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WARBLOGGER WATCH


Monday, May 13, 2002

 

A couple from the Warblogger Watch mailbag:

As a former Air Force officer with 10 years experience, including 5 in special operations, I want to congratulate you on your site. There are many men in uniform who agree with most of what you say. As you have pointed out, the most hawkish voices come from the least military bodies. RE: Jphn Hopkins: I suppose his plan would work. The blood and iron strategy worked for the Nazis against the Jews, and the Serbs in World War Two, didn't it? Keep up the good work.
Respectfully,
Mike Taysom
Former Captain, USAF

Is Walter Shapiro the victim of faulty editing, poor
reading comprehension, or the trappings of being a
cheap liar? This question is raised as one compares
his account of MIT professor Noam Chomsky’s latest
book with the actual text. Shapiro believes it is “far
wiser” to “point out inconsistent arguments and shrill
assertions” than to continue the implied policy of
“malign neglect” to which Chomsky’s writings have been
treated by the top tier media. The latter policy was
confirmed days earlier in the May 4 New York Times as
a similar article stated that editors “commonly regard
[Chomsky’s books] as too extreme to merit comment.” We
should expect that Shapiro will treat the reader to
reasoned counterarguments that will rebut Chomsky and
others on the “outer extremes of left-wing thinking.”
Instead, Shapiro snarls about the “repetitive format
consisting of naïve questions followed by self-serving
answers. . .” Since Shapiro does not include an
example of a question he finds to be naïve, the reader
must assume the nature of the question from the
content of the answers. A naïve question, apparently,
is one that is asked by journalists outside of the
“elite, agenda-setting media” and which digs at an
uncomfortable history people like Shapiro are
unwilling to address honestly. For example, Shapiro
scolds Chomsky for his “armchair pseudo-certainty” for
pointing out that “Wanton killing of innocent
civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism.”
This is not merely Chomsky’s opinion, it is the
definition employed by the United States code:

“[An] act of terrorism , means any activity that [A]
involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human
life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the
United States and any State, or that would be a
criminal violation if committed within the
jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and
[B] appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce
a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of
a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to
affect the conduct of a government by assassination or
kidnapping.”

This footnote and its reference is found on page 16 of
Chomsky’s book, and given the “repetitive format” it
is unlikely Shapiro missed it by accident. Another
example of Shapiro’s critical negligence is his
confusion of evidence for two different lines of
argument. The passage states:

At the beginning of 9-11, Chomsky briefly puts aside
his virulent anti-Americanism to label the Sept. 11
attacks as "horrifying atrocities." But pretty soon,
he declares that bin Laden's "call for the overthrow
of corrupt and brutal regimes of gangsters and
torturers resonates quite widely." And rather than
pursuing bin Laden, Chomsky suggests that it would
"make a lot more sense" to "consider realistically the
background concerns and grievances, and to try to
remedy them."

Chomsky's grievances have little to do with al-Qaeda's
purported agenda. Justifying his explosive claim that
America is a "leading terrorist state," Chomsky trots
out everything from the near-extermination of American
Indians to the conquest of northern Mexico. But his
real fury is directed at Ronald Reagan's intervention
on behalf of the Nicaraguan contras, a proxy war that
he describes as "extraordinary in scale and
destruction."

The “declaration” that bin Laden’s motives resonate
widely is confirmed by the Wall Street Journal (Sept.
14, 2001) in a survey of wealthy Muslims in the Middle
East. They express much of the same resentment against
U.S. policy that bin Laden exploits for his fiendish
cause. Yet, the “concerns and grievances” Chomsky
alludes to in the first paragraph are not to be
confused with the examples of United States terrorism
given in the second. Shapiro establishes only his
duplicity by suggesting a connection with this
tantrum:
“So what if bin Laden is not exactly obsessed with
Latin American history? So what if Reagan left office
13 years ago? In the Chomsky lexicon, everything is
"blow-back" from the CIA's prior excesses.”

Noticeably absent from Shapiro’s account is another
“repetitive” fact: the United States stands convicted
of “unlawful use of force” by the International Court
of Justice for the terrorism committed against
Nicaragua.

Amid Shapiro’s flaccid critique is the usual charge of
“false [moral] equivalence” levied against any and all
who demand that we adhere to the same principles we
implore others to uphold. That is to say it is a smear
against those who refuse to indulge in hypocrisy.
Shapiro uses here Chomsky’s comparison of the
destruction of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant with
the September 11 atrocity to demonstrate this outrage
of consistency. Of course, the fact is that the
Sudanese attack remains a much worse crime. The tens
of thousands of deaths that resulted from the attack
is an estimate, as Chomsky readily concedes. It is
only an estimate because there is no interest by the
powerful to account for the damage caused by their
violence. That many more died in the Sudan than in the
World Trade Center is not in doubt. Further, when
listing the crimes of official enemies, the body
counts comprise all who perished as a result of the
enemies actions, not only the instant toll.

Intellectuals like Shapiro are successful to the
extent they maintain the illusions required by the
powerful. As Chomsky is a different species
altogether, one who maintains an allergy to hypocrisy
and propaganda, it is quite understandable that any
threat to power be ignored if possible, and
marginalized if not. Perhaps Shapiro’s strategy will
work and discourage people from bothering with Noam
Chomsky, but I suspect it will also ignite curiosity
among those who have tired of received nonsense.

Matt Brown
Boston, MA

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