January 22, 2003

A Sympathetic Lefty Fact-Ch...

Posted by at January 22, 2003 07:34 PM

Comments

Is "Panama's own" human rights commission an independent body? Or is it, as the word "own" implies, run by a government that was, after all, descended from the regime that the invasion in question installed? I'm not saying the figure isn't accurate; I'm just saying that, based on what Cooper's written here, the question isn't necessarily settled.

Anyone out there know any more about this?

Posted by: Jesse Walker at January 22, 2003 08:53 PM

Jesse -- Good question!

Posted by: Matt Welch at January 22, 2003 09:01 PM

I know by now that if Chomsky said it, it's probably crap.

At least when Marc Herold was working so hard to arrive at the magic figure of 3,001 Afghanis killed (so we'd have killed more, and thus be worse than Osama), he actually put some effort into it. Chomsky just makes stuff up-- read 9-11 for news on the Pentagon's incorporation of inevitable famine into their war plans.

It's nice that he's basically discredited himself since 9-11 and is now only taken seriously by his collegiate groupies, just unfortunate that the victims of his collateral damage seem to include most of the American left....

Posted by: Mike G at January 22, 2003 09:22 PM

Yes, it's a good question, and should also be asked of whoever bandied about the figure Chomsky cites.

Regardless of political motivations and reliability of the sources, Marc Cooper, who I presume is an independent body, claims that the destruction of the neighborhood was due to a firefight rather than aerial bombing.

It's possible that you could get close to 3,000 noncombatant casualties from a firefight, but not very likely.

Posted by: Bill Herbert at January 22, 2003 09:28 PM

Sympathetic is right. He says that Chomsky is basically honest, just a simple mistake that anyone who does as much research as Chomsky does could make. Gaaaahhhhhhh! Has anyone ever seen Chomsky make a correction or a retraction? Most of his acolytes are strangely prone to the same distortions. And it's definitely deliberate distortion. The pattern runs through all of his work.

Posted by: Tokyo Taro at January 23, 2003 01:13 AM

Chomsky is still ridiculoulsly worshipped by the British far left I'm afraid and his every utterance treated as the gospel.

The most vile anti-Americans like to defend themselves by claiming they are not against "all Americans - after all I read and I enjoy Noam Chomsky."

He keeps popping up at 'anti-war' conferences in the UK - I wish Christopher Hitchens would stalk him for six months.

Posted by: Harry Steele at January 23, 2003 07:12 AM

The U.S. military was so concerned about urban civilian casualties in Panama that they brought some old recoil-less bazooka-type guns out of retirement, because they were less destructive than artillery. IIRC, they had to reactivate some retired military to teach the troops how to use them.

With today's small-squad infantry tactics, you couldn't have 3,000 collateral casualties even if the fight was inside the Super Bowl. But then Chomsky is still waiting for us to purposely starve the Afghanis. Maybe he meant North Korea instead of Afghanistan, and Kim Jong-il instead of George W. Bush. No, no...that would be the truth, then, so he couldn't have meant that.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at January 23, 2003 07:26 AM

Well, I'm not ready to classify the US invasion of Panama as "reprehensible." They have a sane, democratic government now, and have since the invasion. They are a normal country, with a flourishing multiparty system and real rule of law.

Noriega was a thug and dictator. He was a rightist thug that previously the US had supported or turned a blind eye to, but why shouldn't the left support the US turning against him? I think that the Panama invasion symbolized a lot of good things-- that the US, especially with the end of the Cold War, was going to stop cozying up to "friendly dictators" in South America. I think we ought to do the same thing in the Middle East.

Overall, Panama and the Panamanian people are definitely better off for the invasion. That should count for something. Now perhaps war is always wrong, and perhaps it wasn't justified. But "reprehensible" is far too strong.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 23, 2003 08:04 AM

Bill: The figure Cooper cites -- 400 dead -- is supposed to be the total casualty count for the invasion, not simply for the fire at Chorillo. That sounds as unlikely to me as the figure Chomsky cites for Chorillo; though, again, it could be true.

As I recall, there were several widely varying accounts of the number of people killed in the Panama invasion. The highest came from a group associated with Ramsey Clark, and I wouldn't be surprised if Chomsky was relying on that rather dubious source for his number. The lowest came from the Pentagon, which of course is just as interested in propaganda as Mr. Clark -- just from the opposite side. It's been years since I looked at these competing numbers, but I'm pretty sure that 400 is even lower than the Pentagon's estimate.

Posted by: Jesse Walker at January 23, 2003 08:10 AM

Though I am loathe to defend Chomsky, somehow I doubt he would rely on figures provided by Ramsey Clark and his cohorts at the International Action Center. Chomsky and pals at Z Magazine have tried to maintain their distance from the Stalinist stooges at the IAC when possible.

Posted by: Joel at January 23, 2003 08:29 AM

I assume that Marc Cooper is referring to the Panamanian Human Rights Commission, which is connected to the country’s Legistlative Assembly. The Commission doesn’t have a website but it has been widely reported, including here for example, that the Commission estimated that as many 4,000 Panamanians died during "Operation Just Cause."

As far as Chorillo, Cooper may be right that bombs were not used there but it has been reported that they were so the worst thing that it appears should be said about Noam Chomsky here is that he is guilty of believing inaccurate news reports.

Posted by: micah holmquist at January 23, 2003 08:39 AM

Just for the record, I am not sure how many Panamanians died in Chorillo and how many died during other places. Thus it is possible that Chomsky is also guilty of rolling up the causalities figures of a military operation and incorrectly placing them on one single field of combat. Still I think the larger point remains that it is a footnote when the U.S. military kills a large number of civilians in some other country but when an anti-American group killed a large number of Americans on September 11, 2001, it was justification for war not just against the group in question but also Iraq, which has not been shown to have had any involvement in those attacks.

Posted by: micah holmquist at January 23, 2003 08:54 AM

I lived in Panama from 1986-1989. I was there when all of the Noreiga hubbub was going on - I was actually in high school when the first coup attempt happened at the PDF headquarters, which was about 10 minutes from our school!

Marc Cooper is correct - bombs were not used (that I can recall) on Chorillo. And the casualty total for the whole operation was less than a thousand.

One thing that is interesting to note - Noreiga was hated by the Panamanians. He had a band of thugs called the Dignity Battalion that roamed around with tire irons and baseball bats, beating the tar out of anyone suspected of being opposed to Noriega. There were even 'elections' held (I think Jimmy Carter was even there) and the Dignity Battalion pummelled all of the opposition candidates.

I also remember one of my step dad's friends (I was a Navy brat, that's why we were there) tell me about one incident during Just Cause where a bunch of marines jumped out of a chopper into some muddy swamp - they were stuck & could hardly moved and a bunch of Panamanians came out with rope and helped them all out, then gave them a big thumbs up and told the marines to pop off Noriega.


W.

Posted by: Wayne at January 23, 2003 09:22 AM

I think it should be pointed out that we are dealing here not with a direct quote from a text but a movie review paraphrasing the subject during what may be an extemporaneaous answer to a question during an interview or a lecture. I think before jumping on the bash-Chomsky bandwagon we should at least look at what he has written about the events in question. Plugging "Chorillo" into the Chomsky Archive at zmag.org brings up the following passage from Deterring Democracy:

"In the months following the liberation, the successful affair largely disappeared from view,25 the normal pattern. U.S. goals had been achieved, the triumph had been properly celebrated, and there was little more to say except to record subsequent progress towards freedom, democracy, and good fortune -- or, if that strains credulity, to produce occasional musings on how the best of intentions go awry when we have such poor human material to work with.

Central American sources continued to give considerable attention to the impact of the invasion on civilians, but they were ignored in the occasional reviews of the matter here. New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter devoted a column to casualty estimates on April 1, citing figures as high as 673 killed, and adding that higher figures, which he attributes only to Ramsey Clark, are "widely rejected" in Panama. He found Panamanian witnesses who described U.S. military actions as restrained, but none with less happy tales.26

Among the many readily accessible sources deemed unworthy of mention in the Times (and the media generally), we find such examples as the following.

The Mexican press reported that two Catholic Bishops estimated deaths at perhaps 3000. Hospitals and nongovernmental human rights groups estimated deaths at over 2000.27

A joint delegation of the Costa Rica-based Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) and the Panamanian Human Rights Commission (CONADEHUPA) published the report of its January 20-30 inquiry, based on numerous interviews. It concluded that "the human costs of the invasion are substantially higher than the official U.S. figures" of 202 civilians killed, reaching 2-3000 according to "conservative estimates." Eyewitnesses interviewed in the urban slums report that U.S. helicopters aimed their fire at buildings with only civilian occupants, that a U.S. tank destroyed a public bus killing 26 passengers, that civilian residences were burned to the ground with many apartments destroyed and many killed, that U.S. troops shot at ambulances and killed wounded, some with bayonets, and denied access to the Red Cross. The Catholic and Episcopal Churches gave estimates of 3000 dead as "conservative." Civilians were illegally detained, particularly union leaders and those considered "in opposition to the invasion or nationalistic." "All the residences and offices of the political sectors that oppose the invasion have been searched and much of them have been destroyed and their valuables stolen." The U.S. imposed severe censorship. Human rights violations under Noriega had been "unacceptably high," the report continues, though of course "mild compared with the record of U.S.-supported regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador." But the U.S invasion "caused an unprecedented level of deaths, suffering, and human rights abuses in Panama." The title of the report is: "Panama: More than an invasion, ...a massacre."28

Since its topic is not Kuwait, the report passed without notice here.

Sources at the University of Panama estimated at least 5000 dead; the head of the School of Public Administration at the University condemned the U.S. army's "iron control [which] will not allow access to any Panamian institution to find out the correct number of casualties."29

Physicians for Human Rights, with the concurrence of Americas Watch, reached tentative casualty figures higher than those given by the Pentagon but well below those of COHUDECA-CONADEHUPA and others in Panama. Their estimate is about 300 civilians killed. Americas Watch also gives a "conservative estimate" of at least 3000 wounded, concluding further that civilian deaths were four times as great as military deaths in Panama, and over ten times as high as U.S. casualties (officially given as 23; the U.S. military estimated civilian deaths at 202). They ask: "How does `surgical operation' result in almost ten civilians killed (by official U.S. count) for every American military casualty?" By September, the count of bodies exhumed from several of the mass graves had passed 600.30

Excavation of mass graves meanwhile continues. By September, thptember, the count of bodies found in these graves alone had reached well over 600.31

The COHUDECA-CONADEHUPA report emphasizes that a great deal is uncertain, because of the violent circumstances, the incineration of bodies, and the lack of records for persons buried in common graves without having reached morgues or hospitals, according to eyewitnesses. note: See CODEHUCA letter to Americas Watch, June 5, 1990, commenting on the Americas Watch report.} Its reports, and the many others of which a few have been cited here, may or may not be accurate. A media decision to ignore them, however, reflects not professional standards but a commitment to power.

On September 30, some of this information finally broke into the mainstream media in a television report by CBS news ("60 minutes").32 Pictures of mass graves were shown, and a Panamanian woman who had worked for months to have a few of them opened and the remains identified, exhausting her own resources in the process, estimated civilian deaths at perhaps 4000. The CBS investigation also revealed new information: secret U.S. army reports estimating 1000 civilians killed -- not the 202 that were officially reported -- and urging that damage claims not be considered because the number might mount too high. There was also a (rare) report of thousands of Panamanians protesting against the U.S. invasion and occupation.

While Larry Rohter's visits to the slums destroyed by U.S. bombardment located only celebrants, or critics of U.S. "inout. Only later do we find out that Bin Laden could give a rat's ass about the Palestinians, what he hates is the idea of American women soldiers defiling sacred Saudi soil with their emasculating, menstruating selves (a cause even ANSWER would probably not take as justification for anything). Chomsky on 9-11 is like someone who, upon hearing that Reagan was shot, launches into a 15-minute harangue about how it's payback for the Contras and essentially justified for that reason, only to finally be told that, uh, actually it seems to mostly be about Jodie Foster.

Posted by: Mike G at January 23, 2003 12:00 PM

Mike,

Where does Chomsky say/write that Bin Laden "probably" wasn't behind 9-11 or that the attacks were justified?

Posted by: MB at January 23, 2003 12:46 PM

Link:

These figures appear to indicate, therefore, that at least 280 to 305 civilians, and possibly more, died in Panama, which is very near our estimate of 300, and about 50 percent higher than the Pentagon originally claimed.17That vicious right-wing extremist organization Human Rights Watch estimates 300 civilian deaths in the Panama incursion.

As usual, Chomsky has his head up his ass, and far too many groupies are willing to close their eyes, open their nostrils, and inhale the same sweet-smelling air.

Posted by: Bill Quick at January 23, 2003 01:15 PM

If I recall correctly-- having merely read 9-11 at a bookstore, not paying for it, as the anti-capitalist Chomsky no doubt would prefer anyway-- in at least one (heck, maybe all) of the interviews he says something on the order of:

"...and what Bin Laden (if it was him, which is by no means certain) wants is..."

Now, you could take that as "It could be another group of evildoers," but in Chomskyland anything that isn't directly tied to someone else is the fault of the US. Only logical, since everything that IS committed by someone else is the fault of the US. And that one I do just happen to have a citation on from an old email I sent somebody:

"If the rich and powerful choose to keep to their traditions of hundreds of years and resort to extreme violence, they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle of violence, in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could be awesome." (9-11)

Got that? If the US (the billionaire Bin Laden somehow being exempted from the ranks of the rich) resorts to extreme violence (3000 dead evidently not counting as extreme violence) it will escalate the cycle of violence (a terrorist attack as the consequence of offending Bin Laden's religious sensibilities apparently being roughly equal as steps on that escalator), with awesome (apparently more awesome than the destruction of two of the largest buildings in the world as well as an attack on our military headquarters) consequences.

Thus was 9-11 merely a logical outgrowth of OUR actions. What a slimy bunch of reasoning from Chomska Wormtongue.

Posted by: Mike G at January 23, 2003 02:49 PM

Here's another resource Twentieth Century Atlas-Death Tolls
It has numbers from various sources.

Just because Chomsky quotes a number does not mean it is true. The site zmag.org that MB mentions still links to Marc Herold's discredited farce of a death toll in its Afghanistan section.

Every web site I've looked at that gives estimates of 3,000 or more mentions Codehuca (Central American Human Rights Commission), but also mentions bombing Chorillo which has been disputed above by those who were there, so I have doubts about Codehuca's veracity.

Interestingly enough, the figures given by Chomsky for every conflict are invariably much, much higher than everone else's. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Posted by: scott h. at January 23, 2003 06:03 PM

I've seen newsreel footage of the event. It clearly shows US freedom fighters shooting at Panamanian terrorists as they ran from their burning homes.

Posted by: gil at January 23, 2003 06:33 PM

Mike,

Nothing you have quoted answers the questions I asked. Starting with the second question first, the paragraph you quote in no way "justifies" the 9-11 attacks. To "justify" something means to "demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid" or to "declare free of blame; absolve" - which is a different thing altogether than an explanation of why the US might have been a target. It is rather difficult to claim that Chomsky "justified" the attacks when on the very first page of interviews in the book you cite he refers to them as "horrifying atrocities" (pg 11) and later "crime against humanity" (pg 15) and similar language throughout the remainder of the book. Your assertion that Chomsky stated/wrote/ or in any way implied that bin Laden was "probably" not involved with the 9-11 attacks is also wrong. Chomsky assumes throughout his answers in 9-11 that bin Laden and his network were the "perpetrators"(pgs 13,18,19,21,27,30-34,37,52-54,etc) and does not even hint at any alternative suspects. The only bit of evidence that comes close (but not very) to your assertion is on page 60 where Chomsky refers to bin Laden's network as so "highly decentralized" that bin Laden may or may not have directly planned the attack, though the rest of the answer assumes his involvement. I understand not wanting to buy the book of someone with whom you disagree , but distorting what the author wrote with the usual overheated blogger jive doesn't do much for your case.

Posted by: mb at January 24, 2003 06:35 AM

Okay, you are right I'm not going to buy his lousy ill-informed bookette, his contribution to the Life's Little Instruction Book genre of content-lite things that look like books. But I found some of the pieces in it online. He says, for instance, that the acts have been attributed "plausibly" to Bin Laden. Not a ringing endorsement, but more than I recalled, yes. (I may have been thinking of Gore Vidal.)

Then he spews a bunch of stuff about how we trained and outfitted Bin Laden and created what would become al-Qaeda, which has been demonstrated to be considerably exaggerated. So I guess Chomsky wins on a technicality. The jury awards him one farthing in damages.

Moving on: no, I don't think the quote I cited is used to justify the terrorist attacks precisely. I think it was said, very carefully and subtly and mendaciously, to minimize their awfulness and thus to create a specious sort of equivalency between them and what the US did to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They are not so much justified as deliberately lost in a grander landscape which is, however, mostly fictitious. To pick it apart again:

"If the rich and powerful choose to keep to their traditions of hundreds of years..."

Thus the beginning of all this is pushed back far, far earlier than September 11th (and, I suspect, a certain sympathy is implied with the views of those like Bin Laden who cite the Crusades 500 years before America's birth as justification for attacks on New York and Washington today). In other words, the idea that this was a psychotic Pearl Harbor-like outrage out of the blue in response to something trivial like women soldiers on Saudi soil must first be undermined in order that the attacks can be minimized in a broader historical picture. This is much like those whose response to the Holocaust is "Stalin killed even more!" (I wonder where Chomsky, the Holocaust denier and tolerator of socialist regimes, comes out on that question. Wait, I know: "FDR killed even more!")

"...and resort to extreme violence..."

Again, an act of minimizing-- defining September 11th as a lesser act than whatever America would do in the future, since as of September 12th extreme violence has not yet been "resorted" to. (Only medium, understandable violence.)

"...they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle of violence,"

Seeing the cycle of violence as escalating implies a rough equality between steps, with each being perhaps a third again as awful as the one before it. Thus there must be something at least 2/3 as awful as September 11th that we did to them that led directly to their attacks. What was it-- saving the Kosovar Muslims? Kicking Saddam out of Kuwait? Chomsky never says-- because to be specific would force him to pick one and stand by his choice, and he can't, because there's NOTHING that really fits his exalted bill that America has done to the Muslim world, nor can his usual bugbears (Cambodia, Nicaragua, whatever) be remotely portrayed as of the least concern to the man who wanted to restore the Caliphate. (Remember, Bin Laden and Chomsky are actually on opposite sides of the East Timor business.)

"...in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could be awesome."

Again, the state of "awesomeness" is something that's still ahead, pending brute America's vicious response; and no other possible long-term consequences (such as those of allowing al-Qaeda to do what it pleases without retaliation) are to be considered. Somehow, Chomsky seems to think that if we don't respond to 9-11, we will be left in peace; only if we respond to terrorist attacks will we ever suffer terrorist attacks. It would be interesting to hear which conflict involving terrorism in the last couple of hundred years he thinks supports this notion.

If there's a word in that whole paragraph that's true and not designed for maximum slipperiness, I can't find it.

Posted by: Mike G at January 24, 2003 08:06 AM

Mike,

I'm glad we agree that you have no evidence to back your claims that Chomksy "justified" the 9-11 attacks and implied that parties other than the bin Laden network were the culprits. I had hoped that asking you for citations supporting your assertions would bring you back into the orbit of reasonable analysis. Instead, you insist on damaging your credibility further by asserting that Chomsky is a "Holocaust denier." I could ask you again to cite evidence supporting this, but I'm afraid we will only see a continuation of the pattern you have established of partially backing off one absurd claim only to assert another. For this reason alone I won't attempt to wade through the rest of your comical "exegesis" - you are entitled to your fantasies and others can judge the level of sanity for themselves.

Posted by: MB at January 24, 2003 09:35 AM

I'm sorry, did I stutter?

I DO NOT for the record agree that Chomsky didn't justify 9-11, as you put it, if my nuanced statements are taken to mean he had any clear or moral position to the contrary. I agree that we cannot say that his statements are as simple as those of the justifyin' folks who merely said we "deserved" it, because Chomsky's not as simple-minded as they. I have now twice demonstrated the deeply mendacious way in which Chomsky seeks to minimize the horror of what was perpetrated then and insinuate that other actions (unnamed because non-existent) by the US will be worse. That is, indeed, a form of justifying, if craftier than the slogans of the usual pinheads lining up to say stupid things for Andrew Sullivan to have sport with in Salon.

I am sorry that you choose not to confront any of whamerely to calling it "comical," which is the sort of evasion invective that usually passes for actual point by point argument among you manufactured dissent types.

Perhaps you'd like to ask Robert Nozick about Chomsky's pre-Faurisson-foreword flirtations with the forbidden fruit of Holocaust denial. When Nozick called him on it, Chomsky tried to punch him, a fact Chomsky denies but others attest to. Now, of course, Chomsky also writes forewords for books on the non-existent Jenin massacre, meaning he both supports the idea Jews didn't die when all the world knows they did, and that Palestinians did when all the world knows they didn't.

Posted by: Mike G at January 24, 2003 12:03 PM

We could check with Nozick, but he's dead. Since I doubt you were in attendance when the alleged incident occurred, you probably are referring to the account written by Alan Dershowitz in the Jerusalem Post and reprinted elsewhere. For someone so concerned with "maximum slipperiness" you are quite eager to fall for and cite "evidence" that is uncheckable. Not that you would fare much better by citing the written record with which you have little shame in distorting as has been shown above. At least you confirmed my suspicion that entering into further debate on your opinion of what may lay behind Chomksy's words is pointless since you won't even have the decency to approach the minimal level of honesty on matters of fact.

Posted by: MB at January 24, 2003 01:38 PM

I was a member of the Battle Management Cell of XVIII Airborne Corps during the Panama operation, which provided the ground forces for the campaign.

I posted a firmer rebuttal with more information on my own site.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at January 24, 2003 01:55 PM

MB old chap,

You do realize that you've defined Chomsky's deviancy down to a dispute over whether or not he flirted with Holocaust denial BEFORE the point at which there's no dispute that he flirted with Holocaust denial.

If I was in the splitting-hairs-with-culties business, well, I've got a Scientology office just down the street. (What was that American atrocity that led to Osama's escalation again? Still waiting.) Good night.

Posted by: Mike G at January 24, 2003 04:14 PM

Whether or not Chomsky is a Nazi holocaust denier, he is most certainly a Cambodian holocaust denier. When Cambodia was allied with the Soviet bloc, in the late 70's, Chomsky dismissed as US propaganda claims that the Khmer Rouge were murdering huge number of people. Then in 1979 Vietnam invaded Cambodia, and Chomsky instantly changed his position on the Khmer Rouge. (See for instance James Donald's dissection of Chomsky.)

So Chomsky is not just a Holocaust denier -- he's also a rewriter of history a la Winston Smith.

Unlike Winston, he does it willingly.

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at January 24, 2003 07:11 PM

Thanks, all, for an illuminating debate. I've forwarded the link over to Cooper, for what it's worth.

Posted by: Matt Welch at January 24, 2003 08:23 PM

It's wrong to underestimate the groupie-ness of Chomsky fans. The claim that he is often wrong but that his "thought is right" reminds me of a good TNR article about Chinese official state history, especially Deng's pronouncements about his post-Mao government in China, trying to justify Mao's behavior for younger Chinese:

Having derided the major ideas of the decade, Deng's document says that "these theses must be thoroughly distinguished from Mao Zedong Thought." Mao--but not his "Thought"--was responsible, the document admits, for errors long before 1966. But they were the errors "of a great proletarian revolutionary.... Herein lies his tragedy.... His merits are primary and his errors secondary."

Chomsky is such small-fry compared to an evil dictator that I don't see why people get so excited about him (either way.) The man might make considerable contributions to linguistics, but he often seems intellectually careless when discussing events he didn't witness - and the slant of his comments are so predictable, *reliably* predictable, that they inspire (for non-groupies) no greater confidence than what one hears from the Weekly Standard or the Progressive.

Posted by: gregor at January 25, 2003 01:12 PM

Mike wrote:

"You do realize that you've defined Chomsky's deviancy down to a dispute over whether or not he flirted with Holocaust denial BEFORE the point at which there's no dispute that he flirted with Holocaust denial."

Could you define specifically what you mean by the phrase, "flirted with Holocaust denial" and in the case of Chomsky provide evidence that can be checked? Is "flirting with Holocaust denial" the same as being a "Holocaust denier?" If they are different, how does Chomsky meet the criteria of one but not the other? If Chomsky is a "Holocaust denier," what explains the various references in his writings since 1967 (for example pg 8-9 of American Power and the New Mandarins )that assume the existence of the Holocaust? What other writings of his contradict these references and demonstrate his doubt on the existence of Nazi programs? These questions, both general and specific, are the type one should expect to be able to answer when accusing somebody of being a "Holocaust denier" unless they are simply engaged in an act of smearing an opponent.

You can wait all you want for my comments on your tantrum, I will not indulge you any more than I would someone who wanted my critique on his argument that 2+2 =5. I understand you are trying to shift the debate away from providing the evidence I asked for that support your 3 assertions, but you’ll have to find someone else who is interested.

Posted by: MB at January 27, 2003 07:25 AM

MB asked: Where does Chomsky say/write ... that the attacks were justified?

From A Quick Reaction:

As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting. Describing "The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people," he writes that "this is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia - paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally - hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps." And much more.

It's certainly true that one of the two most important Arab grievances against the US is probably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the other being the sanctions against Iraq). But the planning for these attacks started during the Clinton administration, when Clinton was spending a great deal of political capital in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So I think Chomsky's judgement here is incorrect.

I find Michael Doran's analysis, Somebody Else's Civil War, much more convincing. The radical Islamists are basically fighting a civil war, trying to overthrow the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt; they attacked the US because so far they've been losing. And a big part of the reason that they've been losing is that they simply don't have that much support in the Arab and Muslim world. Lots of people in the Arab and Muslim world may dislike US policies (because of Palestine and the sanctions against Iraq), but they have no great love for the radical Islamists, either.

Oh, by the way, I wrote up a critical review of Chomsky a while ago.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 27, 2003 05:00 PM

This is one of the better explanations of just how Noam Chomsky has flirted with anti-semitism, and Holocaust deniers.

Posted by: R. Roberts at January 27, 2003 10:37 PM

I think Werner Cohn overstates his case a bit. Chomsky associates with radical leftists in France (e.g. Serge Thion) who have drifted into Holocaust denial. Here's the chronology and an explanation.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 28, 2003 09:47 AM

Werner Cohn’s piece has been shown to be full of holes.

Take one example that is crucial to Cohn’s thesis – he writes:

“At a time when the VT movement suffered from ostracism on all sides, when, moreover, Chomsky could have published a French version of his Political Economy of Human Rights (written with Edward Herman) with a French commercial firm, Chomsky nevertheless stood by his friends of the VT and published his book with them.”

Actually, PEHR was published with a French commercial firm -Albin Michel- a fact which refutes Cohn’s guilt by association innuendo.

Cohn also cites Pierre Guillaume’s interpretation of Chomsky’s clear statements that distinguish the difference between defending the right to free speech and the content of the speech itself as an example of how Chomsky does not take a strong stand against Holocaust denial:

“Each time that Chomsky has said that his opinions remain "diametrically opposed" to those of Faurisson, he has done so in terms that are absolutely incapable of hurting Faurisson; and he has always indicated, by a word or a phrase, that his "diametrically opposed" view was more a matter of opinion than of scientific knowledge.”

Chomsky replied to this point in 1989:

“In Cohn's 'crucial source', cited above, Guillaume quotes my statement that 'there are no rational grounds that allow any doubt about the existence of gas chambers.' Thus Cohn is refuted by his own 'crucial source.' In my own writings, from the earliest until the present, the conclusions of standard Holocaust studies are taken simply as established fact, as Cohn knows perfectly well.” (http://monkeyfist.com/ChomskyArchive/essays/outlook_html)

For example, consider what Chomsky wrote on pg 8-9 in his American Power and the New Mandarins:

“…the moment we enter into "a technical debate with the Nazi intelligentsia," the moment we consider such questions as, "[I]s it true that the Jews are a cancer eating away at the vitality of the German people?" "What is the evidence that the Slavs are inferior beings?" we are plunged into "this morass of insane rationality…By entering into the arena of argument and counterargument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one's humanity" (cited by Barsky http://cognet.mit.edu/Books/chomsky/5/5.html)

That Cohn and his ilk do not cite this passage is telling.

Adding to the pile of lies, Cohn writes:

“Chomsky and his friends ordinarily try to suppress all information concerning his neo-Nazi connections. The best publicized case of such suppression involves the British linguist Geoffrey Sampson who wrote the biographical sketch of Chomsky in the British publication Biographical Companion to Modern Thought. Sampson wrote a laudatory description of Chomsky's linguistics but allowed himself the following few words of reservation about his politics:
He forfeited authority as a political commentator by a series of actions widely regarded as ill-judged (repeated polemics minimizing the Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia; endorsement of a book which Chomsky admitted he had not read that denied the historical reality of the Jewish Holocaust).(48)
Sampson has now told the story of how Chomsky was able, through his influence with American publishers, to ban Sampson's contribution from the American (Harpers) edition of this reference work. (49)…”

Cohn neglects to mention that Sampson is on the record correcting this claim:

“On the question of whether Noam Chomsky threatened libel action in connection with my entry in Lord Bullock's biographical dictionary ... I now accept that Chomsky did not make the threat. I greatly regret having written that he did. ( The Nation, 3/2/1985)

This doesn’t do much for Cohn’s credibility or the people who cite him.

Posted by: MB at January 28, 2003 12:59 PM

(cough) But Chomsky is a friend of Serge Thion's, right?

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 28, 2003 05:03 PM

Not sure on the current status of the Thion/Chomksy relationship, most of the written material is around 25 years old. If, as you say Thion has "drifted into Holocaust denial" since getting Chomsky to sign the Faurisson petition then that's a shame for Thion, but it would be dishonest to claim that this proves Chomsky sympathetic to the theories of Holocaust deniers as people like Cohn imply.

Posted by: MB at January 29, 2003 05:17 AM

Er, no, Thion had already drifted into Holocaust denial when he asked Chomsky to sign the petition. That's how Thion knew Faurisson.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet:

To be sure, it is not the case that Chomsky's theses in any way approximate those of the neo-Nazis. But why does he find so much energy and even tenderness in defending those who have become the publishers and defenders of the neo-Nazis, and so much rage against those who allow themselves to fight them? That is the simple question I shall raise. When logic has no other end than self-defence, it goes mad.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 29, 2003 08:41 AM

Thion believed Faurisson when he asked Chomsky to sign the petition? I haven't seen anything to support this though its possible. Was Thion "out" with these beliefs at the time in a manner that Chomsky would have known? I find Vidal-Naquet's quote troubling. Does he not agree that people have the right to publish neo-Nazis (or others who hold abhorrent views) and defend their civil liberties? If so, then there should be no problem with signing a petition that supports these rights. As has been noted in the literature surrounding this issue, Chomsky has similarly defended the rights of people like Rushdie and Walt Rostow so it is not as if his generosity extends only to Holocaust deniers. Perhaps Chomsky’s “rage” against people like Vidal-Naquet is due in part to the fact that they often are not telling the truth – for example he repeats the following lie that has been refuted above:
“…he has not remained faithful to his own libertarian principles since he --whom the slightest legal action against Faurisson throws into a fit-- went so far as to threaten a publisher with a lawsuit over a biographical note concerning him in which several sentences had the misfortune of displeasing him. And in fact, he succeeded in having the biographical note in question assigned to a more loyal editor…I refer to the American edition of the Biographical Companion to Contemporary Thought, edited by A. Bullock (London: Fontana-Collins, 1983); details of this matter can be found in an article by G. Sampson (author of the note), "Censoring 20th-Century Culture: The Case of Noam Chomsky," The New Criterion, October 1984, pp. 7-16. “

Posted by: MB at January 29, 2003 01:28 PM

I find Vidal-Naquet's quote troubling. Does he not agree that people have the right to publish neo-Nazis (or others who hold abhorrent views) and defend their civil liberties? If so, then there should be no problem with signing a petition that supports these rights.

Come on. Vidal-Naquet says:

Let us restate the point with due calm: the principle he invokes is not what is at stake. If Chomsky had restricted himself to defending Faurisson's right to free speech, from my point of view there would not be any Chomsky problem.

Perhaps Chomsky’s “rage” against people like Vidal-Naquet is due in part to the fact that they often are not telling the truth –

Er, no. Here's the chronology again. What prompted Chomsky's "rage" in his October 1980 letter was that Vidal-Naquet mentioned the petition signed by Chomsky--only in passing, in a single paragraph from a very long article ("A Paper Eichmann") in Esprit, September 1980. It certainly wasn't Vidal-Naquet's 1987 repetition of Sampson's false accusation.

As Vidal-Naquet puts it: "... regarding himself as untouchable, invulnerable to criticism, unaware of what Nazism in Europe was like, draped in an imperial pride and an American chauvinism worthy of those "new mandarins" whom he used to denounce, Chomsky accuses all those who hold a different opinion from his own of being assassins of freedom."

Look, Chomsky's just a guy. Everybody makes mistakes. Vidal-Naquet's not accusing Chomsky of being a neo-Nazi -- he's saying explicitly that Chomsky is not a neo-Nazi. All he's saying is that Chomsky's has a big ego, and he let it get in the way of his moral judgement, to the point where he spent a lot of time and energy defending Faurisson and smearing critics of Faurisson. What the Faurisson affair shows is that (a) Chomsky has a very thin skin, and (b) some of his old libertarian-left comrades in France have drifted into Holocaust denial. That's all.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 30, 2003 10:22 AM

Fair enough, Russil. I enjoyed reading your Chomsky critique btw, a very refreshing change from the Mike G variety of critics.

Posted by: MB at January 30, 2003 12:45 PM

Thanks, MB. I appreciate your open-mindedness.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 30, 2003 03:18 PM
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e the point with due calm: the principle he invokes is not what is at stake. If Chomsky had restricted himself to defending Faurisson's right to free speech, from my point of view there would not be any Chomsky problem.

Perhaps Chomsky’s “rage” against people like Vidal-Naquet is due in part to the fact that they often are not telling the truth –

Er, no. Here's the chronology again. What prompted Chomsky's "rage" in his October 1980 letter was that Vidal-Naquet mentioned the petition signed by Chomsky--only in passing, in a single paragraph from a very long article ("A Paper Eichmann") in Esprit, September 1980. It certainly wasn't Vidal-Naquet's 1987 repetition of Sampson's false accusation.

As Vidal-Naquet puts it: "... regarding himself as untouchable, invulnerable to criticism, unaware of what Nazism in Europe was like, draped in an imperial pride and an American chauvinism worthy of those "new mandarins" whom he used to denounce, Chomsky accuses all those who hold a different opinion from his own of being assassins of freedom."

Look, Chomsky's just a guy. Everybody makes mistakes. Vidal-Naquet's not accusing Chomsky of being a neo-Nazi -- he's saying explicitly that Chomsky is not a neo-Nazi. All he's saying is that Chomsky's has a big ego, and he let it get in the way of his moral judgement, to the point where he spent a lot of time and energy defending Faurisson and smearing critics of Faurisson. What the Faurisson affair shows is that (a) Chomsky has a very thin skin, and (b) some of his old libertarian-left comrades in France have drifted into Holocaust denial. That's all.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 30, 2003 10:22 AM

Fair enough, Russil. I enjoyed reading your Chomsky critique btw, a very refreshing change from the Mike G variety of critics.

Posted by: MB at January 30, 2003 12:45 PM

Thanks, MB. I appreciate your open-mindedness.

Posted by: Russil Wvong at January 30, 2003 03:18 PM
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