I've been called exactly the same names not, I hasten
to add, with any justification when I saw the Chomsky
interview with Salon.com, I anticipated a ringing denunciation
of US interventionism, delivered in no uncertain terms. Instead,
as I read through interviewer Suzy Hansen's attempts to get
a straight answer out of her subject, the truth slowly dawned
on me: the Emperor has no clothes! This guy's a weasel, I
thought, as he dodged and weaved his way through Ms. Hansen's
minefield of questions, and by the end of it the truth about
the controversial professor fairly leaped out at me: Noam
Chomsky is a paper tiger!
loses it right from the start, when Hansen asks: "In
your public comments after Sept. 11, you drew comparisons
to our bombing of the Sudan following bin Laden's attacks
on overseas American targets. Were you implying that we brought
this on ourselves?"
course not. That's idiotic."
That wasn't your intention?
"Nobody could possibly interpret it that way. [I said]
look, this is a horrendous atrocity but unfortunately the
toll is not unusual. And that's just a plain fact.
I mentioned the toll from one bombing, a minor footnote to
U.S. actions what was known to be a pharmaceutical
plant in Sudan, providing half the supplies of the country.
That one bombing, according to the estimates made by the German
Embassy in Sudan and Human Rights Watch, probably led to tens
of thousands of deaths. I said, look, this is a horrible atrocity
but outside of Europe and North America, people understand
very well that it's just like a lot of history."
on in the interview Chomsky describes the US as the world's
biggest and most powerful "terrorist state," a bit
of hyperbole that even I would hesitate to indulge in. So
why is it "idiotic" to infer, from this,
that he believes the actions of the US government brought
then launches into a vivid description of the arbitrary cruelty
of Bill Clinton's attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory
(without mentioning that Clinton did it to get Monica off
the front pages for a few crucial days). Chomsky's point,
though, is strangely anti-climactic. He wants us to know that,
as in the Sudan bombing, what happened on 9/11 is "just
like a lot of history," i.e., it's not really that big
a deal, compared to what they have to endure in the Third
World. One can only wonder whom Chomsky is addressing. Is
this argument really supposed to convince Americans that they
don't deserve a fate any better than the population of, say,
Bangladesh? If this is the view of the antiwar movement, then
no wonder they're meeting in phone booths.
sounds just like my mother lecturing me on the subject of
why it would be immoral not to eat every single thing on my
plate: "You know, the people in China don't have
roast beef, mashed potatoes and peas for dinner: why, they're
lucky if they get a bowl of rice." Although I had never
seen a single Chinese person, except on television, we heard
a lot about them at our house when I was growing up.
Whenever we didn't eat our peas and carrots, or if we should
fail to appreciate the long cotton underwear with dancing
harlequins that Aunt Clara had gotten us for Christmas, "the
people in China" would rear their heads and clamor for
our attention. Listening to Chomsky trying to guilt-trip me
into cleaning my plate, I can only wonder: So this
is what Salon bills as "the nation's most implacable
critic of U.S. foreign policy"?
Chomsky fails to say is that the attack cannot be understood
except as a direct response to the ongoing US military occupation
of Saudi Arabia, the sacred land of Mecca and Medina, which
the feet of "infidels" may not touch. This is Bin
Laden's big beef with the US, the whole meaning and purpose
of Al Qaeda's anti-American jihad, or holy war: the
presence of US troops on Saudi soil is seen as sacrilege by
Muslim fundamentalists. 9/11 was blowback, as
the anti-interventionist scholar Chalmers Johnson would put
it: his book of the same title illustrates the same principle
in operation since the beginning of the cold war. "Blowback,"
as Johnson means it, is not just terrorist attacks, but also
the more long-range economic, political, and military consequences
of imperial over-stretch, and 9/11 is a classic case that
combines all these into a single catalytic event.
LADEN AND THE COLD WAR
wasn't it the US, in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,
that created and sustained the Afghan anti-Communist rebellion
of the 1980s or else why
is Zbigniev Brzezinski boasting that he and his "mujahideen"
brought down the Kremlin? By personally participating in the
first great jihad of modern times, funded and fully supported
by Washington, Bin Laden achieved legendary prominence, and
forged the core cadre of Al Qaeda in that milieu. Yesterday's
"freedom fighter" is today's terrorist how
much more explicit can the concept of blowback get? Yet Chomsky
doesn't get into any of that, and instead relies on his own
narrow definition of "international law"
a strange position indeed for an avowed "anarchist"
SAY SANDINISTA, I SAY COMMUNISTA
position is that, in response to 9/11, we should have followed
the path trailblazed by Nicaragua under the Sandinistas:
followed international law and treaty obligations. It collected
evidence, brought the evidence to the highest existing tribunal,
the International Court of Justice, and received a verdict
which of course the U.S. dismissed with contempt. The
court called upon the United States to terminate the crime
and pay substantial reparations."
but the Nicaraguan commies lost to their terrorists:
their regime was weakened and then kicked out of office. Chomsky
admits this when he says that "the U.S. responded by
immediately escalating the war; new funding was provided"
and "the U.S. official orders shifted to more extreme
terrorism." In short, going the Nicaraguan route wouldn't
solve the problem, since Al Qaeda is about as likely to abide
by the edicts of the International Court as the US government
was in Central America. In spite of poor little Nicaragua
"following all the right procedures," moans Chomsky,
"the US simply would not adhere to it." So what
makes Chomsky think Al Qaeda would adhere to the decisions
of a UN tribunal?
LION IS A PUSSYCAT
is a very weak argument, and, once again, one can only
ask: Is this the fearsome lion of the Left, the wild-eyed
"radical" reviled by the Right and shunned by respectable
liberals? Sheesh! No wonder the War Party likes to
bandy his name about as a synonym for "radical"
opposition to the war: instead of building their own straw
man, Chomsky has done them the favor of providing one ready-made.
solution to the problem of what to do about terrorism is for
the United States to cede its sovereignty, at least in this
matter, to "international authorities," who will
then conduct a criminal investigation of 9/11. This nameless
authority he must mean the UN would then have
the use of "internationally sanctioned means, which could
include force, to apprehend the criminals." This same
international authority would "bring the criminals to
justice" and "ensure that they have fair trials
and international tribunals." In short, we have to first
establish the outlines of a world government, and give it
total power to intervene anywhere.
Chomsky rails elsewhere against the US bombing, which has
killed plenty of civilians, and which still goes on in
spite of our alleged "victory," would the "use
of force" by "international authorities" necessarily
be any less brutual even if Commander Chomsky was personally
in charge of it? There is no reason to believe the Taliban
would have turned Bin Laden & Co. over to the United Nations,
since they failed to accede to a similar demand by the US.
And so the war would have commenced, just the same, with one
difference: Chomsky would now be hailing it as a great "humanitarian"
intervention, along the lines of the one he recommended in
the Implacable, is no consistent advocate of non-intervention.
In the case of East Timor, he tried to put pressure on the
US government to intervene in favor of a secessionist movement
that just happened to have taken the place of the Sandinistas
in the Far Left's affections. The East Timorese secessionist
rebels, although outgunned and outmanned by the Indonesian
central government, rose up in rebellion, crushed all internal
opposition, and tried to establish socialism on half an island,
as the American Left cheered. The Jakarta government naturally
took umbrage at this, and sent in the army to put down the
rebellion. A noninterventionist would say: we don't have a
dog in that fight. Chomsky, however, does:
"What role is the world's superpower supposed to play?"
"The first, simplest role it should play is to stop
participating in atrocities. In 1999, for example, one role
the U.S. could have played is to stop participating in the
atrocities in East Timor. Britain could have played the same
role. That would have made a big difference. In fact, when
the U.S. finally did inform Indonesia that the game was over
on Sept. 11, after the worst had happened, they instantly
withdrew. The power was always there."
power was always there and the US should use it. No
one is fooled by the way Chomsky frames his answer: clearly
he was asking for the US to intercede on behalf of the rebels,
and threaten Jakarta with the possibility of sanctions. Certainly
Australian leftists weren't fooled: the "Green Left"
and socialist groups mounted demonstrations calling for the
Australian army to "save" East Timor. By doing nothing,
in Chomsky's view, we were "participating in atrocities."
this principle, consistently applied, would have to mean is
that every time some "oppressed minority" rises
up and challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity
of a "repressive" government, the US should exert
pressure including, presumably, the threat of military
intervention until the bad guys submit to the dismantling
of their country. But that is precisely what happened to Yugoslavia,
and the pattern is being repeated in Macedonia, while real
noninterventionists want to know: by what right?
most bizarre aspect of this interview, however, comes when
Chomsky insists well, let him speak for himself:
"So you don't think our war in Afghanistan is an example
"Is the United States under an armed attack?"
"I would think so."
is where the utter cluelessness of Noam Chomsky and
his fellow Chomskyites comes through loud and clear.
To say that he's in denial is putting it mildly. This guy,
it's fair to say, is in a coma. If the territory of the US
is not under attack, then what was it that caused the collapse
of the World Trade Center and the decimation of the Pentagon
was it an act of God? A natural disaster? A bolt of
lightning from the blue, perhaps from heaven itself?
Chomsky drones on, exactly like someone in a trance, or a
waking dream. Once again we are subjected to the lawyerly
conceits of an avowed anarchist, who solemnly informs us that:
51 [of the U.N. charter] is very explicit and I believe it's
correct. It says force can be used in self-defense against
armed attack. Armed attack has a definition in international
law. It means sudden, overwhelming, instantaneous ongoing
attack. Nobody believes the U.S. is under armed attack."
US, he laboriously explains to the baffled Ms. Hansen, must
be continuously under attack: it must endure a veritable
barrage of terrorist attacks, all carried out in quick
succession, before an authentic state of war exists. So, no,
it isn't a question of self-defense. In spite of this, however,
everything would've been just peachy if the US had only appealed
to the vaunted Article 51, and acted under UN auspices: but,
alas, it "purposely chose not to."
by the wisdom of this oracle or, perhaps, having decided,
at this point, to humor him Ms. Hansen meekly asked:
"And what would motivate the US to do this?" Chomsky's
speculation is that the U.S. does not want to establish the
principle that it has to defer to some higher authority before
carrying out the use of violence."
LOCALLY FIGHT GLOBALISM
got that right, brother! Why oh why should the US surrender
its sovereignty and its very identity to a cabal of other
states, none of them half as free as the US? And what's up
with this "higher authority"? Higher than what
the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? This supra-national
authority has all the makings of a tyranny far more aggressive
and potentially far more deadly than the US.
What Chomsky is arguing for is the creation of a World State,
which could intervene in Afghanistan, East Timor and
the American Southwest, for that matter in the name
of justice and "humanitarianism." It's sad, but
they don't make "anarchists" the way they used to:
instead of smashing the State, Chomsky wants to globalize
would this Super-State deal with, say, Saddam Hussein? According
to Chomsky, the Iraqi dictator is entirely the creation of
the US, since we supported him when he committed his worst
atrocities. Oh, but does that mean we shouldn't go after him
now? After hemming and hawing and insisting "that's not
a small point," Chomsky's answer is, basically, that
we should've done it when we had the chance:
own feeling, to tell you the truth, is that there was a great
opportunity to get rid of Saddam Hussein in March 1991. There
was a massive Shiite uprising in the south led by rebelling
Iraqi generals. The U.S. had total command of the region at
the time. [The Iraqi generals] didn't ask for U.S. support
but they asked for access to captured Iraqi equipment and
they asked the United States to prevent Saddam from using
his air force to attack the rebels. The U.S. refused. It allowed
Saddam Hussein to use military helicopters and other forces
to crush the rebellion."
then what? Should the US have marched to Baghdad, propped
up this rebel regime, and occupied Iraq? Here Chomsky echoes
the complaints of the right-wing neoconservatives, like Bill
Kristol, who have the same regrets about the Gulf War. Like
them, Chomsky believes we should've "finished the job"
as Kristol recently put it in a CSPAN interview
but Chomsky wants to do it his way. According to him,
we should say to our allies and others in the region:
we supported [Saddam Hussein] in his worst atrocities; now
we don't like him anymore and what should we do about him?'
And, yeah, that's a problem."
a problem, alright for anyone who wants to take seriously
the idea that Chomsky is an opponent of US military intervention
abroad. His feel-good leftism, which fetishizes the UN, is
just as messianic as the neoconservative ideology that sees
the US role as spreading "democracy" and "modernity"
to the four corners of the earth.
if to confirm his utterly conventional views, Chomsky has
nothing but praise for the decisions that got us into the
Second World War brought peace. I was a child, but I did support
the war at the time, and in retrospect, still do."
can easily see how, after Pearl Harbor, even the most intransigent
opponent of US intervention overseas might have responded,
at the time, with complete support of the war effort. But
for this supposedly "implacable" critic and gadfly
to support that war in retrospect, given the proven complicity
of the White House in the death and destruction visited
on Americans at Pearl Harbor, is outrageous. However, it's
hardly surprising: the pro-Soviet Left saw World War II as
a crusade to save the "worker's fatherland," and
in that the crusaders certainly succeeded. Instead of allowing
Stalin and Hitler to destroy each other, powerful interests
in the US coalesced to drag us, kicking and screaming, into
the conflict. The Left, the Anglophiles, and the East Coast-based
financial sector, with vital links to Europe, denounced "isolationism"
and attacked their enemies as a traitorous "fifth column"
operating much as the War Party does today.
ROAD TO EMPIRE
who bemoans our superpower status, as Chomsky seems to, can't
help but recognize World War II as our debut on the world
stage in this role. America, the sleeping giant, had been
awakened: by war's end, our troops occupied half of Europe
and what had been the Empire of Japan. Half a century later,
those centurions are still at their posts, and the
Empire is expanding, extending its rule into the heartland
of Asia. For Chomsky to say that he supports the first few
phases of a natural progression, but not its inevitable denouement,
is disingenuous in the extreme. The two world wars forged
the American national security state, and transformed "isolationist"
Americans into international busy-bodies, earnest little empire-builders
who cannot rest until the last Hutu is rescued from the last
Tutsi and a "new world order" reigns supreme.
BRANDS OF THE SAME POISON
from being an outsider, Chomsky is part of that internationalist
consensus, albeit on its left fringe. His new world
order would be enforced, not by the US but by the United States
of Earth, although the American taxpayer, you can be sure,
would still be footing the bill. In principle, this is no
different than the "benevolent global hegemony"
school of foreign policy founded by the neoconservatives:
it's just a question of who gets to be the hegemon. In Chomsky's
world, it's the UN; in Kristol's, the US. In both cases, the
result would be perpetual war for perpetual "peace,"
and a growing global tyranny. In both cases, the power of
government is internationalized and infinitely increased until
the Constitution is a dead letter, and the Founders
not only of our nation, but of every nation are but
a dim memory.
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