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Noam Chomsky, America’s Most Boring Public Intellectual, on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Posted on May 10 2011 2:45 pm
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Noam Chomsky doesn’t like corporations, but the only one He doesn’t seem interested in exposing is al Qaeda. Since its inception, al Qaeda and its recently expired figurehead, Osama bin Laden, have essentially operated as a multinational importer-exporter of murder, fear, hatred, nihilism, and racism. They’ve had a hand in some of the most significant acts of degradation since the end of the Cold War, and have done so via a byzantine financial network of front companies, false charities, and squandered inheritance (see, for instance, the fine research of Rohan Gunaratna on this). But to read Chomsky these days, one is forced to overlook all this capitalist malfeasance and conclude the following:

1. There was little or no evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved in 9/11 when we first invaded Afghanistan; moreover, there’s still little or no evidence.

2. Morally, George W. Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden (or, presumably, whoever was actually responsible for 9/11).

3. Since we killed Osama bin Laden, we must admit that it would be OK for someone to kill Bush or President Obama.

4. The United States is racist and imperialist.

These are the main points of Chomsky’s Official Reaction to the recent raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which took out bin Laden. It wasn’t enough for Chomsky to criticize the U.S. for not giving him a “fair trial.” No, to lodge that complaint only would be to consent to the moral parameters of the argument as put forward by Washington—that bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and deserved some form of retribution. The extremist impulse to destroy and rebuild another world is evident in the way Chomsky wants the entire perspective redefined. Whereas before He might have been content to criticize bin Laden as the product of American foreign policy, now He apparently feels even doing that might be an indulgence of the imperialist narrative.

Thus we had no evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11 when we routed the Taliban, and “nothing serious has been provided since.” So what about, for instance, certain videos of bin Laden that seem to implicate him? Chomsky, like any good socialist, is not buying those goods: “There is much talk of bin Laden’s ‘confession,’ but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.”

Not all your time is wasted on reading such glib callousness. Chomsky’s latest croak signifies something in which we can all rejoice: that the doyen of the radical Left has begun a final descent into incoherence. As a critic of U.S. foreign policy, Chomsky’s standards of evidence are low; usually it’s enough for Him merely to glance at a mainstream news article to begin building the palace of speculation. But radicals are notoriously unfazed by the banalities of the obvious; for the real criminals and mass murderers, the standards of evidence suddenly and sharply rise. It is this aspect of the radical mind that is its final source of rot and decline. Chomsky might not be sure now that bin Laden bore any responsibility for 9/11, but He was sure enough to appoint Himself the interpreter of Muslim grievances after the Towers fell. Lower Manhattan was still a festering open wound when Chomsky first lectured us about the attacks:

“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.” [italics mine]


“Bin Laden despises the US for its support of these regimes [i.e. Saudi Arabia]. 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.”

Bin Laden was someone against whom we had no credible evidence, although Chomsky had an entire dissertation prepared the week after the attacks.

It must be difficult to be a radical nowadays—always having to decide whether to rehabilitate terrorists or simply declare they were never terrorists to begin with. It’s a tough choice, one not to be made on an empty stomach. But what’s saddest is that the term “public intellectual” is squandered on the producer of something that could have been peeled off of Alex Jones’s website. Anyone, especially the LaRouchies, could have written Chomsky’s piece for Him. The obvious and extreme logic, the almost sociopathic confidence in the conclusions, the clunky diction and syntax, the desperate seeking of moral equivalence—what does it mean to be a “public intellectual” if any blogger in the country could write your stuff and not miss a beat?

There’s some more filth to be mopped up here. Not one to miss out on any demagogy, even the lowest and most obviously self-discrediting, Chomsky has signed on to the idea that the name Operation Geronimo signifies an “imperial mentality” that is “so profound” in Western society; indeed, our minds are so racked with false consciousness we don’t even realize we are “glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders.”

On to that other genocidal invader, George W. Bush, the American Pol Pot (well, Noam’s jury was out a while on that one, too). Chomsky assures us:

“Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a ‘suspect’ but uncontroversially the ‘decider’…”

Uncontroversially, Chomsky is now America’s most boring public intellectual. One needs to think back to the earliest days of the War on Terror to come up with slogans as crass as “Bush = bin Laden.” You can all do better than this, I assure you. It might be amusing to play a little game: Every time a major foreign-policy event occurs, pretend you’re Noam Chomsky and get to work producing an Official Reaction. Then compare it to what He actually writes. You’ll notice how neatly it lines up. You’ll also notice how mindless and easy a task it all was, like pulling the lever on a rigged slot machine. Welcome to Chomsky’s world.

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