CHOMSKY AND BIN LADEN

I’m indebted to Jeffrey Isaac of the American Prospect for noticing the following sentences in a recent book by Noam Chomsky, A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West. Chomsky, with a moral relativism straight out of Stanley Fish’s playbook, argues that there is no difference between the actions of NATO countries attempting to stop the genocide in Bosnia and terrorists seeking their own violent solution to various problems. And he makes a crazy logical leap to assert that Britain and the U.S. are as responsible for the oppression in East Timor as the rulers in Jakarta. Then this obscenity: “If proponents of the “repetition of Bosnia” thesis intend it seriously, they should certainly have been calling for the bombing of Jakarta – indeed Washington and London – in early 1999 so as not to allow in East Timor a repetition of the crimes that Indonesia, the U.S., and the UK, had perpetrated there for a quarter-century. And when the new generation of leaders [i.e. Clinton and Blair] refused to pursue this honorable course, they should have been leading honest citizens to do so themselves, perhaps joining the Bin Laden network. These conclusions follow straightforwardly, if we assume that the thesis is intended as something more than apologetics for state violence.” Thus the nihilism that fuels Chomsky and Fish and others leads inexorably to a call for individuals to join the bin Laden network and bomb Washington and London. Chomsky wrote this before September 11. In the wake of the fact that terrorists took his cynical, rhetorical advice and actually killed thousands of people in Washington and New York, is it too much to ask that Chomsky take responsibility for his words, disown them, and apologize?