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The Chomsky Debate By: HBO
HBO | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This transcript is from HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, Episode 43, which aired November 5, 2004.

Guests: linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky, comedian D.L. Hughley, columnist Andrew Sullivan, and former U.S. Representative Pat Schroeder.

MAHER: Okay. Earlier today, I spoke with Professor Noam Chomsky, who teaches linguistics and philosophy at MIT. His latest book is Hegemony or Survival. I told him earlier, I have never had a guy requested more of me in 12 years of doing two shows. I swear to God, every kid wants Noam Chomsky. And we got him today. Please welcome Professor Noam Chomsky. [applause] [cheers]


So, Professor, I’m not kidding. Over the last 12 years, on three different networks, people especially young kids request you. When I first did it, I didn’t even know who you were. All right, let me ask you this. It seems to me that the most religious people are also, at least in this country, the most super-patriotic. Isn’t there an inherent conflict there? I mean, if you’re truly religious and you believe in God I mean, Jesus is not an American, I assume [laughter]


NOAM CHOMSKY [via satellite]: Just the favorite philosopher of America.


MAHER: Isn’t it impossible to be truly Christian and also to love one country, even if it’s your own, more than every other country?


CHOMSKY: Depends how you understand your religion? Religions have taught all sorts of things in the past, from the most horrible to the most elevated. So you pick and choose.


MAHER: Yeah, but Christ doesn’t say, “Love your country.” He doesn’t say, “American life is more important than other life.” And I would imagine that that’s what a lot of people who call themselves Christian in this country believe. [applause]


CHOMSKY: Well, if they do, there are plenty of things ­ there are plenty of things that you can read in the Gospels that are certainly not believed by George Bush and his associates. Are they helping the poor? [applause]


MAHER: Right.


CHOMSKY: I mean, did they hear, did they read the description in the Gospels of the hypocrite, the person who refuses to apply to himself the same standards he applies to others? [applause] We can go on and on.


MAHER: Well, I could, but I don’t want to go to Gitmo. [laughter] We’re about to blow the unholy hell out of Fallujah. Do you think it’s too late? Isn’t it just something that’s going to get more infected the more we pick at it?


CHOMSKY: The invasion of Iraq was simply a war crime, straight out war crime. [applause] [cheers] If we are not ­if we don’t want to be hypocrites in the sense condemned in the Bible, we’ll apply to ourselves the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal, for example, which said that aggression, invasion is the supreme international crime, which includes within it all subsequent crimes, including all of those that are taking place now. So when the invade Fallujah, as I suppose they will, after having driven out most of the population, probably smash the place up, it will add to the enormous casualty lists which may be in the range of 100,000 by now, maybe more, maybe less. And there’s more to come.


MAHER: Why do you think we did Iraq? I mean, what is the bottom line reason? I assume that you don’t think that the reasons given were the real reasons.


CHOMSKY: I think that the polls taken in Baghdad explain it very well. They seem to understand. The United States invaded Iraq to gain control of one of the major sources of the world’s energy, right in the heart of the world’s energy producing regions, to create, if they can, a dependent client state, to have permanent military bases, and to gain what’s called “critical leverage” I’m quoting Zbigniew Brzezinski ­to gain critical leverage over rivals, the European and Asian economies. It’s been understood since the Second World War, that if you have your hand on that spigot, the source of the ­world main source of the world’s energy you have what early planners called “veto power” over others.


Those are all very Iraq is also the last part of the world where there are vast, untapped, easily accessible energy resources. And you can be sure that they want the profits from that to go primarily to U.S.-based multi-nationals and back to the U.S. Treasury, and so on. Not to rivals. There are plenty of reasons for invading Iraq. [applause]


MAHER: Now, President Bush always says the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. And I haven’t agreed with that. I think the people who were in his rape rooms are better off without Saddam Hussein. [applause] That’s a far cry from the whole world. During the Cold War, we selfishly backed any tyrant that was on our side, that would have stopped what we thought was the greater ill of communism. Why don’t we have that same selfish doctrine with this man? Because certainly we know ­somewhere in government people must know­ that Saddam Hussein would never have allowed a power rival, even if it was a terrorist organization, in Iraq. He actually would have been a bulwark for us.


CHOMSKY: In fact, the U.S. support for remember, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein. And that means the people now in office or their immediate mentors, supported him in ways that had absolutely nothing to with Cold War or with the war with Iran. The support went on after the war with Iran was over, went off after the Berlin Wall fell. In fact, it even went on after the first Gulf War, when the first Bush Administration authorized Saddam to crush a Shiite uprising which probably would have overthrown him.


It’s certainly true that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, and also without the people who supported him through his worst atrocities, and are now telling us about them. [applause]


The fact of the matter is that if it hadn’t been for the sanctions which devastated the society and killed hundreds of thousands of people, it’s very likely that the Iraqis themselves would have sent Saddam Hussein to the same fate as other brutal monsters also supported by the people now in Washington, like Ceausescu in Romania or Suharto in Indonesia, or Marcos and a whole string of others. Quite a rogues’ gallery. And probably Saddam would have gone the same way.


MAHER: Professor, I wish I had all night to talk to you. I hope you do this again. Please keep thinking outside the box. I know it’s lonely there, but stay the course. Thank you. Professor Chomsky, ladies and gentlemen.


CHOMSKY: Thank you. [applause] [cheers]


MAHER: Okay. You were making all sorts of faces during that. What, what, what?!


SULLIVAN: What?! He thinks that in discussion of Saddam Hussein he should raise the issue of Nuremberg trials for the United States? [audience reacts] Well, yes. Welcome to the world view of the far left, in which the United States is the source of evil and Saddam Hussein is actually a source of good.


MAHER: Yeah, I don’t agree with that.


SULLIVAN: That is why you lost this election. And that, frankly, is why you deserve to lose this election. [audience reacts] When you have so--


MAHER: Well, you said you voted for Kerry. So you lost it, too. [applause]


SULLIVAN: Well, no, I voted.


MAHER: That’s who you voted for.


SULLIVAN: I decided, on the basis of the competence of what was going in Iraq and fiscal reasons and all sorts of things.


MAHER: Bup-bup-bup-bup.


SULLIVAN: --but I’m saying is I didn’t vote I didn’t support Kerry on the grounds that I disagreed with removing one of the most disgusting tyrants in human history. And I do not believe that the United States in on a par


MAHER: Okay.


SULLIVAN: --with those regimes.


MAHER: I don’t either.




SULLIVAN: But Chomsky does.


MAHER: Okay, all right. Well, he has a right to his opinion.


SULLIVAN: No, he has a right­ he doesn’t have a right to besmirch freedom and democracy in the world and support tyranny and dictatorships


MAHER: Well, maybe he has a different idea of what freedom and democracy are. That’s what a difference of opinion is. [applause]




MAHER: Okay, alright.


SULLIVAN: Because there is either freedom or not; there is either democracy or not. If the United States wanted to invade and get oil supplies, we could invade and control purely the oil fields.


MAHER: I agree.


SULLIVAN: And we could control that and get all the oil we wanted.


MAHER: Okay.


SULLIVAN: This is nonsense. He knows it’s nonsense.




SCHROEDER: We don’t know that he knows it.


SULLIVAN: I assume he’s smart enough to know he’s lying.


HUGHLEY: It is amazing to me that all of us throughout our lives


MAHER: [overlapping] How could you--??!!


HUGHLEY: [overlapping] who they really are, who they want to be and who everybody else thinks they are. This country has never taken a good look at itself and its policies and what those policies mean to people around the world. [applause] Now, I don’t agree I certainly feel like I live in the greatest country in the world. I feel like I have the greatest family in the world. But to say that they haven’t done some f#&ked-up things


SULLIVAN: Of course.


HUGHLEY: --family and country, is idiotic. [applause]


SULLIVAN: Of course.


HUGHLEY: And this country, and conservatives only want to see that we certainly are the greatest country that ever existed. But we have our faults that have led to some of the things that have happened to us around the world: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and accept responsibility for the shit that you’ve done!” [applause] [cheers]


MAHER: And you started off this show


HUGHLEY: Just do it!


MAHER: You started off this show giving me a big lecture about


SULLIVAN: I didn’t mean to be I didn’t give you a lecture.


MAHER: Wait a second a big lecture about giving people their due. And then you say, “I hope he knows he’s lying. I hope he’s smart enough to know he is” What if I said that about your half?


SULLIVAN: No, because


MAHER: If I said, “I hope they’re smart enough to know they’re lying, but they’re not because they’re dumb goobers.” [laughter]


SULLIVAN: There are some views­, people who support the Soviet Union, as Chomsky did for so long, who’ve supported tyranny in all sorts of places, like Chomsky has done, who have lied consistently, as Chomsky has done, who do not deserve fundamental respect in this sense.


SCHROEDER: Oh, I think


SULLIVAN: For example: he claimed 100,000 dead in Iraq. No one believes that.


MAHER: That was in the paper.


HUGHLEY: But how many have been?


MAHER: I read that, too.


SULLIVAN: I know you read it in the paper. Believe it or not, if you look at that analysis, you’ll see it is absolutely riddled with exaggeration after


MAHER: First of all, neither one of us knows how many are dead in Iraq.


SCHROEDER: That’s right. That’s right.




SULLIVAN: We have a very good idea that it isn¹t anywhere near that amount. And we also know


MAHER: Oh, so the Pentagon, they could never be lying. But Chomsky has to be a liar.


SULLIVAN: Oh, of course


MAHER: You know, I mean, give me a break. [applause]


SULLIVAN: Look, you don’t


MAHER: We don’t know.


SULLIVAN: You don’t have to believe you don’t have to believe the United States is perfect to believe it has been a force for good in the world. There are millions and millions of people right now across Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, in all parts of the world, people are living free because of this country. And to denigrate this country as a source of evil




SULLIVAN: --which is his view, or the tool of forces beyond our control, is wrong, in my view. Is immoral, in my view. And is one of the reasons why the left has lost its ability to persuade people in this country. [applause]




To finish reading this transcript, click here.

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