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A pocket-sized, 125-page book by Noam Chomsky about - you guessed it - the al Quaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. It’s composed entirely of interviews conducted with the linguist by various international journalists and scholars during the month following 9/11 (September 11 to October 11, 2001).

Its main goal, as with most of Chomsky’s work, is to give the U.S. citizen a global awareness of themselves and their nation - to yank them out of the U.S. media and government opinion saturation which Chomsky (and others) have demonstrated to be governed by elite interests via an operational propaganda model. 1 This goal is best stated by the American author Don Delillo who wrote,

It’s not enough to hate your enemy. You have to understand how the two of you bring each other to a deep understanding.
- Underworld
This is Chomsky’s ultimate goal; he wants America to understand why terrorists despise the U.S., instead of just blindly hating them as a member of the murky Legion of DoomAxis of Evil.”

The book itself tries to place the 9/11 attacks, along with terrorism in general, within a global perspective that views the United States as one of the world’s leading terrorist states. 2 It’s a bold statement, and one that Chomsky took a lot of flak for during the post-9/11 fervor. But he cites numerous well-documented examples of U.S. violence, the most recent being the unprovoked 1998 bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, a brutal act that killed hundreds of people and created a massive humanitarian crisis which continues to claim thousands of lives each year. 3 It’s acts like these that have spurred a deep, resentful hatred of the United States world-wide, and though most people sympathize with the victims of the 9/11 bombing, many non-Europeans have a tough time saddling up with a nation which has caused so much terror itself.

But Chomsky’s goal isn’t to incite the American people. He seems genuinely concerned with the black glasses of the post-9/11 fervor, and often states his wish to root out the circles of violence, which in his (and my) opinion, is the real antecedent of 9/11, as well as any future terrorist attacks. Hence, his preferred U.S. reaction to 9/11 was to try al Quaeda and their national allies in the World Court as criminals, which the U.S. Code specifically states terrorism is – a crime. 4 Chomsky felt that military action would inevitably increase America’s enemies, aiding the causes of al Quaeda and others like them. And from the vantage of hindsight, after reading the numerous stories of the U.S. military accidentally killing civilians, allies, and other innocents in Afghanistan, thereby creating entire families that hate the U.S., I don’t think Chomsky was off the mark (*NOTE 7/5/2002 - also see Massacre at Mazar). The U.S. may have fixed the immediate problem by hindering al Quaeda’s operations, but anti-U.S. hatred has undoubtedly increased. You don’t fix a bullet wound by slapping on a band-aid. The blood will eventually continue to flow.

Chomsky’s book is available from Seven Stories Press of New York.


1 For a detailed explanation of how Chomsky’s “propaganda model” works, see Purvis’ write-up at Manufacturing Consent.

2 According to Chomsky, a nation is not exempt from terrorist activities simply because it possesses statehood. He stresses this by citing the U.S. Code’s own definition of an “act of terrorism.”

3 The Al-Shifa plant produced 50% of Sudan’s medicine – imagine a country bombing half of the United States’ pharmaceutical plants (something like 150 buildings); imagine the outrage at millions being thrown into daily pain, many eventually dying. Hell, just imagine the bone-grinding rage of an American upper strata forced to live without anti-depressants.

4 Again, see my write-up under “terrorism” for the complete U.S. Code definition of an “act of terrorism.”

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