Note: A reader has pointed out an error in our article "Noam Chomsky’s Jihad Against America", which is important enough to warrant a correction. In his MIT speech, Chomsky referred to a September 16 NY Times article about food supplies in Afghanistan. Through a researcher’s error, we cited an article from the October 16 NY Times in our rebuttal. This led us to accuse Chomsky of making up his quote. In fact, Chomsky was quoting the article accurately. We regret the error. The error, on the other hand, has no bearing on the charge Chomsky was making -- which we rebutted -- that the United States was deliberately planning to starve 3-4 million Afghan civilians. As we point out in this corrected version, the October 16 NY Times article we cited, which described the efforts of the American government to provide food supplies to Afghans, was available to Chomsky at the time he maliciously and falsely described U.S. policy as one of promoting a "silent genocide."
--David Horowitz and Ron Radosh
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3
ON OCTOBER 18, eleven days after U.S. military forces began America’s response to the monstrous September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Noam Chomsky explained the unfolding events to an audience of 2,000 people who were gathered for a prestigious MIT lecture series. His speech was called "The New War Against Terror" and has been posted on the Internet, broadcast on C-Span and published as a new Chomsky broadside. Weeks later, as the fighting in Afghanistan reached its highest pitch, Chomsky appeared in Islamabad to share his views with the Muslim population of Pakistan, that nuclear and none-too-stable state.
Coming a month after the original attacks, and a week after the United States had begun its response, the speech provided a clear picture of Chomsky’s analytic process, his use of evidence, and the way in which the war has crystallized the agendas of Chomsky’s lifelong crusade against his country.
Chomsky proposes to deal with five questions in addressing his subject, the first of which, he observes, far outweighs all the others: "One question, and by far the most important one is what is happening right now? Implicit in that is what can we do about it?" The numbered headings of the answers to these questions in the text that follows correspond to the headings in Chomsky’s transcript as it appears on the website at zmag.org.
1. What’s Happening Right Now? Starvation of 3 to 4 million people.
Well, let’s start with right now. I’ll talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I’ll just keep to uncontroversial sources like the New York Times [crowd laughter]. According to the New York Times there are 7-8 million people in Afghanistan on the verge of starvation. That was true actually before September 11th. They were surviving on international aid. On September 16th, the Times reported, I’m quoting, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population. As far as I could determine there was no reaction in the United States or for that matter in Europe.
In short, in Chomsky’s view the United States had already begun – in a calculated way -- to starve millions of defenseless civilians in Afghanistan. Moreover, no one in the West cared. This is what is "happening now." This provides us with the accurate moral equation for these misrepresented events.
In order that nobody should fail to appreciate the gravity of the point, Chomsky spells it out again in the very next paragraph -- which the website underscores with the sub-heading,
Looks like what’s happening is some sort of silent genocide. It also gives a good deal of insight into the elite culture, the culture we are part of. It indicates that whatever, what will happen we don’t know, but plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it, that’s just kind of normal, here and in a good part of Europe.
The style is classic Chomsky. Looks like what’s happening is some sort of silent genocide. The casual tone and the faux professorial caution in formulating the claim are meant to disarm his listeners as they absorb the charge, which is actually quite lurid, and also quite lunatic – at odds with everything we know about the way Americans and Europeans generally behave, and the way they were behaving as of October 18 in response to the unprovoked Al Qaeda attacks: No Muslim round-ups; no firing squads; no missile sprays at civilian populations in South Asia. But the professor knows better: The calculated starving of millions of innocents is actually "just kind of normal" for us folks.
Chomsky’s answer to the question "what is happening now?" provides his audience with a bottom-line view of America and its Western allies: We are moral monsters; we are coolly planning the murder of not merely thousands of innocents like the desperate crew who brought down the World Trade Center – and whom we are about to punish -- but millions. Moreover, even if the starvation doesn’t actually take place, the intention to make it happen is unarguable. The American government has laid plans "on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it ... The country was on a life-line and we just cut the line."
Of course, these were cold and calculated lies. In fact, it is this kind of malicious libel, characteristic of Chomsky’s political writings that has put them on the shelf alongside the Turner Diaries and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the genre of paranoid conspiracy tracts. Readers unused to such blunt mendacity, might still want to give Chomsky the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they think Chomsky could not possibly have meant what he wrote. Surely he does not mean to place American democracy on a par with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and other apostles of the mass annihilation of innocent populations. If so, however, they would be wrong, and Chomsky is the first to let them know it. "All right," he continues, "let’s turn to the slightly more abstract question, forgetting for the moment that we are in the midst of apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people, not Taliban, of course, their victims."
No wonder they want to bomb us! No wonder Al Qaeda resorts to "terror" – a word, which as Chomsky will explain, is really a cynical verbal construction imposed on our language by the monsters themselves – since, in fact, "terror" is more properly understood as the real victims’ revenge.
Chomsky weaves these fantasies with the skill of Thomas Mann’s Mario the Magician – a famous fascist prototype whose audience, spellbound by his illusions, could no longer distinguish truth from falsehood, evil from good. Chomsky’s own hypnotic power derives from the impression that his bizarre text is based on actual sources like the New York Times, and as though the reality he is inventing were instead visible beneath its surface to eyes ingenious enough to detect it.
Recall how Chomsky sets up the scenario of a Washington plot to deliberately starve 3-4 million innocent Afghan civilians: "On September 16th, the Times reported, I’m quoting, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population." That was September 16th. A month later, on October 16th -- two days before Chomsky’s speech another article appeared written by Elisabeth Busmiller and Elizabeth Becker, which began: "President Bush promoted his relief fund for Afghan children at the headquarters of the American Red Cross today…" In other words, the Bush Administration was working to prevent the starvation of Afghan civilians.
"The Pentagon and the British Defense Ministry," the same article reported, "have agreed to coordinate the air strikes so they will not hit relief convoys…" Evidently, the truck convoys continued. To get to Chomsky’s conclusion, therefore, one has to deny first the reality of American governmental relief efforts and then convert every concern expressed by private relief agencies – some of which like Oxfam have a history of hostility to United States foreign policy -- into irrefutable statements of fact. One would also have to ignore the role played by the Taliban itself in the food crisis. As the Times story itself notes (and Chomsky ignores), the Taliban was stealing food from the very convoys Chomsky refers to, in order to supply their own forces:
The Taliban have also begun levying a tax of $8 to $37 a ton on wheat coming into the country. "One convey of 1,000 tons of wheat was held up for five days trying to negotiate the tax," Mark Bartolini of the International Rescue Committee said. Since airstrikes began, several warehouses have been looted and local staff members have been beaten.
Of course the war conditions in Afghanistan that militate against the delivery of food are the result of the terrorist aggression supported by the Taliban regime. No one would think of blaming Churchill and FDR, rather than Hitler, for the harsh conditions in Germany during the war.
On November 16 -- almost a month after Chomsky’s MIT talk -- another article appeared on the front page of the New York Times with the title, "Now, the Battle to Feed the Afghan Nation." Written by Tim Weiner, the article reported that the American military was using its full resources to "deliver relief for millions of hungry, cold, sick, war-weary Afghans." Moreover, "NATO allies" -- acting as a "full partner" to relief agencies – "will ship food, clothing, shelter and medicine to the nations surrounding Afghanistan for United Nations relief organizations, private aid groups and intrepid Afghan truckers to deliver to people in ruined cities and shattered villages."
In other words, the facts tell a story the exact opposite of Chomsky’s malicious claims. US led military action saved Afghan lives, led to the restoration of food relief, and lessened the danger of the mass starvation that might have been in store had Taliban rule continued. Because of the US action, some five million Afghans, who could have starved, now have hope. While the aid effort is international, the US alone is "paying for much of the good that the coalition is moving into Afghanistan." As Mark Bartolini, vice president of the International Rescue Committee told the Times, "had this war not occurred, we wouldn’t have had the access we have now -- the best access in the past decade." At the time, the Bush administration had in fact provided $320 million in food aid, which has "resolved for the moment" the question of actual food supplies getting to the people.
The Times story was reinforced by an article by Laura Rozen in the on-line magazine Salon.com, which appeared the next day: "Aid experts say that the agencies’ repeated alarms about the impact of the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban have ignored the fact that more food has been reaching Afghanistan since the U.S. bombing began than was before—a lot more." Rozen quotes John Fawcett, a humanitarian relief worker, who stated unequivocally, "more aid has gone into Afghanistan in the past month than in the past year. The aid agencies cried wolf. They said the bombing will stop us from delivering humanitarian aid. It will create 1.5 million refugees. Well, in fact, the result of the bombing is there are 150,000 new refugees -- one-tenth of what they expected, and there’s been a tenfold increase of humanitarian aid getting in."
A possible reason for the exaggerated concerns of the aid groups was suggested by Rozen: "It’s hard not to think that some aid groups’ opposition to the bombing stemmed more from a fundamental reluctance among humanitarian groups to endorse a campaign of violence." It is certainly true that the violence of war affected the flow of aid – in the last weeks of November, when the war was at its height there was a temporary falling off in aid shipments (which were still twice the levels pre-September 11th). But given the conditions of war, the Bush regime, as one would expect, was doing what was humanly possible to provide aid to the Afghan people. So much for Chomsky’s "silent genocide."
America’s defeat of the Taliban, in fact, has greatly enhanced the future prospects for the Afghan people. As John Norris, a senior advisor to the International Crisis Group put it to Rozen, "the retreat of the Taliban from key positions could make way to…a significant increase in aid deliveries and distribution" of food and other materials. "The spigots for aid," Norris said, "are going to be open in Afghanistan now like never before…. This military action is humanitarian action. Do you want to deliver food packets to the concentration camp, or do you want to get rid of the concentration camp?"
On November 30th, the New York Times had reported that the absence of a bridge between northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan cut off "the most promising avenue for shipping in supplies." Once again, however, the US acted to address the situation. A week later, on December 8, Agence France Presse reported that Colin Powell had flown to Uzbekistan "with a diplomatic triumph under his belt after persuading the reluctant authorities to open a key bridge linking the central Asian country to Afghanistan." The bridge, which opened a few days later, was described as "a vital gateway for getting badly-needed humanitarian aid supplies into northern Afghanistan." In other words, U.S. policy had once again resulted in a situation that increased the availability of food supplies. The bridge had been closed "for four years since the Taliban took control of north-east Afghanistan," and the Uzbekistan government feared Taliban fighters coming into its country if it was reopened. America’s military defeat of the Taliban changed the equation. It was estimated that opening the bridge would supply "40 percent of the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people."
Chomsky’s indictment had two counts – the alleged genocide and the silence that supposedly accompanied it: "Plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it." The first count -- as we have easily established -- is obviously false. The second originates in a thesis familiar to readers of Chomsky’s book, Manufacturing Consent, a vulgar Marxist tract arguing that the American media functions as a propaganda agency for the government and its ruling class bosses. In his MIT address, Chomsky asserted, "the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I’m aware that was unreported. [Chomsky did not reveal how he knew this if it was "unreported."] That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can’t find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir."
In fact, the story in the Boston Globe was headlined "Fighting Terror Tensions in South Asia" – a region that includes Afghanistan – and there were three full paragraphs on the pleadings of the aid groups to stop the bombing. Moreover, as the citations above show, the story received attention in other sources, including the Times story of October 16. It was also reported on the nightly television network newscasts. It is reasonable to presume that the reason the story failed to receive even wider coverage was that it had no basis in fact, but only in the exaggerated fears of the aid groups, which responsible reporters would check. Put another way, the reason the genocide of Afghans was not a big news feature was that it was not news at all; it was just a figment of Noam Chomsky’s malignant imagination. Since there was no such planned genocide there was also no silence concerning one. Chomsky built his case, as his practice, on a tissue of distortions. It is in the cumulative effect of these distortions that his cultic power derives.
2. Why Was It A Historic Event?
The second question Chomsky discusses in connection with the September 11 attack is, "Why Was It A Historic Event?" His answer is that America, which for centuries has been attacking the world – and especially the Third World – is now itself under attack, which is something for progressives to celebrate.
The change was the direction in which the guns were pointed. That’s new. Radically new. So take U.S. history…. During these 200 years, we, the United States expelled or mostly exterminated the indigenous population, that’s many millions of people, conquered half of Mexico, carried out depredations all over the region, the Caribbean and Central America,… But it was always killing someone else, the fighting was somewhere else, it was others who were getting slaughtered. Not here. Not the national territory.
Leaving aside the malicious distortions of the American past, the Chomsky thesis comes to this: The attack on America is long overdue and is historically just.
Chomsky seems to believe that America and Europe are still living in the age of colonial expansion -- a rhetorical assumption that allows him to ignore the fact that America and its allies do not want to acquire Afghanistan or another Third World country, and are even reluctant to be involved to the extent that they should be. (Their benign neglect of Afghanistan after the collapse of the Soviet invasion is often pointed to as a factor in the creation of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda network). Chomsky also ignores the mass slaughter and savage tribal wars conducted by indigenous peoples in today’s post-colonial world. In Chomsky’s calculus America and Europe will always come up negative values. Thus, Chomsky even denounced the recent efforts of the NATO allies to rescue impoverished Muslims facing systematic extermination and expulsion by Serbian ethnic cleansers as an example of "NATO imperialism." So much for Chomsky’s concern for the oppressed.
3. What Is Terrorism?
We now come to Chomsky’s Third Question, which is "What is the war against terrorism?" This, as Chomsky tells us, has a side question, viz., "What is terrorism?" Actually it is not a side question but a rhetorical trick. It is Chomsky’s answer to the first question. The war against terrorism, according to Chomsky, is the real terrorism. In Chomsky’s view, America’s war against the Taliban is not only a terrorist war itself, but also the only terrorism one can accurately speak of. America’s war in Afghanistan is "a plague, a cancer which is spread by barbarians, by ‘depraved opponents of civilization.’" This is how Chomsky perceives his own country and the democracies of the West.
The definition of terrorism as "a cancer spread by depraved opponents of civilization" originates – we’ll have to take Chomsky’s word for this –with Ronald Reagan. According to Chomsky the phrase comes from a presidential declaration at the beginning of the Reagan Administration to the effect that (in Chomsky’s paraphrase) "the war against international terrorism would be the core of our foreign policy." As Chomsky interprets this policy, "The Reagan administration responded [to the perceived terrorist threat] by creating an extraordinary international terrorist network, totally unprecedented in scale, which carried out massive atrocities all over the world,…"
These are bizarre claims, but Chomsky is content to rest them on a single substantiating case:
I’ll just mention one case which is totally uncontroversial, so we might as well not argue about it, by no means the most extreme but uncontroversial … at least among people who have some minimal concern for international law, human rights, justice and other things like that.
The case referred to is what Chomsky calls "the Reagan-US war against Nicaragua which left tens of thousands of people dead, the country ruined, perhaps beyond recovery." In Chomsky’s view, the United States launched an unprovoked war of terror against Nicaragua in the 1980s, using a "mercenary army" (viz., the contras). When the Nicaraguan government lodged a complaint with the World Court about its support for the contras, the American government rejected the jurisdiction of the Court and thus – in Chomsky’s telling – the rule of international law itself.
Chomsky provides no sources for these claims because there are none. There is no truly international court, nor is there an international rule of law – there is only the rule of a law that sovereign states consent to when it is convenient to them. Moreover, there was no U.S. war against Nicaragua, let alone a terrorist war. The U.S. provided assistance to a peasant army resisting a Nicaraguan dictatorship that was supported politically, economically and militarily by the Soviet empire. The Sandinista dictators had usurped their power from a democratic coalition, stripped Nicaragua’s citizens of their political rights and – at the time of the conflict – were ruling by force. It was the Sandinistas who destroyed the Nicaraguan economy and provoked the contra peasant revolt by pursuing Soviet-style collectivization -- confiscation of small peasant holdings and their conversion into socialist collective farms. When the pressure of this peasant revolt and U.S. efforts forced the dictatorship to hold a free election on February 25, 1990, the Nicaraguan people voted the Sandinistas out of power by an overwhelming margin. The anti-Sandinista popular vote was 55%-41%.
The democracy that was created – along with free elections – and the rejection of the Sandinista party continue to this day. Meanwhile, the exit of the Sandinista leadership revealed that they were the ones who truly deserved the term "mercenaries," i.e., political thugs whose self-interest came before all others. Before surrendering power, in what their countrymen called the "piñata," the Sandinista ex-rulers fleeced their country of its remaining wealth, transferred government funds to hidden Swiss bank accounts, and appropriated hotels, industries and restaurants – to go along with the mansions they were already living in -- as their personal private properties.
Chomsky knows these facts but ignores them. On the other hand, several former members of the Sandinista dictatorship have themselves conceded the lies they propagated in power, which Chomsky repeats. In 1999, Sergio Ramirez, a Sandinista leader who was Vice President of the Sandinista regime wrote: "Let the record show that many landless peasants joined the contras or -- resolved not to be corralled into [agricultural cooperatives] -- became the contras’ social base of support…the ranks of the contra kept on growing, and by then its field commanders tended to be small farmers, many of them without any ties to Somoczismo, indeed, in many cases they supplanted the former National Guard officers who had been the movement’s original leaders." Ramirez’ belated honesty was endorsed by former Sandinista comandante and Minister of Agriculture, Jaime Wheelock and by Alejandro Bendana, the Sandinista’s top diplomatic spokesman, who wrote his own memoir (A Peasant Tragedy: Testimonies of the Resistance). Bendana admitted that the "contra army grew beyond … expectations not as a result of sophisticated recruitment campaigns in the countryside but mainly because of the impact on the small-holding peasant of the policies, limits and mistakes of the Sandinistas."
This reality is ignored in Chomsky’s misrepresentation of the conflict as between Nicaragua and the United States, in which the United States is the terrorist and the Sandinistas helpless victims. To establish his deception, Chomsky makes a tendentious mountain out of the molehill of Nicaragua’s complaint to the World Court and the Court’s adverse ruling against the United States. "The World Court accepted [Nicaragua’s] case, ruled in their favor, … condemned what they called the ‘unlawful use of force,’ which is another word for international terrorism by the United States." Well, outside the Chomsky cult, of course, unlawful use of force is not another word for terrorism.
In describing the World Court case, Chomsky ignores the Cold War context of the events -- the projection of Soviet power into the Western hemisphere, and into Nicaragua in particular. Long before they seized power, the Sandinista dictators were trained as revolutionaries in Moscow and Havana. The Soviet goal in supporting them, according to political scientist Alvin Z. Rubinstein (Moscow’s Third World Strategy, Princeton Univ. Press, 1988) was to create a Communist nation with the single largest military in the region. The fact that the Sandinistas were supporting and supplying Communist guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Guatemala at the time of these events was a key factor in determining U.S. policies.
Chomsky closes his eyes to the fact that the World Court is a creature of national governments, and consequently lacks any authority unless both parties to a dispute agree to give it authority. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time Nicaragua submitted its case, dismissed the court as a "semi-legal, semi-juridical, semi-political body which nations sometimes accept and sometimes don’t." Even the Court itself recognizes this reality, and its own statutes expressly permit states to withdraw from its jurisdiction. At the time of the Sandinista suit, the Court in particular had no jurisdiction over any of the Soviet bloc police states, although these same regimes – in which the rule of law was entirely absent -- provided judges for the Court itself. Soviet foreign policy was then operating under the Brezhnev doctrine, which asserted a right to use force to keep a nation in the Communist orbit. Yet the Soviet bloc states regularly condemned America’s defensive responses to Soviet expansion as "aggression." If the United States acquiesced in World Court decisions, it would be bound by them and hence incapable of responding to hostile Soviet bloc actions.
In the Nicaragua case, as one of the dissenting judges on the Court (from Japan) remarked, "Nicaragua has not come to court with clean hands. On the contrary, as an aggressor, indirectly responsible – but ultimately responsible – for large numbers of deaths and widespread destruction in El Salvador, apparently much exceeding that which Nicaragua has sustained, Nicaragua’s hands are odiously unclean. Nicaragua has compounded its sins by misrepresenting them in court." The practical issue was whether the United States would surrender its own national interest to a Court composed of members who were not only hostile to American interests, but to the rule of law itself (among the latter China, Poland and Nigeria). The United States simply refused to accept the jurisdiction of a court composed of rival national interests. By ignoring these details, Chomsky is able to present the decision of a politicized and largely irrelevant institution as representing "the judgments of the highest international authorities" – and thus America as an outlaw state (therefore, in Chomsky’s loopy intellectual framework, a "terrorist" one as well).
Thus, the American-supported contra rebellion, which actually restored democracy to Nicaragua becomes, in Chomsky’s analysis, the "first terrorist war." On the other hand, actual terrorists like the Al Qaeda network are really freedom fighters, resisting a Nazi-like oppression.
Terror is misunderstood, Chomsky informs, us as a "weapon of the weak;" in fact, those who are called "terrorists" are really freedom fighters resisting the aggressions of the strong. As the case of Nicaragua shows, "terror is a weapon of the strong" and, in particular, the weapon imperialists use to suppress people who resist them. To expand upon this "analysis," Chomsky invokes his favorite image when discussing American evil. In customary fashion, Chomsky also attempts to disguise the central role this image plays in his world view, making it seem like a casual afterthought rather than what it is, an expression of his central belief:
It is [regarded] as a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn’t count as terror. Now, that’s close to universal. I can’t think of a historical exception. Even the worst mass murderers view the world that way. So pick the Nazis. They weren’t carrying out terror in occupied Europe. They were protecting the local populations from the terrorism of the partisans. And like other resistance movements, there was terrorism. The Nazis were carrying out counter-terror. Furthermore, the United States essentially agreed with that.
So pick the Nazis. As if Noam Chomsky would pick anyone else:
After the war, the U.S. army did extensive studies of Nazi counter-terror operations in Europe. First I should say the U.S. picked them up and began carrying them out itself, often against the same targets, the former resistance. But the military also studied the Nazi methods, published interesting studies… Those methods, with the advice of Wehrmacht officers who were brought over here became the manuals of counter-insurgency, of counter-terror, of low intensity conflict … and are the procedures that are being used. So it’s not just that the Nazis did it. It’s that it was regarded as the right thing to do by the leaders of Western civilization, that is us, who then proceeded to do it themselves.
In other words, in America’s war against Nicaragua – but more importantly against the Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan who have attacked us, according to Chomsky we are really Nazis: we employ Nazi methods and refer to Nazi manuals. No evidence is adduced to support these claims, but no matter; in the compassion cells of the Chomsky cult, the libel itself will do. The Wehrmaht, whose officers Chomsky refers to, was not a Nazi Party organization -- its officers even tried to overthrow Hitler. But the reference to Nazi methods, manuals and advice effectively conjures images of the master race, the Gestapo, the concentration camps and the Holocaust.
Through slippery allusions, inverted logic, rambling eviscerations of fact from their context and malicious distortions of the historical record, Chomsky pounds his message relentlessly home.
There was a terrorist force in South Africa. It was called the African National Congress. They were a terrorist force officially. South Africa in contrast was an ally and we certainly couldn’t support actions by a terrorist group struggling against a racist regime. That would be impossible.
In fact, the United States opposed racial apartheid, imposed economic sanctions against the South African regime, and helped force its surrender of power to the ANC and a peaceful and democratic transition of South Africa into a multi-racial, democratic state. Every Chomsky example, in fact, falls into the category of gross distortion of the historical facts.
Not content with distortion of events, Chomsky also offers distortions of abstractions from events as in his attempt to formulate a Chomsky law of historical development:
Nicaragua has now become the 2nd poorest country in the hemisphere. What’s the poorest country? Well that’s of course Haiti, which also happens to be the victim of most U.S. intervention in the 20th Century by a long shot…. Nicaragua is second ranked in degree of U.S. intervention in the 20th century. It is the 2nd poorest. Actually, it is vying with Guatemala. They interchange every year or two as to who’s the second poorest. And they also vie as to who is the leading target of U.S. military intervention. We’re supposed to think that all of this is some sort of accident. That it has nothing to do with anything that happened in history. Maybe.
Chomsky’s anti-American fever is so high that he sometimes doesn’t even bother to make sense. In this passage, he describes Haiti as the country subject to the most U.S. interventions and (therefore) also the poorest. Then he describes Nicaragua and Guatemala as vying with each other as to who is the poorest and therefore "who is the leading target of U.S. military intervention." But he has already said that this distinction belongs to Haiti "by a long shot." Obviously it cannot be both. Who knows what Chomsky himself thinks. Or if he thinks.
In fact, the last U.S. intervention in Haiti, during the Clinton Administration, was at the request of the Haitians to help them restore their infant democracy, instituted after the long reign of actual terror under the regime of the dictator known as "Papa Doc." In September 1994, Clinton sent former President Jimmy Carter, along with General Colin Powell and Senator Sam Nunn to Haiti to talk with Haiti’s military leadership, which had overthrown the elected Aristide government years earlier. Facing the threat of a US invasion, the regime agreed to turn over power to the former President, Aristide -- a Marxist priest. (Here’s an interesting question for Chomskyites: Why would the imperialists want to replace military rule in their colony with a government headed by a Marxist?) A force of 20,000 US troops were sent in mid-September 1994 to oversee the transition from military rule to democracy. Aristide returned to Haiti from exile in mid-October. Today, Haiti continues to vote, but without much democracy. The facts show that both the poverty and the lack of democracy in Haiti are indigenous products; the U.S. can be held guilty only of good intentions.
One extremely poor country Chomsky inevitably omits from his list is Cuba, where a U.S. intervention in 1961 failed to overthrow the socialist dictatorship that Fidel Castro had installed. This turned out to be bad for the Cuban people. At the time of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba ranked fifth in per capita income in Latin America -- ahead of Mexico – and fourth in literacy. Forty years later, thanks to Castro’s rule, Cuba is one of the four poorest countries in the hemisphere. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Cuba actually ranks last -- along with Haiti -- in per capita daily caloric consumption. The average annual consumption of rice -- a staple of the Cuban diet, especially for poor Cubans -- was 53.5 kilograms per capita in 1956 but dropped to only 36.8 kilograms in 1997. In other words, as a result of Castro’s socialist economic policies enforced by a ruthless police state, Cuba is an island prison and worse off economically than it was under the previous Batista regime.
By way of contrast, thirty years ago the United States helped to overthrow a pro-Castro Marxist government, headed by Salvador Allende, in Chile. Allende wanted to install a regime modeled on Castro’s Communist gulag. Fortunately the United States supported his opponents. After a successful coup, the new dictator, Augustin Pinochet, introduced free market policies and eventually (if reluctantly) transformed Chile into a multi-party democracy. Since 1975, Chile has shown the most sustained and highest rate of economic growth of any Latin American country and is a free country run by "democratic socialists." The Chomsky law of U.S. intervention evidently cuts both ways.
4. "What Are The Origins of the September 11 Crime?"
In formulating his fourth question, Chomsky rejects the description of Al Qaeda terrorism -- the blowing up of two embassies, the attack on the war ship Cole, the bombing of two 100-story office buildings and the attack on headquarters of the U.S. military in Washington -- as acts of war. In Chomsky’s view they are merely the crimes of individual protesters at the end of their tethers. This allows him to treat the acts themselves as aberrations and, of course, as expressions of the cry for social justice -- desperate resistances to American oppression.
He accomplishes this illusion with typical casuistry: "We have to make a distinction between two categories which shouldn’t be run together. One is the actual agents of the crime; the other is a reservoir of at least sympathy, sometimes support that they appeal to even among people who very much oppose the criminals and the actions. And those are two different things." Are they? This distinction represents a kind of refurbished Trotskyism: Stalin was a criminal but Communism was just fine. So-called terrorists – the Palestinians for example -- commit horrible crimes against women and children but since they are struggling "against a military occupation" they are to be excused. They are "resistance" fighters a term Chomsky casually applies to Hezbollah, one of the most bloodthirsty terrorist groups in the Middle East. In fact the so-called "occupation" is a result of Arab aggression against Israel and the refusal of Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence (and thus any feasible conditions for peace).
Chomsky even makes a tortuous effort to get Osama Bin Laden off the hook. Ignoring the mountain of facts linking Bin Laden to the attacks, Chomsky asserts that there is "no evidence" for his role or that of his Al Qaeda network. Of course in Chomskyland, even if the terrorists are guilty, the true terrorist entity – the United States – is ultimately to blame. According to Chomsky, America is responsible for the attack itself because its government supported the Afghan resistance to the 1979 Soviet invasion, and it was from these circumstances – with assistance from the CIA – that Al Qaeda grew.
It is true that the United States opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and thus supported many mujaheddin groups, among them individuals who later joined Al Qaeda. But the United States merely armed them for one battle; it did not shape their intentions for others. American assistance made possible the defeat of a brutal invader who had killed a million Afghan civilians by deliberately bombing their cities. Support for the mujaheddin was a "price worth paying,…" in the words of foreign policy expert Robert Kaplan, "because it led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Eastern Europe. To say that supporting the Afghans against the Soviets was not worth it is like saying fighting World War II was not worth it because it led to a forty-four year Cold War."
To pre-empt even this objection, Chomsky insinuates that America is to blame not only for providing weapons to the mujaheddin resistance, but for the Soviet invasion itself. He does this by alluding, without actually citing a specific text, to a comment he attributes to Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. According to Chomsky, Brzezinski once remarked that the United States armed the Afghan resistance in order to draw the Soviets into a trap. In other words, there is no evil connected with September 11 for which the United States is not responsible.
Chomsky then asks a question that is for him and his acolytes actually superfluous: "Why did [the terrorists] turn against the United States?" Observe the answer: "Well that had to do with what they call the U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia. In 1990, the U.S. established permanent military bases in Saudia Arabia, which from their point of view is comparable to a Russian invasion of Afghanistan, except that Saudi Arabia is way more important. That’s the home of the holiest sites of Islam." Does Chomsky himself endorse this nonsense? He purposely does not provide a clue. In reality there is no comparison between the "U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia" and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, because there was no U.S. invasion of Saudia Arabia. The Saudis themselves invited the United States onto their territory to protect them from Iraqi armies that had just swallowed the defenseless state of Kuwait. The U.S. bases there are only as permanent as the anti-Saudi threat.
But not a word in Chomsky’s text indicates any acknowledgment of the absurdity of terrorists’ distortion of the facts. In short, while Chomsky doesn’t in so many words endorse Bin the terrorists’ libels against the United States, he doesn’t disavow them either, but leaves the ignorant and the innocent in his audiences to draw their own conclusions. Quite a display of intellectual responsibility.
What about category two – the "reservoir of support" for Al Qaeda and its terrorist attacks on the United States? The answer: "They are very angry at the United States because of its support of authoritarian and brutal regimes; its intervention to block any move towards democracy; its intervention to stop economic development; its policies of devastating the civilian societies of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein." In addition to the brazen libels in this catalogue (which are Chomsky’s own inventions) – that the United States intervenes in Arab countries to stop economic development and to block any move towards democracy (instances? dates?), and that its war against Saddam Hussein is actually designed to strengthen his rule -- the main point is incomprehensible. If the anti-American anger of Islamic radicals is inspired by the authoritarian and brutal regimes of the Muslim world, why is the terror not directed against them? Why are they supporters of the Taliban -- the most brutal, authoritarian and economically backward regime of all?
5. "What are the Policy Options?"
We now come to Chomsky’s final question – what is to be done? His answer: Since we are the terrorists, the obvious solution is for us to stop being terrorists. Then we will not be bombed. "We certainly want to reduce the level of terror, certainly not escalate it. There is one easy way to do that and therefore it is never discussed. Namely to stop participating in it."
Noam Chomsky, of course, realizes that America will not cease being America in the foreseeable future. So, shortly after delivering his MIT remarks, and as the war in Afghanistan approached its climactic battles, Noam Chomsky went off on a two-week tour of the Indian subcontinent, adjacent to the war zone, and in particular to Islamabad – the capital city of Pakistan, a nuclear power which is also the most dangerously volatile state in America’s coalition to defeat the Taliban, and one that could tip the other way. The purpose of Chomsky’s tour was to pursue what he thinks is the real solution: giving aid and comfort to America’s terrorist enemies in the hope that they will win the war against us.
On his tour, Chomsky repeated his lies about America’s intentions to starve Afghan civilians and perpetrate a "silent genocide." (This was reported in the Indian press and also to Iranian Muslims in the Teheran Times of November 6.) To tens of thousands and perhaps eventually millions of Muslims and Hindus, Chomsky denounced America as the "world’s biggest terrorist state" and the war in Afghanistan as a "worse kind of terrorism" than that perpetrated recently against the United States. This was obviously intended as an incitement to Indians, Pakistanis, Iranians and whoever else was listening to hate America even more. To turn the guns around. Which is clearly the solution about which Noam Chomsky dreams.