File spoon-archives/baudrillard.archive/baudrillard_2001/baudrillard.0109, message 61

Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 05:23:37 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Consequences of:Interview with Prof. Noam Chomsky

What consequences will they have on US inner policy
                       and to the American self
Professor Chomsky is an Honorary Editorial Board
By Radio B92, Belgrade(ZMagazine) 
Radio B92: Why do you think these attacks happened? 
To answer the question we must first identify the
perpetrators of the crimes. It is generally assumed,
plausibly, that their origin is the Middle East
region, and that the attacks probably trace back to
the Osama Bin Laden network, a widespread and complex
doubtless inspired by Bin Laden but not necessarily
                       under his control. Let us
assume that this is true. Then
                       to answer your question a
sensible person would try to
                       ascertain Bin Laden's views,
and the sentiments of the
                       large reservoir of supporters
he has throughout the
                       region. About all of this, we
have a great deal of
                       information. Bin Laden has been
interviewed extensively
                       over the years by highly
reliable Middle East specialists,
                       notably the most eminent
correspondent in the region,
                       Robert Fisk (London
_Independent_), who has intimate
                       knowledge of the entire region
and direct experience over
                       decades. A Saudi Arabian
millionaire, Bin Laden became a
                       militant Islamic leader in the
war to drive the Russians
                       out of Afghanistan. He was one
of the many religious
                       fundamentalist extremists
recruited, armed, and financed
                       by the CIA and their allies in
Pakistani intelligence to
                       cause maximal harm to the
Russians -- quite possibly
                       delaying their withdrawal, many
analysts suspect --
                       though whether he personally
happened to have direct
                       contact with the CIA is
unclear, and not particularly
                       important. Not surprisingly,
the CIA preferred the most
                       fanatic and cruel fighters they
could mobilize. The end
                       result was to "destroy a
moderate regime and create a
                       fanatical one, from groups
recklessly financed by the
                       Americans" (_London Times_
correspondent Simon
                       Jenkins, also a specialist on
the region). These "Afghanis"
                       as they are called (many, like
Bin Laden, not from
                       Afghanistan) carried out terror
operations across the
                       border in Russia, but they
terminated these after Russia
                       withdrew. Their war was not
against Russia, which they
                       despise, but against the
Russian occupation and Russia's
                       crimes against Muslims. 

                       The "Afghanis" did not
terminate their activities,
                       however. They joined Bosnian
Muslim forces in the Balkan
                       Wars; the US did not object,
just as it tolerated Iranian
                       support for them, for complex
reasons that we need not
                       pursue here, apart from noting
that concern for the grim
                       fate of the Bosnians was not
prominent among them. The
                       "Afghanis" are also fighting
the Russians in Chechnya,
                       and, quite possibly, are
involved in carrying out terrorist
                       attacks in Moscow and elsewhere
in Russian territory. Bin
                       Laden and his "Afghanis" turned
against the US in 1990
                       when they established permanent
bases in Saudi Arabia
                       -- from his point of view, a
counterpart to the Russian
                       occupation of Afghanistan, but
far more significant
                       because of Saudi Arabia's
special status as the guardian
                       of the holiest shrines. 

                       Bin Laden is also bitterly
opposed to the corrupt and
                       repressive regimes of the
region, which he regards as
                       "un-Islamic," including the
Saudi Arabian regime, the most
                       extreme Islamic fundamentalist
regime in the world, apart
                       from the Taliban, and a close
US ally since its origins. Bin
                       Laden despises the US for its
support of these regimes.
                       Like others in the region, he
is also outraged by
                       long-standing US support for
Israel's brutal military
                       occupation, now in its 35th
year: Washington's decisive
                       diplomatic, military, and
economic intervention in support
                       of the killings, the harsh and
destructive siege over many
                       years, the daily humiliation to
which Palestinians are
                       subjected, the expanding
settlements designed to break
                       the occupied territories into
Bantustan-like cantons and
                       take control of the resources,
the gross violation of the
                       Geneva Conventions, and other
actions that are
                       recognized as crimes throughout
most of the world, apart
                       from the US, which has prime
responsibility for them. And
                       like others, he contrasts
Washington's dedicated support
                       for these crimes with the
decade-long US-British assault
                       against the civilian population
of Iraq, which has
                       devastated the society and
caused hundreds of
                       thousands of deaths while
strengthening Saddam Hussein
                       -- who was a favored friend and
ally of the US and
                       Britain right through his worst
atrocities, including the
                       gassing of the Kurds, as people
of the region also
                       remember well, even if
Westerners prefer to forget the
                       facts. These sentiments are
very widely shared. The
                       _Wall Street Journal_ (Sept.
14) published a survey of
                       opinions of wealthy and
privileged Muslims in the Gulf
                       region (bankers, professionals,
businessmen with close
                       links to the U.S.). They
expressed much the same views:
                       resentment of the U.S. policies
of supporting Israeli
                       crimes and blocking the
international consensus on a
                       diplomatic settlement for many
years while devastating
                       Iraqi civilian society,
supporting harsh and repressive
                       anti-democratic regimes
throughout the region, and
                       imposing barriers against
economic development by
                       "propping up oppressive
regimes." Among the great
                       majority of people suffering
deep poverty and oppression,
                       similar sentiments are far more
bitter, and are the source
                       of the fury and despair that
has led to suicide bombings,
                       as commonly understood by those
who are interested in
                       the facts. 

                       The U.S., and much of the West,
prefers a more
                       comforting story. To quote the
lead analysis in the _New
                       York Times_ (Sept. 16), the
perpetrators acted out of
                       "hatred for the values
cherished in the West as freedom,
                       tolerance, prosperity,
religious pluralism and universal
                       suffrage." U.S. actions are
irrelevant, and therefore need
                       not even be mentioned (Serge
Schmemann). This is a
                       convenient picture, and the
general stance is not
                       unfamiliar in intellectual
history; in fact, it is close to the
                       norm. It happens to be
completely at variance with
                       everything we know, but has all
the merits of
                       self-adulation and uncritical
support for power. 

                       It is also widely recognized
that Bin Laden and others like
                       him are praying for "a great
assault on Muslim states,"
                       which will cause "fanatics to
flock to his cause" (Jenkins,
                       and many others.). That too is
familiar. The escalating
                       cycle of violence is typically
welcomed by the harshest
                       and most brutal elements on
both sides, a fact evident
                       enough from the recent history
of the Balkans, to cite
                       only one of many cases. 

                       Radio B92: What consequences
will they have on US
                       inner policy and to the
American self reception? 

                       US policy has already been
officially announced. The
                       world is being offered a "stark
choice": join us, or "face
                       the certain prospect of death
and destruction." Congress
                       has authorized the use of force
against any individuals or
                       countries the President
determines to be involved in the
                       attacks, a doctrine that every
supporter regards as
                       ultra-criminal. That is easily
demonstrated. Simply ask
                       how the same people would have
reacted if Nicaragua
                       had adopted this doctrine after
the U.S. had rejected the
                       orders of the World Court to
terminate its "unlawful use
                       of force" against Nicaragua and
had vetoed a Security
                       Council resolution calling on
all states to observe
                       international law. And that
terrorist attack was far more
                       severe and destructive even
than this atrocity. 

                       As for how these matters are
perceived here, that is far
                       more complex. One should bear
in mind that the media
                       and the intellectual elites
generally have their particular
                       agendas. Furthermore, the
answer to this question is, in
                       significant measure, a matter
of decision: as in many
                       other cases, with sufficient
dedication and energy,
                       efforts to stimulate
fanaticism, blind hatred, and
                       submission to authority can be
reversed. We all know
                       that very well. 

                       Radio B92: Do you expect U.S.
to profoundly change their
                       policy to the rest of the

                       The initial response was to
call for intensifying the
                       policies that led to the fury
and resentment that provides
                       the background of support for
the terrorist attack, and to
                       pursue more intensively the
agenda of the most hard line
                       elements of the leadership:
increased militarization,
                       domestic regimentation, attack
on social programs. That
                       is all to be expected. Again,
terror attacks, and the
                       escalating cycle of violence
they often engender, tend to
                       reinforce the authority and
prestige of the most harsh
                       and repressive elements of a
society. But there is nothing
                       inevitable about submission to
this course. 

                       Radio B92: After the first
shock, came fear of what the
                       U.S. answer is going to be. Are
you afraid, too? 

                       Every sane person should be
afraid of the likely reaction
                       -- the one that has already
been announced, the one
                       that probably answers Bin
Laden's prayers. It is highly
                       likely to escalate the cycle of
violence, in the familiar
                       way, but in this case on a far
greater scale. 

                       The U.S. has already demanded
that Pakistan terminate
                       the food and other supplies
that are keeping at least
                       some of the starving and
suffering people of Afghanistan
                       alive. If that demand is
implemented, unknown numbers
                       of people who have not the
remotest connection to
                       terrorism will die, possibly
millions. Let me repeat: the
                       U.S. has demanded that Pakistan
kill possibly millions of
                       people who are themselves
victims of the Taliban. This
                       has nothing to do even with
revenge. It is at a far lower
                       moral level even than that. The
significance is heightened
                       by the fact that this is
mentioned in passing, with no
                       comment, and probably will
hardly be noticed. We can
                       learn a great deal about the
moral level of the reigning
                       intellectual culture of the
West by observing the reaction
                       to this demand. I think we can
be reasonably confident
                       that if the American population
had the slightest idea of
                       what is being done in their
name, they would be utterly
                       appalled. It would be
instructive to seek historical

                       If Pakistan does not agree to
this and other U.S.
                       demands, it may come under
direct attack as well -- with
                       unknown consequences. If
Pakistan does submit to U.S.
                       demands, it is not impossible
that the government will be
                       overthrown by forces much like
the Taliban -- who in this
                       case will have nuclear weapons.
That could have an
                       effect throughout the region,
including the oil producing
                       states. At this point we are
considering the possibility of
                       a war that may destroy much of
human society. 

                       Even without pursuing such
possibilities, the likelihood is
                       that an attack on Afghans will
have pretty much the
                       effect that most analysts
expect: it will enlist great
                       numbers of others to support of
Bin Laden, as he hopes.
                       Even if he is killed, it will
make little difference. His voice
                       will be heard on cassettes that
are distributed
                       throughout the Islamic world,
and he is likely to be
                       revered as a martyr, inspiring
others. It is worth bearing
                       in mind that one suicide
bombing -- a truck driven into a
                       U.S. military base -- drove the
world's major military
                       force out of Lebanon 20 years
ago. The opportunities for
                       such attacks are endless. And
suicide attacks are very
                       hard to prevent. 

                       Radio B92: "The world will
never be the same after
                       11.09.01". Do you think so? 

                       The horrendous terrorist
attacks on Tuesday are
                       something quite new in world
affairs, not in their scale
                       and character, but in the
target. For the US, this is the
                       first time since the War of
1812 that its national territory
                       has been under attack, even
threat. It's colonies have
                       been attacked, but not the
national territory itself.
                       During these years the US
virtually exterminated the
                       indigenous population,
conquered half of Mexico,
                       intervened violently in the
surrounding region, conquered
                       Hawaii and the Philippines
(killing hundreds of thousands
                       of Filipinos), and in the past
half century particularly,
                       extended its resort to force
throughout much of the
                       world. The number of victims is
colossal. For the first
                       time, the guns have been
directed the other way. The
                       same is true, even more
dramatically, of Europe. Europe
                       has suffered murderous
destruction, but from internal
                       wars, meanwhile conquering much
of the world with
                       extreme brutality. It has not
been under attack by its
                       victims outside, with rare
exceptions (the IRA in England,
                       for example). It is therefore
natural that NATO should
                       rally to the support of the US;
hundreds of years of
                       imperial violence have an
enormous impact on the
                       intellectual and moral culture.

                       It is correct to say that this
is a novel event in world
                       history, not because of the
scale of the atrocity --
                       regrettably -- but because of
the target. How the West
                       chooses to react is a matter of
supreme importance. If
                       the rich and powerful choose to
keep to their traditions
                       of hundreds of years and resort
to extreme violence,
                       they will contribute to the
escalation of a cycle of
                       violence, in a familiar
dynamic, with long-term
                       consequences that could be
awesome. Of course, that is
                       by no means inevitable. An
aroused public within the
                       more free and democratic
societies can direct policies
                       towards a much more humane and
honorable course. 

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