File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 91

Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 21:22:03 -0500
Subject: Chomsky

One imagines a alternative universe where this man had the ear of the
president.  Of course, in that case, it would probably be a she.

Subject: (en) Noam Chomsky Interview on September Eleventh (S11)
Interviewing Chomsky by Radio B92, Belgrade

Q: Why do you think these attacks happened?

Chomksy: To answer the question we must first identify the perpetrators
the crimes. It is generally assumed, plausibly, that their origin is the
Middle East region, and that the attacks probably trace back to the
Bin Laden network, a widespread and complex organization, doubtless
inspired by Bin Laden but not necessarily acting under his control. Let
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
reservoir of supporters he has throughout the region. About all of this,
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
_Independent_), who has intimate knowledge of the entire region and
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
particularly iimportant. 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
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,
they terminated these after Russia withdrew. Their war was not against
Russia, which they despise, but against the Russian occupation and
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
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
Russians in Chechnya, and, quite possibly, are involved in carrying out
terrorist attacks in Moscow and elsewhere in Russian territory. Bin
and his "Afghanis" turned against the US in 1990 when they established
permanent bases in Saudi Arabia -- from his point of view, a counterpart
the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, but far more significant because
Saudi Arabia's special status as the guardian of the holiest shrines.

Bin Laden is also bitterly opposed to the corrupt and repressive regimes
the region, which he regards as "un-Islamic," including the Saudi
regime, the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the world,
from the Taliban, and a close US ally since its origins. Bin Laden
the US for its support of these regimes. Like others in the region, he
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
and destructive siege over many years, the daily humiliation to which
Palestinians are subjected, the expanding settlements designed to break
occupied territories into Bantustan-like cantons and take control of the
resources, the gross violation of the Geneva Conventions, and other
that are recognized as crimes throughout most of the world, apart from
US, which has prime responsibility for them. And like others, he
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
and Britain right through his worst atrocities, including the gassing of
the Kurds, as people of the region also remember well, even if
prefer to forget the facts. These sentiments are very widely shared. The
_Wall Street Journal_ (Sept. 14) published a survey of opinions of
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
Among the great majority of people suffering deep poverty and
similar sentiments are far more bitter, and are the source of the fury
despair that has led to suicide bombings, as commonly understood by
who are interested in the facts.

The U.S., and much of the West, prefers a more comforting story. To
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
the merits of self-adulation and uncritical support for power.

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

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

 Chomsky: US policy has already been officially announced. The world is
being offered a "stark choice": join us, or "face the certain prospect
death and destruction." Congress has authorized the use of force against
any individuals or countries the President determines to be involved in
attacks, a doctrine that every supporter regards as ultra-criminal. That
easily demonstrated. Simply ask how the same people would have reacted
Nicaragua had adopted this doctrine after the U.S. had rejected the
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
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
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,
submission to authority can be reversed. We all know that very well.

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

Chomsky: The initial response was to call for intensifying the policies
that led to the fury and resentment that provides the background of
for the terrorist attack, and to pursue more intensively the agenda of
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
often engender, tend to reinforce the authority and prestige of the most
harsh and repressive elements of a society. But there is nothing
about submission to this course.

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

Chomsky: Every sane person should be afraid of the likely reaction --
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,
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
are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of
Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of
who have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly
millions. Let me repeat: the U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill
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
that. The significance is heightened by the fact that this is mentioned
passing, with no comment, and probably will hardly be noticed. We can
a great deal about the moral level of the reigning intellectual culture
the West by observing the reaction to this demand. I think we can be
reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest
of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled. It
would be instructive to seek historical precedents. 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.
it is not impossible that the government will be overthrown by forces
like the Taliban -- who in this case will have nuclear weapons. That
have an effect throughout the region, including the oil producing
At this point we are considering the possibility of a war that may
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
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
major military force out of Lebanon 20 years ago. The opportunities for
such attacks are endless. And suicide attacks are very hard to prevent.

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

 Chomsky: The horrendous terrorist attacks on Tuesday are something
new in world affairs, not in their scale and character, but in the
For the US, this is the first time since the War of 1812 that its
territory has been under attack, even threat. Its colonies have been
attacked, but not the national territory itself. During these years the
virtually exterminated the indigenous population, conquered half of
intervened violently in the surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the
Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and in the
half century particularly, extended its resort to force throughout much
the world. The number of victims is colossal. For the first time, the
have been directed the other way. The same is true, even more
of Europe. Europe has suffered murderous destruction, but from internal
wars, meanwhile conquering much of the world with extreme brutality. It
not been under attack by its victims outside, with rare exceptions (the
in England, for example). It is therefore natural that NATO should rally
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
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
to extreme violence, they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle
violence, in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could
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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