File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 99

Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 19:56:27 +0100
Subject: Re: Chomsky


A nice piece....


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> 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
> 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 organization, doubtless
> inspired by Bin Laden but not necessarily acting 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 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
> 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.
> Q: What consequences will they have on US inner policy and to the
> American
> 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
> 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.
> Q: Do you expect U.S. to profoundly change their policy to the rest of
> the
> world?
> Chomsky: 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.
> Q: After the first shock, came fear of what the U.S. answer is going to
> be.
> Are you afraid, too?
> Chomsky: 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 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.
> 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.
> 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
> 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. Its 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
> 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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