Challenges and Opportunities for Progressive Movements Post-911

Through the framework of cause and effect, you can see the obstacles posed by the War on Terrorism. Militarization, globalization, and racism have accelerated; their intersections compounded. Chris Spannos discussed these intersections and prospects for social change after Sept. 11 with Noam Chomsky on May 24, 2002.

Noam Chomsky is one of America‘s most prominent political dissidents and a renowned professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has authored over thirty political books, dissecting issues such as U.S. intervention in the developing world, political economy of human rights, and the propaganda role of corporate media.


Redeye: Hi Noam and welcome to Redeye.

Chomsky: Hi, how are you?


Redeye: I’m good, thanks. There seems to be a general understanding that the events of Sept. 11 have caused a consolidation of power. Can you begin by elaborating on it’s characteristics?

Chomsky: The events of Sept. 11, first of all, were historic. There is no doubt about that. It was a terrible terrorist atrocity, but that, unfortunately, is not the reason it was an historic event. Unfortunately, it is not unique in scale, by any means. What’s unique about it, is the victims. This is the first time in hundreds of years that what we call the west – Europe and its offshoots – have been subjected to the kinds of atrocities that they carry out all the time in other countries and that is unique. The guns are pointed in the other direction for the first time.

It doesn’t lessen the nature of the atrocity. It is an atrocity. But, outside Europe and the west, it is well understood that there is nothing new, unfortunately, going on right now.  

Just last week I was in Colombia where state terror carried out through paramilitaries, crop destruction and other means is extraordinary, at an extraordinary level and it all traces back to Washington. So, it is international state terror happening right before our eyes and it is not the only case.

But Sept. 11 was unique in that respect and it, as you say, lead to the strengthening forces, not only in the west, but throughout the world that want to exploit the opportunity exploit the atrocity as an opportunity to expand projects that are already under way, many of them quite brutal and repressive. For example, Russia eagerly joined the War on Terror and Bush and Putin are drinking vodka about it right now, I suppose. They are very happy to fight the War on Terror because it gains them authorization from the United States for their own horrendous terrorist atrocities in Chechnya, which they have stepped up. Same is true in China, Algeria, Colombia and Turkey, where I was just before, and Israel and Egypt, just about everywhere. 

The western countries themselves have – mostly the governments – have tried to push through what they sometimes call prevention of terrorism ordinances or something like that. [They] have nothing to do with terrorism but are a further way to try to discipline the population and impose obedience, to prepare the terrain for pushing through a program that they know the public is opposed to but will benefit wealth and power, and be implemented during this period in the guise of patriotism.

Patriotism is down to meaning you shut up and I’ll relentlessly pursue my own goals. That is happening everywhere and it takes different form in different places. If it’s a kind of consolidation, one doesn’t know, but it sure is an intensification of repressive harsh efforts ranging from trying to discipline the populations to really serious atrocities.


Redeye: The War on Terrorism has opened doors: a door for further militarization, a further gap between rich and poor, and for escalating racism. How do these things intersect?

Chomsky: Pretty clearly there has been increasing racism that hasn’t been as bad as some had anticipated. How bad it will get I do not know. 

In the case of increased militarization, it is not even a question. The U.S. military which is already greater than most of the of the world combined, certainly far beyond any potential adversary, was sharply increased again and has very little to do with terrorism and has plenty to do with global domination. They are tendencies that already existed, they have simply been intensified.

Leave a comment