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The Chomsky Challenge By: John Williamson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 05, 2004

Can you figure out whether the Sage of MIT told the truth?*

MIT professor Noam Chomsky spoke at the annual Lecture on Intellectual and Academic Freedom at the University of Michigan on Friday, October 19, 2004 and claimed that the United States violates the “principle of universality,” which means that “nations should apply the same standard to themselves that they apply to others.”

As evidence, Chomsky offered the case of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which took place on December 7, 1941, and which brought the United States fully into the Second World War.


According to Mark Osmond and Monica Woll, who are reporters for the student online journal, The Michigan Daily, Chomsky stated that “the United States embraces the right to use anticipatory self-defense against terrorist threats,” but that “anticipatory self-defense was not seen as an excuse for Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, despite the fact that the U.S. was plotting an attack against Japan that would have destroyed its wooden cities.”


In other words, according to Chomsky, Yamamoto’s heroic Zero-pilots destroyed most of the American fleet based in Hawaii in order to prevent a dastardly American attack against millions of Japanese civilians.


Was Chomsky’s statement:


A.      An important new revelation resulting from a diligent, scholarly process of sifting through the historical record?

B.      The restatement of the well-known historical record, researched and recorded by others? OR,

C.      A big, heaping, steaming crock…?


Let’s review the facts.


It took six months from the time of Pearl Harbor for the U.S. navy to gain parity with the Japanese navy. This was accomplished at the immortal Battle of Midway. Then followed, over the next few years, the Solomon Islands Campaigns (1942-43), the Guadalcanal Campaign (1942), the Java Campaign (1942), and the Leyte Campaign (late 1944), among others. Included in these many naval campaigns were assaults by elements of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps for the purpose of establishing forward bases from which a general assault on Japan could be launched. Marine engagements in the battles of Guadalcanal (1942), Tarawa (1943), Iwo Jima (1945) and Okinawa (1945) are remembered for the ferocious nature of the battles and for the enormous casualties taken by American units.


It was only when forward bases close to Japan had been secured that the assault on Japan’s cities could be commenced. Arriving at that point took years of warfare and the enormous loss of both American life and materiel. The final assault was forestalled by the use of atomic weaponry at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Thus, the possibility that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was designed to prevent the imminent destruction of the Japanese citizenry by American forces is completely unfounded.


Those are the facts. If you guessed, “A” or “B” – sorry, you need to learn more about our history. If you guessed “C” – a big, heaping, steaming crock - you’re obviously already quite familiar with Chomsky’s work.




Before we finish up our Chomsky Challenge, let’s take a quick look at the response from the media and the audience. There’s nothing in the report by Osmond and Woll which indicates their own familiarity with the history of the Second World War. They simply reported Chomsky’s words without contradiction.


As for the audience, here’s what The Michigan Daily had to say about them:


The majority of the crowd was enthusiastic to Chomsky’s message, giving him a standing ovation before and after his lecture. “If every person had a fraction of the insight that Noam Chomsky has, we would be in a much higher place,” said Dave Kargol, editor of Eastern Michigan University’s student newspaper, The Eastern Echo. “I can only try to hold onto a few things he said and think about them further.”


As a bonus question, see if you can figure out who was in Chomsky’s audience that night. Was it:


A.      A crowd of illiterate dockworkers;

B.       The national conference of Young Al Qaedans;

C.       Actual American college students.


If you guessed “C”, you were right! So there you have it: an unchallenged authority figure, a compliant media, and an unquestioning public. Sounds like Professor Chomsky was manufacturing a little consent of his own!



*Trick question: Chomsky rarely, if ever, tells the truth.

John Williamson is a contributor to The Anti-Chomsky Reader.

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