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9-11: Institutional Analysis vs. Conspiracy Theory


The following is an exchange between a ZNet Sustainer and Noam Chomsky, which took place in the Sustainer Web Board where Noam hosts a forum…

ZNet Sustainer: Dear Noam, There is much documentation observed and uncovered by the 911 families themselves suggesting a criminal conspiracy within the Bush Administration to cover-up the 9/11 attacks (see DVD, 9/11: Press for Truth). Additionally, much evidence has been put forward to question the official version of events. This has come in part from Paul Thompson, an activist who has creatively established the 9/11 Timeline, a free 9/11 investigative database for activist researchers, which now, according to The Village Voice’s James Ridgeway, rivals the 9/11 Commission’s report in accuracy and lucidity (see,http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0416,mondo1,52830,6.html, or www.cooperativeresearch.org).

Noam Chomsky: Hard for me to respond to the rest of the letter, because I am not persuaded by the assumption that much documentation and other evidence has been uncovered. To determine that, we'd have to investigate the alleged evidence. Take, say, the physical evidence. There are ways to assess that: submit it to specialists — of whom there are thousands — who have the requisite background in civil-mechanical engineering, materials science, building construction, etc., for review and analysis; and one cannot gain the required knowledge by surfing the internet. In fact, that's been done, by the professional association of civil engineers. Or, take the course pursued by anyone who thinks they have made a genuine discovery: submit it to a serious journal for peer review and publication. To my knowledge, there isn't a single submission.

ZNet Sustainer: A question that arises for me is that regardless of this issue, how do I as an activist prevent myself from getting distracted by such things as conspiracy theories instead of focusing on the bigger picture of the institutional analysis of private profit over people?

Noam Chomsky: I think this reaches the heart of the matter. One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis. That is, I suspect, why the 9/11 movement is treated far more tolerantly by centers of power than is the norm for serious critical and activist work. How do you personally set priorities? That's of course up to you. I've explained my priorities often, in print as well as elsewhere, but we have to make our own judgments.

ZNet Sustainer: In a sense, profit over people is the real conspiracy, yes, yet not a conspiracy at all – rather institutional reality? At the same time, if the core of conspiracy theories are accurate, which is challenging to pin down, though increasingly possible, does it not fit into the same motivations of furthering institutional aims of public subsidizes to private tyrannies? I mean, through the 9/11attacks, Bush Et Al. has been able to justify massive increases in defense spending for a “war without end,” and Israel has been given the green light to do virtually whatever it wants since now ‘the Americans are in the same fight.’ Furthermore, there has been a substantial rollback of civil rights in our nation, with the most extreme example being strong attempt to terminate habeas corpus.

Noam Chomsky: Can't answer for the same reasons. I don't see any reason to accept the presuppositions. As for the consequences, in one of my first interviews after 9/11 I pointed out the obvious: every power system in the world was going to exploit it for its own interests: the Russians in Chechnya, China against the Uighurs, Israel in the occupied territories,… etc., and states would exploit the opportunity to control their own populations more fully through "prevention of terrorism acts" and the like. By the "who gains" argument, every power system in the world could be assigned responsibility for 9/11.

ZNet Sustianer: This begs the question: if 9/11 was an inside job, then what’s to say that Bush Et Al., if cornered or not, wouldn’t resort to another more heinous attack of grander proportions in the age of nuclear terrorism – which by its very nature would petrify populations the world over, leading citizens to cower under the Bush umbrella of power.

Noam Chomsky: Wrong question, in my opinion. They were carrying out far more serious crimes, against Americans as well, before 9/11 — crimes that literally threaten human survival. They may well resort to further crimes if activists here prefer not to deal with them and to focus their attention on arcane and dubious theories about 9/11.

ZNet Sustainer: Considering that in the US there are stage-managed elections, public relations propaganda wars, and a military-industrial-education-prison-etc. complex, does something like this sound far-fetched?

Noam Chomsky: I think that's the wrong way to look at it. Everything you mention goes back far before 9/11, and hasn’t changed that much since. More evidence that the 9/11 movement is diverting energy and attention away from far more serious crimes — and in this case crimes that are quite real and easily demonstrated.

ZNet Sustainer:Considering the long history of false flag operations to wrongly justify wars, our most recent precedent being WMD in Iraq, The Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, going back much further to Pearl Harbor (FDR knowingly allowing the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor – which is different from false flag operations), to the 1898 Spanish-American War, to the 1846 Mexican-American War, to Andrew Jackson’s seizing of Seminole land in 1812 (aka Florida).

Noam Chomsky: The concept of "false flag operation" is not a very serious one, in my opinion. None of the examples you describe, or any other in history, has even a remote resemblance to the alleged 9/11 conspiracy. I'd suggest that you look at each of them carefully.

ZNet Sustainer: Lastly, as the world’s leading terror state, would it not surprise anyone if the US was capable of such an action? Would it surprise you? Do you think that so-called conspiracy theorists have anything worthy to present?

Noam Chomsky: I think the Bush administration would have had to be utterly insane to try anything like what is alleged, for their own narrow interests, and do not think that serious evidence has been provided to support claims about actions that would not only be outlandish, for their own interests, but that have no remote historical parallel. The effects, however, are all too clear, namely, what I just mentioned: diverting activism and commitment away from the very serious ongoing crimes of state.

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