Home | Support ADA | Contact

Pages: Review of Noam Chomsky's "9/11: Was There An Alternative?"

Posted by Will Rice (will) on Nov 07 2011 at 12:20 PM
FALL 2011 >>

By Markley Roberts

“9-11:Was There an Alternative?” by Noam Chomsky. Seven Stories Press, 170 pp., $13.95

Noam Chomsky, formerly professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is internationally acclaimed in the field of linguistics.  But to liberals and other critics of America’s domestic, foreign, and military policies, he is better known for his persistent, articulate challenges to capitalism and the so-called “war on terrorism.”

In this 2011 update of a book originally produced soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Chomsky critically examines U.S. foreign and military policies that led up to the “horrendous atrocities” of 2001, and those that followed, down to the May 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden.

He argues that bin Laden successfully set a trap to draw America into a series of small, expensive wars in the Middle East with the long-run effect of bankrupting this nation with huge military budgets and escalating national debt.  And, whether or not part of Osama’s original plan, there have been domestic consequences from those international spending decisions:

“The debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democratic establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.”

Chomsky notes that “the most immediate and significant consequences of the bin Laden assassination are likely to be in Pakistan,” where Pakistanis overwhelmingly sympathize with the Afghan Taliban:

“The Pakistan military has already been pushed to the edge by US attacks on Pakistani sovereignty, including Obama’s drone attacks—which he escalated immediately after the killing of bin Laden, rubbing salt in the wounds.  That is in addition to the demand that the Pakistani military cooperate in the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, whom the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, the military included, see as fighting a just war of resistance against an invading army.”

Chomsky asks if there was an alternative to America’s destabilizing, radicalizing military action in the “Af-Pak” region, which includes “a planned assassination [and] multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.”

For those expecting him to offer a more radical proposal, Chomsky supplies a surprisingly wishy-washy answer:  The 9-11 “crime against humanity” could have been been approached as a crime leading to “an international operation to apprehend the suspects.” (He notes that “no such idea was even considered.”)
Chomsky cites the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders as an appropriate model for dealing with the bin Laden network, its leaders, and their crimes, with benefits for the concept of international law “entirely independent of the question of the guilt of those charged.”

This short, non-linear book consists primarily of interview transcripts now nearly a decade old, but the counter-narrative persists as a powerful challenge to versions offered by the American Establishment, from Presidents Bush and Obama on down. The appendix includes State Department reports of 2001 and 2009 on foreign terrorist organizations.

Markley Roberts is an ADA Board Member.