The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many: Noam Chomsky
This book was compiled from three interviews I conducted with Noam Chomsky in the Boston area on December 16, 1992 and January 14 and 21, 1993, which were then edited and revised. (A few lines were added in November, 1993.)
My questions appear in boldface. We’ve tried to define terms or names that may be unfamiliar the first time they occur.These explanations appear [in square brackets].
Tapes and transcripts of hundreds of Chomsky’s interviews and talks — and those of many other interesting speakers — are also available. For a free catalog, call 303-444-8788 or write to me at 2129 Mapleton, Boulder CO 80304.
Excerpts from the book.
Divide and conquer
To continue with India: talk about the divide-and-rule policy of the British Raj, playing off Hindus against Muslims. You see the results of that today.Naturally, any conqueror is going to play one group against another. For example, I think about 90% of the forces that the British used to control India were Indians.
There’s that astonishing statistic that at the height of British power in India, they never had more than 150,000 people there.
That was true everywhere. It was true when the American forces conquered the Philippines, killing a couple hundred thousand people. They were being helped by Philippine tribes, exploiting conflicts among local groups. There were plenty who were going to side with the conquerors.
But forget the Third World — just take a look at the Nazi conquest of nice, civilized Western Europe, places like Belgium and Holland and France. Who was rounding up the Jews? Local people, often. In France they were rounding them up faster than the Nazis could handle them. The Nazis also used Jews to control Jews.
If the United States was conquered by the Russians, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Elliott Abrams and the rest of them would probably be working for the invaders, sending people off to concentration camps. They’re the right personality types.
That’s the traditional pattern. Invaders quite typically use collaborators to run things for them. They very naturally play upon any existing rivalries and hostilities to get one group to work for them against others.
It’s happening right now with the Kurds. The West is trying to mobilize Iraqi Kurds to destroy Turkish Kurds, who are by far the largest group and historically the most oppressed. Apart from what we might think of those guerrillas, there’s no doubt that they had substantial popular support in southeastern Turkey.
(Turkey’s atrocities against the Kurds haven’t been covered much in the West, because Turkey is our ally. But right into the Gulf War they were bombing in Kurdish areas, and tens of thousands of people were were bombing in Kurdish areas, and tens of thousands of people were driven out.)
Now the Western goal is to use the Iraqi Kurds as a weapon to try and restore what’s called “stability” — meaning their own kind of system — in Iraq. The West is using the Iraqi Kurds to destroy the Turkish Kurds, since that will extend Turkey’s power in the region, and the Iraqi Kurds are cooperating.
In October 1992, there was a very ugly incident in which there was a kind of pincers movement between the Turkish army and the Iraqi Kurdish forces to expel and destroy Kurdish guerrillas from Turkey.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders and some sectors of the population cooperated because they thought they could gain something by it. You could understand their position — not necessarily approve of it, that’s another question — but you could certainly understand it.
These are people who are being crushed and destroyed from every direction. If they grasp at some straw for survival, it’s not surprising — even if grasping at that straw means helping to kill people like their cousins across the border.
That’s the way conquerors work. They’ve always worked that way. They worked that way in India.