>Interviewing Chomsky


>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 well.



>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



>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