Chomsky's 911 Noam Chomsky's Book Term Paper

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and, outlandish as it may seem to most Americans today, it is possible that... Chomsky's interpretation will be the standard among historians a hundred years from now. (November 20, 2001)

Since the time of its initial, mainly negative reviews, Noam Chomsky's sharply critical appraisal of America's hegemonic military endeavors, in the form of what Chomsky calls terrorism, as much so as similar aggressive acts anywhere else, by anyone else, may have (as a result of the now-protracted Iraq War and its lack of any resolution yet in sight, perhaps come into its own. For example, with no weapons of mass destruction (America's supposed reason for invading Iraq) found in Iraq; combined with the fact of the now hugely unpopular George W. Bush Presidency, based on the war's length and failure; and Bush's stubbornness about withdrawing American troops, Chomsky's major point within 911, that American military might and bullying of others abroad has to do more with economic self-interest than anything else, has perhaps now come into its own in ways nearly unimaginable by the American public, overall, in fall 2001.

Within his review of the film Power and Terrorism, a 2002 documentary consisting entirely of a 74-minute interview with Chomsky on subjects similar to those covered in 911, Turan (January 24, 2003) states, of Chomsky and his views on terrorism:

Though he deplores the [911 terrorist] attacks, Chomsky believes they are historic 'not because of the scale but because of who the victims are.' Imperial centers,..., have traditionally been immune. Because he considers any violence against civilians to be terrorism, he views the U.S. As "one of the worst terrorist states in the world" and sees the World Trade Center attack as more or less a case of the chickens coming home to roost. 'We can't comprehend,' he says bluntly, 'applying to ourselves the standards we apply to others.'

Here, Chomsky suggests that, objectively-speaking; and in a way entirely non-inflected with national; ideological; or any other bias; the word "terrorism" in fact defines certain deliberate, violent actions and/or threats make and/or carried out against another, distinct, group or groups, due to ideological; political; cultural; ethnic; and/or religious distinctions of which the terrorist group disapproves.

Also, according to Chomsky, terrorist threats and actions produce fear (i.e., terror) within the population(s) targeted by terrorists (Pirates and emperors, 1986; 911, 2001; Power and terror, 2002; Hegemony and survival, 2003). Moreover, based on Chomsky's (and before Chomsky's, the U.S. Army's), definition of terrorism; America itself, like (for instance) Al Qaeda; Hamas; Fatah; the PLO, and other terrorist groups, vis-a-vis whom America insists on the moral high ground, is in fact more than such organizations' terrorist equivalent in terms of size and capabilities for damage, death, and destruction (see also Chomsky (2002) Pirates and emperors).

In addition, according to the article "Noam Chomsky" (June 26, 2007):

In response to U.S. declarations of a War on Terrorism in 1981 and 2001,

Chomsky has argued that the major sources of international terrorism are the world's major powers, led by the United States. He uses a definition of terrorism from a U.S. Army manual, which describes it as, 'the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological' [emphasis original].

When America invaded Afghanistan subsequent to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Chomsky stated the following month, within his newly-published book 911 (October 2001): "Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism" (9-11, p. 76), obviously, deliberately criticizing the American government's first, immediate counter-response to the terrorist attacks on our soil.

Similarly, in the documentary film Power and terror: Noam Chomsky in our times (2002).

In that film, Chomsky is interviewed at length on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Within on-camera interviews, Chomsky offers his analysis of how and why America's military aggressiveness abroad, specifically including United States political/military invasions that long preceded the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, objectively constitute terrorism. America itself is oblivious to and/or in denial of that fact, Chomsky observes.

As examples of what he considers to be American terrorism; Chomsky mentions the Vietnam War and more recently, America's bombings of Grenada; Libya; Iraq. Chomsky further points out America's role, beginning August 2, 1990 and lasting about seven months before Iraqi troops surrendered, in helping oil-laden Kuwait drive out Saddam's invading troops, in order to protect not so much Kuwait itself as American oil interests there. Within this same film, Chomsky suggests that violent orchestrated actions, against civilian populations anywhere, including those perpetrated by the United States, amount to terrorism.

Further, Chomsky suggests (911, 2001; Power and terror, 2002) in terms of America's own international military policy and actions; the United States, today and in the future, would do well to hold itself to the same high standards: of ethics; morality and (as the U.S. perceives it) 'fair play' that America expects of other, especially ideologically disagreeing nations (e.g., Grenada; Chile; Iraq); rather than simply responding with military might at smaller, weaker, nations' unwillingness to 'comply' with America's own hegemonic world view.

Chomsky's underlying premise and arguments are arguably more difficult to convincingly refute today than in 2001 or even later. As the Iraq War drags on and everyday Americans continue to doubt what we are still being told about our nation's military and other intentions in Iraq and elsewhere, this may become more difficult still. Today, it is far easier to believe than in October 2001, that America's own acts of terrorism against other groups and nations, for reasons of economic world domination, actually led up to and caused 9-11. The result, instead of our having felt free as a nation, or in many cases even individually, to move on nationally (and in individual everyday life) from the awful day of the terrorist attacks (as a healthier, more confident and more secure society might have done) is that the specter of 9-11 hobble us still - psychically, culturally, and even physically (e.g., through intrusive surveillance; airport searches, etc.). Should American military and economic strategies and actions continue as they are, this will continue in the future.


Noam Chomsky's core arguments within his book 911 (October 2001) may still seem, understandably, extremely polemical. But now more then ever, they also appear astute, even prophetic. Chomsky's 911 is a brave if not a brilliant book. After all, within 911 Chomsky dares, even almost immediately after the 911 terrorist attacks, when most Americans were, figuratively-speaking, wrapped in the American flag and oozing patriotic fervor, to view the 911 terrorist attacks; American response to them; and terrorism generally, extremely differently than most, or than anyone else dared even if they felt similarly.

Today, moreover, as we continue failing in Iraq, Americans as a group may of necessity have turned more reflective and critical of government's handling of the botched war. Chomsky's provocatively left-wing take on terrorism within 911, America's included; will likely continue to rub many the wrong way. Still, the years since September 11, 2001 filled as these have been, and continue in mid-2007 to be; with military and other unfortunate (for America) outcomes, have perhaps made Chomsky's arguments, if not entirely convincing even now, at least more viable than in the past.


Barsky, R. (1997) Noam Chomsky: A life of dissent. Cambridge, MA: The MIT


Chomsky, N. (November 2003). Hegemony or survival: America's quest…[continue]

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