Fisk and Chomsky on WTC Bombing

Paul Flewers hatchet.job at
Wed Sep 12 08:21:49 MDT 2001

These two essays appeared on the Z-Net mailing list

Paul F


Chomsky note...

Just got your message. Quick reaction.

Today's attacks were major atrocities. In terms of number of victims
they do not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's
bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its
pharmaceutical supplies and probably killing tens of thousands of people
(no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one
cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come
to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The
primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries,
firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to
Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to
lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for
undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.

The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of ideas about "missile
defense." As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly by
strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the US,
including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to
launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction.
There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But
today's events will, nonetheless, be used to increase the pressure to
develop these systems and put them into place. "Defense" is a thin cover
for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR, even the
flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened public.
In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope
to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the
likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks
like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than
they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.

Noam Chomsky


Atrocities may be designed to provoke America into costly military

By Robert Fisk
12 September 2001

I can imagine how Osama bin Laden received the news of the atrocities in
the United States. In all, I must have spent five hours listening to him
in Sudan and then in the vastness of the Afghan mountains, as he
described the inevitable collapse of the United States, just as he and
his comrades in the Afghan war helped to destroy the power of the Red

He will have watched satellite television, he will have sat in the
corner of his room, brushing his teeth as he always did, with a mishwak
stick, thinking for up to a minute before speaking; he is one of the few
Arabs who doesn't feel embarrassed to think before he speaks. He once
told me with pride how his own men had attacked the Americans in
Somalia. He acknowledged that he knew personally two of the Saudis
executed for bombing an American military base in Riyadh. Could he have
been behind yesterday's mass slaughter in America?

Of course, we need a health warning here. If Mr bin Laden was really
guilty of all the things he has been blamed for, he would need an army
of 10,000. And there is something deeply disturbing about the world's
habit of turning to the latest hate figure whenever blood is shed. But
when events of this momentous scale take place, there is a new
legitimacy in casting one's eyes at those who have constantly threatened

Mr bin Laden had a kind of religious experience during the Afghan war. A
Russian shell had fallen at his feet and, in the seconds as he waited
for it to explode, he said he had a sudden, religious feeling of
calmness. The shell  and Americans may come to wish the opposite
happened  never exploded. The United States must leave the Gulf, he
would say every 10 minutes. America must stop all sanctions against the
Iraqi people. America must stop using Israel to oppress Palestinians. It
was his constant theme, untouched by doubt or the real complexities of
the Middle East. He was not fighting an anti-colonial war, but a
religious one. In the Arabia that he would govern, there would be more,
not less, head chopping, more severe punishments, no Western-style

His supporters  Algerians, Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Gulf Arabs  would
gather round him in his tent with the awe of men listening to a messiah.
I watched them one night in Afghanistan in a mountain camp so cold that
I woke to find ice in my hair. They were obedient to him, not the kind
of obedience of schoolchildren but the sort of adherence you find among
people whose minds are made up. And the words they listened to were
fearful in their implications. American civilians would no more be
spared than military targets. This was not a man who would hesitate to
carry out his promises if he could. He was a man who would have
appreciated the appalling irony of creating a missile defence shield
against "rogue states'' but unable to prevent men crashing domestic
airliners into the centre of America's financial and military power.

Yet I also remember one night when Mr bin Laden saw a pile of newspapers
in my bag and seized upon them. By a sputtering oil lamp, he read them
page by page in the corner of his tent, clearly unaware of the world
around him, reading aloud of an Iranian Foreign Minister's visit to
Saudi Arabia. Was this really a man who could damage America, who would
have laughed when he heard that the United States had placed a $5m
(£3.3m) reward on his head? Was it not America, I wondered then, which
was turning Mr bin Laden into the face of "world terror?'' Was he really
so powerful and so deadly?

If  and we must keep repeating this word if  the shadow of the Middle
East falls over yesterday's destruction, then who else in the region
could produce such meticulously timed assaults on the world's only
superpower? The rag-tag and corrupt Palestinian nationalist groups that
used to favour hijacking are unlikely to be able to produce a single
suicide bomber. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have neither the capability nor
the money that this assault needed. Perhaps the old satellite groups
that moved close to the Lebanese Hezbollah in the 1980s, before the
organisation became a solely resistance movement, could plan something
like this. The bombing of the US Marines in 1983 needed precision,
timing and infinite planning. But Iran, which supported these groups,
has changed out of recognition since then, now more involved in its
internal struggles than in the long-dead aspiration to "export'' a
religious revolution. Iraq lies broken, its agents more intent on
torturing their own people than striking at the country that defeated it
so suddenly in 1991.

So the mountains of Afghanistan will be photographed from satellite and
high-altitude aircraft in the coming days, Mr bin Laden's old training
camps  and perhaps a few new ones  highlighted on the overhead
projectors in the Pentagon. But to what end? When America last tried to
strike at Mr bin Laden, it destroyed an innocent pharmaceuticals plant
in Sudan and a few of Mr bin Laden's Muslim followers in Afghanistan.
For if this is a war between the Saudi millionaire and President Bush's
America, it cannot be fought like other wars. Indeed, can it be fought
at all without some costly military adventure overseas.

Or is that what Mr bin Laden seeks above all else?

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