Noam Chomsky on Homeland Security

Political Activist


Our military is not for defense; rein it in

The thing that can be done, you all know about: reining in our crazed military system, which has about the same expenses as the militaries of the rest of the world combined. But our military system is not for defense. In fact, it's actually harmful to us, if you look at it. It doesn't have to be like that.

So there are things that are quite feasible. Proposals have to be made and brought to the population in a convincing way. And most of the population already agrees with most of these things. But you have to turn the population into a force that will be active and engaged. Then you could have results.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 49-50 , May 1, 2012

US accounts for 40% of whole world's military expenditures

The immense city-within-a-city "embassy" in Baghdad not only remains, but its cost is also to rise under Obama to $1.8 billion a year, from an estimated $1.5 billion in Bush's last year. The Obama administration is also constructing mega-embassies in Pakistan and Afghanistan that are completely without precedent. Throughout the Gulf region, billions are being spent to develop "critical base & port facilities," along with military training & arms shipments expanding the US global system of militarization.

Meanwhile, global military expenses continue to rise. For 2008, the US accounted for over 40% of global military expenses, eight times as much as its nearest rival, China. The US is of course alone in having a vast network of military bases around the world and a global surveillance and control system, and in regularly invading other countries (with impunity, given its power). From 1999 to 2008, global military spending increased 45%, with the US accounting for 58% of the total.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 63 , Jun 1, 2010

Eliminate nukes under UN; already voted 147-to-1 against US

It is clear how the threat of nuclear weapons can be ended: they can be eliminated, a legal obligation of the nuclear powers, as the World Court determined a decade ago. More broadly, there are sensible and feasible plans to restrict all production of weapons-usable fissile materials to an international agency, to which states can apply for nonmilitary uses. The UN Committee on Disarmament has already votes for a verifiable treaty with these provisions in 2004. The vote was 147 to 1 (the US) with two abstentions (Israel & Britain). A negative vote by the reigning global superpower amounts to a veto, in fact a double veto: the proposals cannot be implemented, and are banned from public awareness. But these outcomes are not graven in stone. There are concrete steps that can be taken to progress toward these critical goals. And an informed & engaged public, worldwide, can act to ensure that the opportunity is not lost. One important step would be the establishment of nuclear weapons-free zones.
Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.167 , Jun 1, 2010

Iran has no nukes, but Israel & Pakistan & India do

Obama called for tough direct diplomacy "without preconditions" in order "to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior," namely pursuing a nuclear program and supporting terrorism. If Iran abandons its troubling behavior, the US might move toward normal diplomatic and economic relations, Obama proposed, but "if Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation."

Furthermore, Obama proceeded, he will strengthen the NPT "so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions." He made no mention of the conclusion of US intelligence that Iran had not had a weapons program for five years, unlike US allies in Israel, Pakistan, and India, the three countries that all maintain extensive nuclear weapons programs (with direct US support), all unmentioned as well.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.249 , Jun 1, 2010

Guantanamo is a torture chamber beyond reach of law

Even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law--incidentally, a place that Washington is using in violation of a treaty that was forced on Cuba at the point of a gun? Security reasons are alleged, but they are hard to take seriously. The same expectations held for secret prisons and rendition, and were fulfilled.

Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al, did introduce some important innovations. Ordinarily, torture is farmed out to subsidiaries under US supervision, not carried out by Americans directly in the government-established torture chambers. What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system's torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.260-261 , Jun 1, 2010

Doctrine of anticipatory self-defense is hypocritical

The world's hegemonic power accords itself the right to wage war at will, under a doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" with unstated bounds. International law, treaties, and rules of world order are sternly imposed on others with much self-righteous posturing, but dismissed as irrelevant for the US--a long-standing practice, driven to new depths by the Reagan and Bush II administrations.

Among the most elementary of moral truisms is the principle of universality: we must apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others, if not more stringent ones. It is a remarkable comment on Western intellectual culture that this principle is so often ignored and, if occasionally mentioned, condemned as outrageous. This is particularly shameful on the part of those who flaunt their Christian piety, and therefore have presumably at least heard of the definition of the hypocrite in the Gospels.

Source: Failed States, by Noam Chomsky, p. 3-4 , Apr 3, 2007

THEIR terror is evil; OUR terror against them does not exist

Reigning doctrines are often called a "double standard." The term is misleading. It is more accurate to describe them as a single standard, so deeply entrenched that it is beyond awareness. Take "terror," the leading topic of the day. There is a straightforward standard: OUR terror against them does not exist--or, if it does, is entirely appropriate.

One clear illustration is Washington's terrorist war against Nicaragua in the 1980s. The State Department confirmed that the US-run forces attacking Nicaragua from US bases in Honduras had been authorized to attack "soft targets," that is, undefended civilian targets. The International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council condemned the US. [The US] response [describing] terrorist attacks on civilian targets: a "sensible policy [should] meet the test of cost-benefit analysis" of "the amount of blood & misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end"--"democracy" as defined by US elites

Source: Failed States, by Noam Chomsky, p. 4-5 , Apr 3, 2007

US companies account for 60% of all of world's arms sales

US military expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world combined, while arms sales by 38 North American companies (one of which is based in Canada) account for more than 60% of the world total. Furthermore, for the world dominant power, the means of destruction have few limits.

When asked why "should the US spend massively on arms and China refrain?" senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations provided a simple answer: "we guarantee the security of the world, protect our allies, keep critical sea-lanes open and lead the war of terror," while China threatens others and "could ignore an arms race" --actions inconceivable for the US. Surely no one but a crazed "conspiracy theorist" might mention that the US controls sea-lanes in pursuit of US foreign policy objectives, hardly for the benefit of all, or that much of the world regards Washington (particularly since the beginning of the Bush II presidency) as the leading threat to world security.

Source: Failed States, by Noam Chomsky, p. 7 , Apr 3, 2007

Pre-emptive war ok; “preventive war” is a war crime

The [Bush administration’s] strategy asserts the right of the US to undertake “preventive war” at will: Preventive, not pre-emptive. Pre-emptive war might fall within the framework of international law. Thus if bombers had been detected approaching the US from a military base in Grenada, then, under a reasonable interpretation of the UN Charter, a pre-emptive attack destroying the planes and perhaps even the Grenadan base would have been justifiable.

But the justifications for pre-emptive war do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an imagined or invented threat.

Preventive war falls within the category of war crimes.

[Bush’s revision after discovering no WMDs in Iraq] suggests that the administration will act against a hostile regime that has nothing more than the intent and ability to develop WMDs. This revision grants Washington the right of arbitrary aggression.

Source: Hegemony or Survival, by Noam Chomsky, p. 12-14 , Oct 1, 2003

US & UK have regularly used chemical & biological weapons

Recent US/UK toleration for poison gas and chemical warfare is not too surprising. In 1919, Winston Churchill was enthusiastic about the prospects of “using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”--Kurds and Afghans--and authorized the RAF Middle East command to user chemical weapons “against recalcitrant Arabs as experiment,” dismissing objections by the India office as “unreasonable” and deploring the “squeamishness about the use of gas.”

The Kennedy administration pioneered the massive use of chemical weapons against civilians as it launched its attack against South Vietnam in 1961-1962. There has been much rightful concern about the effects on U.S. soldiers, but not the incomparably worse effects on civilians.

There is also substantial evidence of U.S. use of biological weapons against Cuba, reported as minor news in 1977, and at worst only a small component of continuing U.S. terror.

Source: Acts of Aggression, by Noam Chomsky, p. 40-42 , Jul 2, 2002

Powerful states define rogue states according to their needs

The concept “rogue state” is highly nuanced. Thus Cuba qualifies as a leading “rogue state” because of its alleged involvement in international terrorism, but the United States does not fall into the category despite its terrorist attacks against Cuba for close to 40 years, apparently continuing through last summer.

Cuba was a “rogue state” when its military forces were in Angola, backing the government against South African attacks supported by the United States. South Africa, in contrast, was not a rogue state then, nor during the Reagan years, when it caused over $60 billion in damage and 1.5 million deaths in neighboring states, and with ample U.S./U.K. support.

The same exemption applies to Indonesia and many others. The criteria are fairly clear: a “rogue State” is not simply a criminal state, but one that defies the orders of the powerful--who are, of course, exempt.

Source: Acts of Aggression, by Noam Chomsky, p. 51-52 , Jul 2, 2002

9-11 was historic event because of who the victims were

Q: September 11, 2001: What was your initial response?

A: A horrible atrocity. But I reacted pretty much the way people did around the world. A terrible atrocity, but unless you're in Europe or the US or Japan, I guess, you know it's nothing new. That's the way the imperial powers have treated the rest of the world for hundreds of years. This is a historic event, but unfortunately not because of the scale or the nature of the atrocity but because of who the victims were. If you look through hundreds of years of history, the imperial countries have been basically immune. There are plenty of atrocities, but they're somewhere else. And that's gone on for hundreds of years.

Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p. 13-14 , May 21, 2002

In Japan, "Ground Zero" evokes atomic bomb, not 9-11

Q: We've just recently heard--it's not referred to this way in Japan--that the site of the attack on the World Trade Center is referred to as Ground Zero.

A: It is.

Q: For Japanese who have experienced the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, hearing the words "Ground Zero" leads to very complicated feelings. I wondered if you have any thoughts about that.

A: The interesting thing is that here, almost nobody thinks of it. Check around. I mean, I've never seen a comment in the press or the massive commentary on this that points that out. It's just not in people's consciousness.

Q: But that word.

A: That's where it comes from. Absolutely. No questions about it. It struck me right away.

Q: That's why it resonates with people.

A: I understand. But it doesn't mean that here, because here, it's the same story as before. The atrocities you commit somewhere else don't exist.

Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p. 16-17 , May 21, 2002

For terrorists, use international courts, and ask "Why?"

[With regards to responses to 9/11, we should ask ourselves,] What courses of action are open to us, and what are their likely consequences? There has been virtually no discussion of the option of adhering to the rule of law, as others do, for example Nicaragua [suing in the World Court](failing, of course, but no one will bar such moves by the US) , or as England did in the case of the IRA, or as the US did when it was found that the Oklahoma City bombing was domestic in origin. And innumerable other cases.

Rather, there has, so far, been a solid drumbeat of calls for violent reaction, with only scarce mention of the fact that this will not only visit a terrible cost on wholly innocent victims, many of them Afghan victims of the Taliban, but also that it will answer the most fervent prayers of bin Laden and his network.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 26-27 , Nov 1, 2001

For terrorists, use international courts, and ask "Why?"

There are several fundamental questions [about 9/11, such as asking] "why?" This question is rarely raised in any serious way. To refuse to face this question is to choose to increase significantly the probability of further crimes of this kind. There have been some exceptions. "Moneyed Muslims" [are] people who are pro-American but severely critical of US policies in the region. The feelings in the streets are similar, though far more bitter and angry.

The bin Laden network itself falls into a different category, and in fact its actions for 20 years have caused great harm to the poor and oppressed people of the region, who are not the concern of terrorist networks. But they do draw from a reservoir of anger, fear, and desperation, which is why they are praying for a violent US reaction, which will mobilize others to their horrendous cause.

Such topics as these should occupy the front pages--at least, if we hope to reduce the cycle of violence rather than to escalate it.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 26-27 , Nov 1, 2001

Bin Laden is fighting a Holy War that harms local poor

Q: So what about globalization and cultural hegemony?

A: As for the bin Laden network, they have as little concern for globalization and cultural hegemony as they do for the poor and oppressed people of the Middle East who they have been severely harming for years. They tell us what their concerns are loud & clear: they are fighting a Holy War against the corrupt, repressive, and "un-Islamist" regimes of the region, and their supporters, just as they fought a Holy War against the Russians in the 1980s--and elsewhere.

Bin Laden himself has probably never even heard of "globalization." Those who have interviewed him in depth, like Robert Fisk, report that he knows virtually nothing of the world and doesn't care to. We can choose to ignore all the facts and wallow in self-indulgent fantasies if we like, but at considerable risk to ourselves, among others. Among other things, we can also ignore, if we choose, the roots of the "Afghanis" such as bin Laden and his associates, also not a secret.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 32 , Nov 1, 2001

War on Terror used as an excuse for militarization

The US government is now trying to exploit the opportunity to ram through its own agenda: militarization, including "missile defense," code words for the militarization of space; undermining social democratic programs; also undermining concerns over the harsh effects of corporate "globalization," or environmental issues, or health insurance, and so on; instituting measures that will intensify the transfer of wealth to the very few (for example, eliminating corporate taxes); and regimenting the society, so as to eliminate public debate and protest.

Foreign leaders, specialists on the Middle East, and I suppose their own intelligence agencies, are warning them that a massive military response will answer bin Laden's prayers. But there are hawkish elements who want to use the occasion to strike out at their enemies, with extreme violence, no matter how many innocent people suffer. There are plenty of bin Ladens on both sides, as usual.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 33-34 , Nov 1, 2001

Disallow CIA assassinations

Q: The CIA should not be permitted to carry out assassinations, but that's the least of it. Should the CIA be permitted to organize a car bombing in Beirut likes the one [documented in my newspaper]?

A: Not a secret, incidentally; prominently reported in the mainstream, though easily forgotten. That didn't violate any laws. And it's not just the CIA. Should they have been permitted to organize in Nicaragua a terrorist army that had the official task, straight out of the mouth of the State Department, to attack "soft targets" in Nicaragua, meaning undefended agricultural cooperatives and health clinics? Remember that the State Department officially approved such attacks immediately after the World Court had ordered the US to end its international terrorist campaign and pay substantial reparations. What's the name for that? Or to set up something like the bin Laden network, not him himself, but the background organizations?

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 56 , Nov 1, 2001

Bin Laden's anti-Saudi views resonated with Arabs

Osama bin Laden shares the anger felt throughout the region at the US military presence in Saudi Arabia, support for atrocities against Palestinians, along with US-led devastation of Iraqi civilian society. That feeling of anger is shared by rich and poor, and across the political and other spectrums.

His call for the overthrow of corrupt and brutal regimes of gangsters and torturers resonates quite widely, as does his indignation against the atrocities that he and others attribute to the US, hardly without reason. It's entirely true that his crimes are extremely harmful to the poorest and most oppressed people of the region. By courageously fighting oppressors, who are quite real, bin Laden may appear to be a hero, however harmful his actions are to the poor majority. And if the US succeeds in killing him, he may become even more powerful as a martyr. He is, after all, as much of a symbol as an objective force, both for the US and probably much of the population.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 59-60 , Nov 1, 2001

CIA built bin Laden's terrorist network in the 1980s

The terrorist network that had its roots in the mercenary armies that were organized, trained, and armed by the CIA. Bin Laden joined sometime in the 1980s. They fought a holy war against the Russian occupiers.

They carried terror into Russian territory. They won the war and the Russian invaders withdrew. The war was not their only activity. In 1981, forces based in those same groups assassinated President Sadat of Egypt, who had been instrumental in setting them up. In 1983, one suicide bomber, maybe with connections to the same forces, essentially drove the US military out of Lebanon. And it continued.

By 1989, they had succeeded in their Holy War in Afghanistan. As soon as the US established a permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and the rest announced that from their point of view, that was comparable to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and they turned their guns on the Americans, as had already happened in 1983 when the US had military forces in Lebanon.

Source: 9-11, by Noam Chomsky, p. 82-83 , Nov 1, 2001

Pentagon subsidizes dynamic economy via public funds

Take a look at the functioning sectors of the economy--computers, electronics, aeronautics, metallurgy--these dynamic sectors of the economy are very heavily subsidized by the public, and much of it flows through the Pentagon system. During the Cold War period it was always possible to claim that we do this because of the Russians. Well, now you need other excuses, and it's intriguing that instantly, as soon as the Russians were gone, the excuses changed. Now we need it, not because of the Russian threat, but as the Bush administration put it in March 1990, because of the "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. That's why we need it. So the Pentagon budget has got to remain the same, or even go up.

This Third World argument doesn't even merit ridicule. In fact, a large part of their technological sophistication is the arms that we sell them. And the public pays for that, too, through subsidies.

Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p.222-3 , Feb 12, 1996

Cold War fear of USSR was played to control US population

The Cold War was a kind of tacit arrangement between the Soviet Union and the US under which the US conducted its wars against the Third World and controlled its allies in Europe, while the Soviets kept an iron grip on their own internal empire and their satellites in Eastern Europe-each side using the other to justify repression and violence.
Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 80 , Jan 13, 1991

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Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
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