This collection of interviews of Noam Chomsky in the weeks after 9/11/01 brings me back to that time and that two years following. This was when the mainstream American media turned gutless and you had to go to the BBC and truthout.org to get anything resembling a full picture of what was going on in the world. Chomsky was very much behind this idea and should be commended for being a contrary voice when so many were toeing a line that was called patriotism but verged on blind obedience.
His perspective - that America is a terrorist country in the same way that "axis of evil" countries support terrorism but is more effective and subtle at it - is troubling. He very rightly points out that the U.S. could practice foreign policy and national security more effectively and is shooting itself in the foot by making enemies and hurting innocent people when that's not always necessary. But he equates a terrorist attack like the events of 9/11 with the missile attacks on the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (trying to get bin Laden) and the covert help the U.S. gave to the Contras in Nicaragua. Collateral damage and mistaken intelligence, while awful, is not terrorism, even if Sudanese people suffer from the lack of malaria medication. It's awful, but not the same - President Clinton wasn't trying to cause those particular effects, he was trying to take out someone that was actively trying to harm innocent people. The Nicaraguan Contra example is better, but still troubling. Not wanting to get into the justification for that debacle, I'll just say he makes a good point that Nicaragua went to the UN in order to receive justice (which the U.S. blocked), and uses this example to argue that the U.S. should pursue legal remedies against the perpetrators of 9/11. I'm all for legal avenues, and perhaps that would have been a more effective way of receiving justice, and possibly would have saved lives in Afghanistan. But I doubt the Taliban and Pakistani border leaders would have tracked down al qaeda operatives for us. (An interesting side note is that al qaeda doesn't merit a single mention in this book, whether by Chomsky's oversight or because no one really knew at that point that bin Laden was operating through them.)
Anyhow, the book didn't convince me that the U.S. shouldn't have invaded Afghanistan. It didn't convince me that the U.S. is a terrorist nation.
Did it rightly point out that U.S. foreign policy can be arrogant, dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted? Sure!
Did it justify itself as a strong intelligent counterpoint to the direction of debate currently occurring in the country? Probably.
Did it make the point that there are complex motivations behind people that would attack civilians and while the action and rationale should never be justified, it should be understood in order to prevent such things from happening in the future? I think so.
Did it make me think? Was it a little repetitive? Yes and yes.
Did I find it a little hard to get through and glad I finally finished it so I can give the book away after all these years. Absolutely.