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Chomsky Criticizes America’s War on Terrorism in Talk

By Marissa Vogt


Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky addressed a full crowd in 26-100 last night in a talk on recent world affairs and the impact of the Bush administration’s policies. The talk, entitled “Iraq, Israel, and the U.S.: Oppression and Repression at Home and Abroad,” was sponsored by the MIT Social Justice Cooperative.

Chomsky spoke on the differences between the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism and the approach of European countries. Whereas European nations allow the police forces to fight terrorists, the Bush administration, Chomsky said, wants the war on terrorism to be a battle of good vs. evil. This puts the administration in a position where it can exploit the war on terrorism for its own gain. including in upcoming elections.

Bush’s war on terrorism, Chomsky said, leads to “egregious violations of civil rights.” These violations include “clandestine searches of the homes of U.S. citizens” and holding citizens “indefinitely at U.S. military bases until the president declares an end to the war on terrorism,” Chomsky said.

Bush administration poses threat

In addition to threatening civil rights at home, the Bush administration’s efforts at fighting terrorism, Chomsky says, threatens world peace.

“A good part of the world accepts the position of Nelson Mandela, who describes the Bush administration as a threat to world peace,” Chomsky said.

Chomsky said the threat posed by the United States is not unique to the Bush administration, but has been present since the Clinton era.

“You can go back before Sept. 11 and go back to the Clinton administration and find that much of the world regarded the U.S. as a threat, with warnings to the Clinton administration that they were following a dangerous course,” Chomsky said.

Historical parallels drawn

Chomsky drew parallels between the danger that the United States is currently facing and other military confrontations in recent history, including the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The danger of a nuclear attack, Chomsky said, is very real, and a terrorist would have a 90 percent probability of success of smuggling nuclear weapons of mass destruction into the United States. Chomsky quoted National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice as saying that the next evidence Americans find of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction may be a mushroom cloud.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, Chomsky said, is highly relevant today because “we are now consciously escalating the threat” of an attack. It is also relevant because the circumstances that surrounded the crisis are similar to those of today.

“What was going on then was a U.S. attempt at a regime change. ... The problem is that these notions like regime changes and international terrorism are not new. We are now facing similar dangers. The fact that this isn’t the major topic of discussion is pretty astonishing,” Chomsky said.

Bush compared to Reagan

Chomsky said that Bush’s policies at home and abroad are not surprising given that most of the members of his administration are “recycled Reaganites”.

“This is what they did before: ... a sharp tax cut for the rich,” Chomsky said, along with the biggest surge in spending in 20 years. “You quickly turn from surplus to deficit, which is exactly what’s intended ... to increase services for corporations,” while services decline for the majority of the population, Chomsky said.

The Bush administration’s foreign policy also mirrors Reagan’s, Chomsky said, for another feature of the 1980s was complete disdain for international law.

Despite the threat of violence, Chomsky said that peace is still an option.

“There is enormous public resistance” to war, Chomsky said. “There is good news, it is a free country, and we have tremendous power in our hands and if we have the will to use it, it is entirely possible to shift to a more constructive course.”