Noam Chomsky and the “War on Terror” – a look at 2 books of interviews with the great man.

I recently read 2 books of interviews about Noam Chomsky’s take on 9/11 and the events that followed. Here is a brief summary.

Most people will know of Chomsky. He is a well known political activist/commentator, writer and professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT, where he started teaching in 1955. He has written and lectured on many subjects including linguistics, philosophy and politics. He’s not a man who skirts around the issue and has been quite scathing of his countries role in world wide terrorism.

He states that as far as the government of the USA is concerned, terrorism is what is done by others to the united states….not something that the USA actively participates in. He then goes on to name many of the terror events that America has wrought upon other nations around the world in the name of “Freedom & Democracy”…. and what hypocrites the government have been over the years.

The USA have ignored World Court ruling on several occasions. Have gone against United Nations resolutions designed to bring peace to troubled parts of the world and have instead chosen to act unilaterally rather than side with its traditional allies. They refused to sign the Kyoto climate change agreement and more recently pulled out of the Paris climate agreement. They have violated many treaties to further their own global dominance. They have overthrown foreign governments that were opposed to the USA and installed puppet governments in their place….often these puppets becoming dictators who violate the human rights of their citizens…..get too big for their own boots and are in turn kicked out/replaced by the USA again. Thus is their revolving door foreign policy.

It was the Clinton administration back in 1993 that informed the U.N. that the U.S. “will – as before – act multilaterally when possible but unilaterally when necessary” and they have been choosing to ignore their friends and allies ever since in order to pursue their own ends. Bush continued this stance. The USA has become the playground bully. They took over the mantel from Britain, who’s empire crumbled after becoming almost bankrupt as a result of the 6 years of fighting in World War 2.

Since becoming “Top Dog”, the USA has been a quite ruthless bully. It takes war to other countries quite happily, but then becomes shocked and outraged when someone attacks them. September 11 2001 was the first time since the war of 1812 that America’s national territory had been under attack….by which I mean mainland USA, so not taking into consideration the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour back in 1941. Having said that, Hawaii did not become an official US State until 1959.

So, the attack on the Twin Towers was a shock to the system for the USA. They over-reacted, a knee jerk reaction – and committed themselves to the “war on terror” and the needless attack on Iraq….who had nothing to do with the attack in the first place.

A war usually takes place between two or more nations. What happened on September 11 was a crime….not an act of war. It should have been treat as a crime – an act of terrorism perhaps, but a crime all the same. A thorough, non-biased investigation would have helped rather than leaping to the conclusion that somehow Osama Bin Laden from a cave somewhere in Afghanistan had done this horrendous deed and that some how the Iraqi’s were also implicated.

With the majority of the “terrorists” linked to the attack being of Saudi nationality, if a war was going to be declared and retribution taken it should therefore have been against Saudi Arabia…..so why attack Iraq and the Libya? The answer was to overthrow the government of the day – neither of which were friends of the USA, although both at points in the past had been recipients of military aid from the USA…when it had suited the USA to befriend and prop up these dictatorships. So, the “War on Terror” was declared as a smokescreen to mask US foreign policy decisions. Bush, incidentally, originally called it a “Crusade” but on advice corrected this to the war on terror, as crusade brings to mind religious ideals and ethnic cleansing.

But it was not a War on Terrorism – it was a politically motivated means of gaining control of the middle east and its oil supplies. By attacking Muslim targets, the USA fell straight into Bin Laden’s trap. Their actions, in attacking the Muslim world, enraged even the most peaceful followers of the Islamic faith…..creating no end of would be terrorists.

It’s not only in the war on terror that the USA is culpable in the deaths of innocents. Their economic foreign policies – sanctions – against countries who fail to comply with the USA’s “requests” have been responsible for ending trade between allies of the USA and a number of “victimised” nations. For example they stop aid and trade with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya bringing about death by starvation of millions of civillians – half of which are children. When asked if it was worth these deaths in order for the USA to maintain its political dominance the reply from the Whitehouse…..yes it is.

Such is US foreign policy. In reality the world is full of “grey areas” and yet to the USA policy makers it’s black or white – “you’re either with us or agin’ us” – as they used to say in those old B movie westerns – ….and we retain the right to change our policies, and our friends, as we choose, when we see fit to.

Getting back to Chomsky’s books….In the September 11 book, he was asked if he thought that Bush’s “War on Terrorism” was winnable. His response – I’d love to copy straight from the book, but don’t want to infringe copyright laws so I’ll paraphrase.

He says that in much of the world, the USA is seen as THE leading terrorist state and with good reason. In 1986 they were condemned by the World Court for “unlawful use of force” (international terrorism) – and they were told to adhere to international law. They ignored the World Court on that occasion, as they have done on other matters since. The USA are a rule to themselves and damn anyone who disagrees with them. When terrorist events occur, we should try to reduce any further threat rather than escalate it by knee jerk reactions such as bombing sovereign nations without evidence. When the IRA bombs went off in London and other places in the UK, there was no call by the British government to bomb west Belfast….or to attack the financial backers of this terrorism in Boston – an Irish stronghold. Rather, steps were taken to gather evidence and to take the criminals responsible into custody…..and efforts were also made to remedy the reasons behind the attacks. When the Oklahoma bombings occurred, calls were made immediately to bomb the middle east. It was only when it became clear that the terrorist was domestic…a white US citizen….with links to white nationalism that it didn’t go ahead. BUT there were no calls to bomb Montana or any other state with strong links to the perpetrator. Go back to the 1980’s and the USA “involvement” in Nicaragua. Tens of thousands of civilians died in Nicaragua as a result of violent assault by US forces. This terrorist attack by the USA also brought about the start of an economic war in which a small country like Nicaragua could not compete – it devastated the country and it’s never really recovered. The World Court ordered the USA to stop its actions immediately and to pay reparations to make up for their crime. As usual, the USA ignored the judgement, dismissing it with contempt, upping its destructive actions in Nicaragua. Did Nicaragua respond by sending terrorists to Washington? No…the went to the UN security council and asked them to intervene. The security council put forward a resolution calling on all states to observe international law. The U.S. alone vetoed it. They then went to the General Assembly where this time Israel, USA’s puppy state also opposed a similar resolution to obey international law. These are just a few of many many examples where the USA has dismissed international law and opinion and gone its own “lone wolf” way. It makes it’s own rules because no one else is big enough or powerful enough to make them act responsibly. If that doesn’t define what a Bully is, nothing does.

In his other book “Power and Terror”, Chomsky, as he has done many times in the past, places the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the context of American foreign intervention throughout the postwar decades – in Vietnam, Central America, the middle east and elsewhere. Beginning with the fundamental principle that the exercise of violence against civilian populations is terror, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a well organized band of Muslim extremists or the most powerful state in the world. Chomsky, in uncompromising terms, challenges the United States to apply to its own actions the moral standards it demands of others.

In the book, Chomsky compares US policy with that of Nazi Germany – as an indicator of the current moral and intellectual culture in which we live. He says that it’s something that we should be very concerned about and continues…. The acts of terror that the USA have brought to Central America, the Middle East and certain parts of Africa – they don’t count as Terror. The USA and the west as a whole see these actions as a “just war” or as “counter-terror”. But the same thing gets carried out by foreign parties against the USA or its allies, and it is “most certainly an act of terrorism”. This idea is not something new. It has been the standard line throughout the whole history of European imperialism. The USA are simply carrying on this tradition. So, they do it to us and it’s an act of terror….we do it to them and it’s a just war, it’s counter-terrorism, it’s a civilizing mission, it’s democracy in action, it’s bringing “freedom” to the oppressed. It’s bullshit… but it’s true with even the worst killers in history. If you read Nazi literature, in occupied Europe, they claimed to be quote -defending the population and the legitimate governments against the terror of the partisans (freedom fighters) who were controlled from abroad – close quote. The USA does the same things in modern times by propping up dysfunctional (but friendly to the USA) dictatorships to prevent rebels/freedom fighters/political opponents – call them what you will – from changing the government. It’s happened with El Salvador, Turkey, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Syria (where we have changed sides too many times to be credible)….the list goes on. But lets just take Columbia as an example.

In the 1990’s Colombia’s human rights record was the worst in the hemisphere and yet the USA gave more aid, including military aid, to the Colombian government than to the rest of the nations in the hemisphere combined. Mass murders were committed by government forces (including an incident where chainsaws were used to kill civilians) as evidenced by mass graves. Colombia also had, at that time and beyond, the world record in killing trade unionists and journalists – political murders ran between 10 and 20 per day and thousands of people went “missing” every month. Over 2 million fled the country while other civilians were pushed out of their homes to find refuge in slums without proper sanitation, schools or even the most basic of health care……and yet the USA financed this government, because it suited their short/mid term political and strategic goals. This is the moral decay that Chomsky fears has taken over modern political life.

He doesn’t only condemn the USA in “Power and Terror” – he also has a go at other world powers who, over the years have committed politically motivated atrocities (Britain included). Notable mentions were the German government of Nazi Germany before and during world war 2 – particularly the genocide of the Jews and Romanies – and also the actions of the Chinese government which brought about the deaths – through starvation, due to politically motivated decisions – of 25 million of its citizens.

Both books make interesting and compelling reading….depressing as they are. This is politics as it really is….dirty, low and evil – anything goes as long as we maintain the upper hand.

We owe a debt of thanks to professor Chomsky for being courageous enough to criticize his own and other rogue governments in this manner and to help us see beyond the smoke and mirrors of modern politics usually brought to us by the “bought and paid for” media.

I read things such as these two books from reliable sources like Noam Chomsky and realize that some of the “far fetched conspiracy theories” circulating on line or in publications such as the magazine “Uncensored” are maybe not so wide of the mark after all. It’s a strange and scary world in which to live and yet Chomsky remains upbeat and optimistic that the world is a more “civilized” place than it used to be. Perhaps as the end note of Power and Terror says – “his optimism sustains his life long mission: to bring the facts to the public, in the faith that, armed with knowledge, they will not fail to act”.

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