandestine. 6 Overthrowing the government of Guatemala in 1954 was clandestine — and it was kept secret for twenty years. 7"
"There is, of course, a sense in which security is threatened by public awareness: namely, security of state power from exposure. The basic insight was expressed well by the Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard, Samuel Huntington: “The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen… Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.” In the US as elsewhere, the architects of power understand that very well. Those who have worked through the huge mass of declassified documents can hardly fail to notice how frequently it is security of state power from the domestic public that is a prime concern, not national security in any meaningful sense."
K.M.—The released documents might not reveal much, but they make the job of those who dismiss arguments about the erosion of privacy as conspiracy theories more difficult, don’t they?
N.C.—That’s true of declassified documents altogether. If anybody bothers to read them, they show that what is called “conspiracy theories” are just descriptions of what happens. There are things that should be called conspiracy theories, that have basically no evidence: ideas about the powerful leaders meeting in Bilderberg and planning world systems, there’s not much to that; a lot of the claims about 9/11, no basis for that. But the term “conspiracy theory” is often used in the ideological system just to refer to normal institutional analysis. Take a look at the institutions, ask how they normally behave on the basis of their institutional structure, look at the historical record, and try to put all this together, and you get an account of state behavior. It’s not a conspiracy theory any more than it’s a conspiracy theory to say that General Motors tries to maximize profit. Of course they do!
“Anyone who studies declassified documents soon becomes aware that government secrecy is largely an effort to protect policy makers from scrutiny by citizens, not to protect the country from enemies.”— Noam Chomsky
"Long before the technology revolution there was declassification of documents and I've spent quite a lot of time studying declassified internal documents and written a lot about them. In fact, anybody who's worked through the declassified record can see very clearly that the reason for classification is very rarely to protect the state or the society from enemies. Most of the time it is to protect the state from its citizens, so they don't know what the government is doing." – Noam Chomsky
"The scheduled release of declassified documents in the official State Department history is 30 years. In practice it is a bit longer, about 35 years or so usually.
Of course, not everything is declassified. Sometimes it turns out on independent investigation by serious historians that the record has been seriously falsified by omission. Occasionally there are administrations that have such extraordinary hatred of democracy that they simply destroy crucial records rather than allow the feared and despised public to know what their government is doing, even decades later.
The most extreme example is the folks who are now running Washington, in their Reaganite phase, and are now described by the press and commentators as “Wilsonian idealists” pursuing their Leader’s “messianic vision” of bringing democracy for the world, the evidence being that his speech writers declare this to be true. When in office in the 1980s, they refused to release — and perhaps destroyed — records of the overthrow of the elected governments of Iran and Guatemala in 1953, 1954, opening the way in both cases to decades of vicious state crimes. That violation of standard practice was so extreme that the State Department historians, quite a conservative lot, resigned in public protest. I can’t recall another case like it."
The principle is so deeply embedded in the moral and intellectual culture that it is apparently imperceptible. Thus a few weeks ago, the national press reported the release of Nixon-Kissinger interchanges (over Kissinger’s strong objections). The report noted in passing that Kissinger, always the obedient bureaucrat, transmitted Nixon’s orders to bomb Cambodia with the words: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”
I cannot think of a comparable call for extraordinary war crimes."
"Long before the technology revolution there was declassification of documents and ... anybody who’s worked through the declassified record can see very clearly that the reason for classification is very rarely to protect the state or society from enemies. Most of the time it’s to protect the state from its citizens," explained Chomsky. "So they don’t know what the government’s doing. ... Which raises the question: Should we even have the classification system? Why shouldn’t these things be open?"
"So we have a huge record of declassified documents going way back that were classified for security reasons but are now available, a huge array of them, we can study them and ask to what extent was security-relevant. I’ve done a lot of work on this and others can do it too and there’s a conclusion security is almost always relevant but its the security of the government from its own population. That’s the security concern."
"Noam Chomsky says he would not be surprised if we learn someday that Judge Baraitser made the decision not to extradite Assange as a favor to President Biden, who will be spared the embarrassment of an international scandal over a life sentence for the Australian journalist.
“We may perhaps attribute these judicial proceedings to the ‘special relationship, the euphemism for Britain’s decline from the leading global power to a vassal of its successor in this ugly role,” Chomsky points out."
"QUESTION: Well, do you feel also … I mean, I know that you have advanced these arguments and a number of other people have also advanced these arguments — they are there to be found by anyone who wants to seek them out…. But at the same time, I think there’s a great effort in the mainstream media to write these arguments off as conspiracy theory.
CHOMSKY: That’s one of the devices by which power defends itself — by calling any critical analysis of institutions a conspiracy theory. If you call it by that name, then somehow you don’t have to pay attention to it. Edward Herman and I, in our recent book, Manufacturing Consent, go into this ploy. What we discuss in that book is simply the institutional factors that essentially set parameters for reporting and interpretation in the ideological institutions. Now, to call that a conspiracy theory is a little bit like saying that, when General Motors tries to increase its market share, it’s engaged in a conspiracy. It’s not. I mean, part of the structure of corporate capitalism is that the players in the game try to increase profits and market shares; in fact, if they didn’t, they would no longer be players in the game. Any economist knows this. And it’s not a conspiracy theory to point that out; it’s just taken for granted. If someone were to say, “Oh, no, that’s a conspiracy,” people would laugh.
Well, exactly the same is true when you discuss the more complex array of institutional factors that determine such things as what happens in the media. It’s precisely the opposite of conspiracy theory. In fact, as you mentioned before, I generally tend to downplay the role of individuals — they’re replaceable pieces. So, it’s exactly the opposite of conspiracy theory. It’s normal institutional analysis — the kind of analysis you do automatically when you’re trying to understand how the world works. And to call it conspiracy theory is simply part of the effort to prevent an understanding of how the world works.
QUESTION: Well, I think also the term has been assigned a different meaning. If you look at the root of the term itself — conspire, to breathe together, breathe the same air — I mean, it seems to suggest a kind of shared interest on the part of the people “breathing together.” It just seems that the word has been coopted for a different use now.
CHOMSKY: Well, certainly, it’s supposed to have some sort of sinister meaning; it’s a bunch of people getting together in back rooms deciding what appears in all the newspapers in this country. And sometimes that does happen; but, by and large, that’s not the way it works. The way it works is the way we described in Manufacturing Consent. In fact, the model that we used — what we called the propaganda model — is essentially an uncontroversial guided free-market model."