US Suicide Bombing

US Suicide Bombing

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New input 10/10/2001

Interview with Noam Chomsky
Regarding World Trade Center tragedy
Radio B92, Belgrade

Q: 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 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 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.

Q: 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

Q: 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.

Q: 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 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?

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 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.

"New World Disorder"
by Ted Grant and Alan Woods

"Overnight, the greatest superpower the world has ever seen turns out to be a colossus with feet of clay. The most powerful military state the world has ever seen has shown its powerlessness in the face of terrorism."
Read this interesting paper

'In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities� As to how to react, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.'
'On the Bombings' by Noam Chomsky, September 12, 2001

'It is only a few years ago that the Islamic fundamentalist groups, willing to blow themselves up in Israel and New York, were formed, and only after Israel and the US had rejected outright the hope of a Palestinian state, and justice for a people scarred by imperialism. Their distant voices of rage are now heard; the daily horrors in faraway brutalised places have at last come home.'
'Inevitable ring to the unimaginable', by John Pilger, ZNet Commentary, 13 Sep 2001

'it is of great importance right now to stress the fact that imperial terrorism inevitably produces retail terrorist responses; that the urgent need is the curbing of the causal force, which is the rampaging empire.'
'Folks out there have a "distaste of western civilization and cultural values"', by Edward S. Herman, ZNet Commentary, 13 Sep 2001

'Eight years ago, I helped to make a television series that tried to explain why so many Muslims had come to hate the West. Last night, I remembered some of those Muslims in that film, their families burnt by American-made bombs and weapons. They talked about how no one would help them but God. Theology vs technology, the suicide bomber against the nuclear power. Now we have learnt what this means.'
'The awesome cruelty of a doomed people' by Robert Fisk, 12 September 2001

'No one knows, so far, who is behind the murderous actions of September 11. But it is not unlikely that a Frankenstein's monster may have turned against its creator, using that creator's own weapons against it: blind cynicism, brutal force, sophisticated military technology and financial power'
Frankenstein, by Alain Krivine, September 12, 2001 - received by e-mail)

'The arrogance of power has produced its inevitable reaction. America is threatened not by nuclear tipped missiles from unknown rogue nations, but by small groups of angry men who, although prisoners of their zealotry, know well enough that much of the world whilst not agreeing with them understands their frustration. To deal with this effectively requires a new way of looking at the world.'
"For the arrogance of power America now pays a terrible price" Jonathan Power, columnist and TFF associate

'The United States has chosen to illustrate its superior force and "resolve" by bombing -- or impoverishing by embargo -- defenseless civilians from Iraq to Yugoslavia. Such displays of force lead to the impasse of the suicide bombers, who in terms of "showing resolve" versus "cowardly attacks" have outdone the "civilized" U.S. bombers who devastate whole countries without suffering a scratch. �What matters now is not so much to eliminate the criminal terrorists � but to create a world where humanity would be united in condemning such murderous atrocities.'
"The Morning After" by Diana Johnstone

'Everybody (even the IMF) knows that misery in the world is the ground where terrorism can florish and get support because of the frustration of oppressed Arabic masses. Everybod knows that with half of the US military budget you could suppress hunger in the world. Everybody knows you do not fight against misery with bombardments� Washington did already bombard 23 countries and after a certain time it was discovered its media had lied to justify it. Let us say not to the war ! Against misery, you do not fight with bombardment.'
Say No to the war, Michel COLLON, received by e-mail, 13 Sep 2001

'The attacks in the US threaten to mark a change in relations between Western hegemony and the oppressed nations and represents a further milestone in the re-arrangement of the world order under the globalization project� Today, more than ever, it is urgent that democratic forces in the world join hands in the struggle for social justice, freedom and democracy.'
Alternative Information Center on Sep 11, received e-mail, 12 Sep 2001)

"The attacks must be condemned without reservation. But we must be certain to recognize that these are probably the work of frustrated and alienated human beings hemmed in by forces that are anonymous and that could only be embodied by these structures� Random acts of terror do not change anything, indeed they increase the suffering of us ordinary people. There are those thousands who died, but then there will be the others, those suspected of being terrorists only because they are Muslims or brown (and there are already several reported instances of such attacks and verbal assaults)� Nothing good comes from terror. It never did and it never will."
�Nothing Good Comes From Terror�by Vijay Prashad, September 12, 2001