Noam Chomsky addressing the 10th Rhodes Forum

Noam Chomsky
Video-Address by Noam Chomsky delivered at the Opening Plenary Session of the 10th Session of the Rhodes Forum (Greece) on October 4, 2012 (Text version; watch the Video below)

The tenth anniversary of the World Public Forum happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the most dangerous moment in human history. I am quoting the words of a noted American historian Arthur Schlesinger, close confidante and advisor of President John F. Kennedy.

The most dangerous moment to which he is referring is, of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that time President Kennedy estimated the probability of war at perhaps as high as 50%. That would be that would have been the war that would have destroyed the Northern hemisphere. According to President Eisenhower there have been many dangerous occasions since, and others are on the front pages today once again in the turbulent Middle East.

The basic concern there was expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler, former head of the US Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons and strategic planning.

He wrote that it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosity that we call the Middle East one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so. General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran, which is the prime concern in the West. Though not in the Arab and Muslim world or in fact elsewhere as we recently saw in the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran. Rather, General Butler was referring to Israel, and with ample reason.

Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to mitigate the alleged threat posed by Iran, that’s the primary current concern in the West. And namely, take serious steps toward establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the region. It’s a goal that has enormous international support. Fortunately, too, an international conference aiming to advance this goal, is scheduled, in fact, for December.

Unfortunately, however, the United State has been dragging its feet on this proposal for many years, insisting that Israel must be excluded. President Obama’s current stand. And Israel has just announced that it will not take part, rejecting the plan as coercion.

This matter is scarcely even discussed in the United States despite its crucial significance, apart from specialist arms control circles. Unless there is strong popular pressure the opportunity will be lost to avoid what might be another horrendous war, and partly possibly even a nuclear war.

Israel has recently secured advanced submarines from Germany, which are equipped to carry Israel’s nuclear-tipped missiles. And there’s little doubt that they will join the huge US armada that’s now deployed in the Gulf, very sharply escalating the threat against Iran and the threat to the whole world and a possible threat even of a nuclear war. It’s one of many such threats.

Here we have one very concrete task that the Forum might address. And there are many others like it. It takes only a small spark to ignite a conflagration when anger and fear are rampant and deeply rooted in past injustice and on-going crimes as indeed we have seen in the past few days after the distribution of the racist anti-Islamic video.

An incident in the Gulf, which is not unlikely, could easily trigger a war with terrible outcomes, and it can be averted by diplomacy and negotiations quite easily in fact, if popular forces are sufficiently engaged in international solidarity and mutual respect.