Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Wicked Eunuch: Chomsky on 9/11

“It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.”
—General Douglas MacArthur, 15 May 1951

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”
—Sun Tzu

“…which is just gonna leave a lot of things unexplained, I mean that’s the way the world is.”
—Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has bridled at the idea that 9/11 could have been to any significant degree the result of a state-level conspiracy, expressing his irritation at a recent presentation where he held forth for several minutes on the topic. Chomsky is a figure worthy in certain respects of the esteem accorded him, but his views on 9/11 reflect a common and dangerous mis-appraisal of the techniques of contemporary statecraft and, more shockingly (coming from him), of the long-worsening psychosis afflicting and increasingly characterizing the US military/industrial complex. The point made by Chomsky during his talk that 9/11 was a boon for authoritarian governments the world over is well-taken (if hardly original), yet beyond this his opinions regarding the attacks range from foolish to insidious.

Listed in the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (1992) as the most often-cited living author of the 1980s, Chomsky was recently touted on the floor of the UN’s General Assembly by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and, in another indication of his singular cultural status, has been referred to by international pop star Bono as a “rebel without a pause, the Elvis of academia.” Considering his academic and popular reputation, and his generally laudable contributions to letters historically, Chomsky’s irked condescension on the matter of 9/11 is especially perilous, given that—in light of critical studies by (among others) David Ray Griffin and Nafeez Ahmed—the psychosis of US state militarism appears to have manifested to a very real and criminal degree in Anglo-American state sponsorship of the September 11th 2001 attacks.

Not stooping to consider such sources, and bemoaning what he sees as the irrational interest in the subject of conspiracy on the part of many on the left, Chomsky recites the secularist mantra that a cover-up on the scale of 9/11 could never be maintained (not that it has been in other than his and other minds refusing to consider the relevant historical and forensic record). In support of his overall position he offers his rather incongruous and wholly unsubstantiated assurance that if the attacks had been pulled off by forces within the government those responsible would have been placed before firing squads and executed. The precise character of his detachment from reality here is difficult to gauge, since it’s not clear whom Chomsky’s assumes would (vigilante-style, apparently) dispatch the culprits, whether the US military and/or law enforcement, a proletariat finally taken to arms, or some anarchist or libertarian-socialist faction about which only he knows.

Assuming the first, one wonders which of Chomsky’s military contacts have assured him of such loyalty, against the public opinion of numerous former government officials and retired members of the armed forces and intelligence services of various ranks and experience who’ve expressed strong and apparently informed opinions that 9/11 was indeed an “inside job.” This considerable list includes Lt. Col. Shelton F. Lankford, a retired U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, who remarks, “Your countrymen have been murdered and the more you delve into it the more it looks as though they were murdered by our government, who used it as an excuse to murder other people thousands of miles away. If you ridicule others who have sincere doubts and who know factual information that directly contradicts the official report and who want explanations from those who hold the keys to our government, and have motive, means, and opportunity to pull off a 9/11, but you are too lazy or fearful, or... to check into the facts yourself, what does that make you?”

Not giving the slightest indication that he’s bothered to consider the scholarly treatments on the matter by Ahmed or Griffin or dissents from the official narrative of the attacks by those who’ve actually worked within the military/industrial establishment, Chomsky arbitrarily limits the list of suspects to the “Bush administration.” In offering his personal assurance that an official conspiracy is “extremely unlikely,” he states, “for one thing they would have had to have been insane to try anything like that… If they had, it’s almost certain it would have leaked.” In hastening to assure us of the administration’s sanity Chomsky simply ignores revelations from a number of government personnel that strongly indicate official complicity in the attacks, such as that provided by (among others) Robert Wright and Colleen Rowley (both at the time of the FBI), as well as then-Counsel for the US House of Representatives David Schippers, who reports that a dozen FBI agents approached him five weeks before 9/11 with detailed and specific information regarding the impending terror attacks which, according to Schippers, the agents claimed they were being thwarted from preventing by superiors who’d threatened them with reprimand and prosecution under the National Security Act should they pursue their investigations further. If the extensive and damning testimonials of these figures does not comprise the sort of “leaks” to which Mr. Chomsky refers, it’s difficult to imagine what would. Yet heedless of them, the professor yammers on, “You know it’s a very poor system, secrets are hard to keep.”

“Something would have leaked out very likely…” he continues, as if reiterating the inevitability erases the fact. “…and if it had they would have all been before firing squads and that would have been the end of the Republican party forever.” Were it naiveté such spellbinding idiocy would almost be endearing, as it implies any number of irrational assumptions, not the least of which is that only Republicans would have been implicated, and that our military or law-enforcement agencies, wholly innocent of the affair themselves, would take matters, vigilante-style, into their own hands. Lost in his spaghetti-western daydream of frontier justice, Chomsky refuses to suspect, much less see, what should be obvious to him of all people: the systemic nature of the corruption afflicting the late- (i.e. corporate- or monopoly-) capitalist military/industrial power structure.

Continuing to insist in defiance of the public record that “what you can be almost certain of is that any hint of the plan would have leaked and it would have just destroyed them,” Chomsky heaps further rhetoric on a foundation of what’s either ignorance or stupidity, neglecting that “hints” of the plan not only “leaked,” but were so numerous that “the system was blinking red” according to then-CIA director Tenet, the very official described by 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick as “running around town” prior to the attacks “with his hair on fire.” This state of affairs is confirmed (among other places) by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who asserts that the essential outlines of the attacks had been “common knowledge” throughout the FBI prior to 9/11.

In claiming that “anyone who knows anything about the sciences would instantly discount that evidence” indicating 9/11 was a conspiracy, Chomsky is ignoring, or outright smearing, the considerable and growing body of highly qualified academic and relevant professional opinion indicating official complicity, a body of critical judgment which appears to outweigh as well as outclass that offered by the actual (that is active) defenders of the official story, who’ve regularly resorted to distortion, denial and prevarication in defense of their nevertheless mercurial positions. This point is spelled out in such books as 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions as well as in more recent lectures and articles by David Ray Griffin and Kevin Ryan, including Ryan’s superb March 13, 2007 article, “9/11: Looking for Truth in Credentials: The Peculiar WTC ‘Experts’.”

Displaying his woeful ignorance of the technical expertise that’s been brought to bear on the matter by scholars, military personnel and other professionals, Chomsky glibly lays such contributions to “all kinds of elaborate conspiracy theories,” never pausing to consider that the greatly unverifiable (when not demonstrably false) version of events spoon-fed to him by the regime is precisely an “elaborate conspiracy theory.” In claiming such a plot could never be controlled Chomsky reveals his devoutly unreasoning acceptance of the basic tenets of the official story in spite of the lack of evidence supporting most every aspect of them, not to mention the broadly damning countervailing data, which again he merely ignores: “You couldn’t predict that the plane would actually hit the World Trade Center. I mean it happened that it did, but it could easily have missed.” According to Chomsky’s “reasoning,” it would never occur to folks at the top of a highly compartmentalized military/industrial bureaucracy capable of putting people in space and orbiting satellites around distant planets to switch planes and/or remotely control them into their targets in a secret operation with striking similarities to one signed off on in 1962 by a unanimous U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such history, amply documented in renown journalist James Bamford’s Body of Secrets, is out of bounds for Chomsky, who would have us attribute all such references to the “huge industry” peddling “all kinds of elaborate conspiracy theories” that have hoodwinked so many lesser intelligences than his hermetic own.

(A digression: In a weird and perhaps telling subliminal moment Chomsky appears distinctly to state, “It’s completely unpredictable what was going to happen. I mean you couldn’t predict that the plane was going to hit the World Trade Center. I mean I’m happy that it did, but you know, it could easily have missed.” One must be especially careful on such slippery Freudian slopes, but Chomsky’s grim performance in nearly every other moment on the subject warrants the risk here; giving him the benefit of the doubt it’s clear that he’s merely garbled an expression, having meant to say that “it happened that” the plane hit the building. Chomsky’s remarks are off the cuff, and it’s arguable that one should not read too much into them, yet the mounting perversity of his ramblings exposes a latent nihilism common to much leftist discourse on 9/11, an attitude spelled out toward the end of his statements on the matter that’s more directly foreshadowed here when he goes on to state that for officials “to take a chance on something like [9/11] would be meaningless.” Until considering those later statements it will suffice to comment that, in his curious choice of terms, Chomsky implies that even if officials on the off off-chance had done it, this would merely place us in a realm beyond meaning itself…)

Next Chomsky appears to justify dismissing evidence he gives no indication of having considered by stating that, while there may have been “plenty of coincidences and unexplained phenomena” surrounding the matter of “why didn’t this happen, why didn’t that happen, and so on” on 9/11, “ the same is true” for a “controlled scientific experiment” or “a natural event.” “Afterwards you can put them into some kind of pattern, but beforehand you can’t. The pattern may be completely meaningless because you can put it into some other pattern too if you want to. That’s just the way complicated events are. So the evidence that’s been produced” indicating conspiracy “in my opinion is essentially worthless. And the belief that it could have been done…has such low credibility that I don’t really think it’s serious.”

Just what is Chomsky saying here? That analysis can’t meaningfully predict or anticipate any “natural events,” such as a major volcanic eruption or the course of a hurricane or disease? Or that no valid interpretations whatsoever may be drawn from experimental data? Or that the study of phenomena pertaining to such events is a waste of time? And that, by direct analogy, there is never any compelling reason for officials to take seriously the kind of multiple, concise, detailed and urgent advanced warnings from various credible foreign and domestic sources of an impending attack (such as our government had received before 9/11), since there’s no possible way to meaningfully interpret them? That we are stranded in a present bereft of any consequential contact with the past or future, reliant utterly upon corrupt regimes for explanations of any “complicated events?”

Such navel-gazing makes sinister politics. Against the amount and quality of evidence pertaining to the attacks in the public record—again, none of which he gives us the slightest reason to suspects he’s deigned to glance at—Chomsky, in making what’s essentially an a priori case against government complicity, adopts a virulent rationalism verging on outright denial of the validity of empirical science. One wonders how far into the realm of forensics he would extend such defiant incredulity. Is there no way to catch a murderer who’s fled the scene? Certainly not if the prosecution denies the validity of the evidence without giving any hint that it’s so much as looked at it! Or would Chomsky only advocate such resignation in the case of a “complicated event” like 9/11? And just where we would he instruct that we draw the line?

What state of affairs is Chomsky advocating here? Would he urge us to ignore our own rape because the assailant had blindfolded us?

What Chomsky is advancing is no more than a desperate and hostile ploy based in his own neurosis. His hand shows when, after claiming that talk of official complicity in 9/11 is “diverting people from serious issues” he implicitly reveals why he needn’t have paid any attention to evidence he’s nevertheless qualified to dismiss. “Even if it’s true” that 9/11 was an inside job, “…who cares? I mean, it doesn’t have any significance. I mean it’s a little bit like the huge amount of energy that’s put out on trying to figure out who killed John F. Kennedy. I mean, who knows, and who cares…plenty of people get killed all the time. Why does it matter that one of them happens to be John F. Kennedy?” Or three thousand predominantly middle and working class people in Washington DC and downtown Manhattan, presumably.

Cementing his analogy, Chomsky continues, “If there was some reason to believe that there was a high level conspiracy” involved in the JFK assassination, “it might be interesting, but the evidence against that is just overwhelming.” (As always, we’re left to take on faith that he’s thoroughly reviewed the matter.) “And after that it’s just a matter of, uh, if it’s a jealous husband or the mafia or someone else, what difference does it make?” (Those who’ve wasted their lives investigating the assassination of a United States president may now add to their repertoire of suspects the “jealous husband.”) “It’s just taking energy away from serious issues onto ones that don’t matter. And I think the same is true here,” with 9/11.

Such dizzying superciliousness bears recapping: no amount or quality of evidence (though we’re assured it isn’t any good anyway) could ever substantiate the inside-job hypothesis, since planning such a conspiracy (and we have the professor’s word on it) could “almost” never be kept secret (even though it wasn’t), and anyway “funny coincidences” (ha ha) and “unexplained phenomena” surround everything; meanwhile, even if 9/11 was a conspiracy, it simply doesn’t matter! Circling his rhetorical wagons (not to mention his logic), Chomsky provides two justifications for dismissing an argument whose fundamental tenets he refuses to consider: the evidence can’t prove anything on the one hand, and on the other, what it would prove “doesn’t have any significance.” The strategies Chomsky employs to trump those who would oppose him are as devious as they are absurd. Not only can we, a priori, never meaningful demonstrate the likelihood that our government attacked us (on 9/11 or, presumably, in any future incidence—unless heads have already rolled), the fact that it did would itself be a distraction from “serious issues.”

A more deluded impotence, or abject masochism, seems impossible.

Chomsky’s crude assumption that those responsible for a conspiracy such as 9/11 would be put before “firing squads” is vastly allusive in its farcicality, revealing his delusory grasp of the contemporary Anglo-American power-structure. Note the assurance with which Chomsky insists upon the immediate inevitability of a momentous, extra-Constitutional and entirely unprecedented coup d'état in the event of a state-sponsored conspiracy, doubtless executed by a guileless military command not in the least set on its heels by events. Here the man who once described the Pentagon as “the most hideous institution on Earth” not only appears to exempt it from all suspicion in the event of a state-sponsored terrorist act, he seems to rely upon it for the prompt remedying to the crime. Chomsky’s swoon over our valorous and invincible avengers ignores critical evidence and testimony pertaining to the abject corruption of key segments of the US armed (specifically aspects of the “special”) forces, as well as the debasing effects of prolonged states of militarization on nations historically. Chomsky also overlooks the historical threat, pointed out by Machiavelli, that’s posed to government by privatized military (or mercenary) entities (a formidable presence in the US at present). Add to this the various conflicts of interest at the top of the military command structure (with figures including Donald Rumsfeld deeply invested in companies that have reaped gargantuan profits in light of what have been termed “the 9/11 wars”) and the interpenetration of military brass (active and retired) and the boards of powerful private arms consortiums including Halliburton, DynCorp, Raytheon and Blackwater. In short, what General MacArthur revealingly characterized as “an artificially induced psychosis” is a condition in which the United States has been maintained more or less now for generations, and a considerable body of data suggests this has had a tragically deleterious effect upon the morale and morality of the US military, both official (public) and unofficial (private). (This issue is expanded upon in my essay “Tricks of Treason.”)

It must be noted that Chomsky’s “intellectual” predisposition appears remarkably tailored to authoritarian regimes, whose most audacious domestic crimes—impossible to demonstrate in any case (that is, without their having been already punished by the military arm of the state!)—are consigned to a “meaningless” realm, all for the sake of “serious issues.” The surreal futility prescribed by Chomsky in the face of 9/11 is, from a literary point of view—with reference to Milan Kundera and Franz Kafka—precisely that endured by victims of authoritarianism. In his presentation Chomsky endorses a profoundly neurotic state of being, one detached from any empirical analysis (at least in the case of a state-altering crime or “complicated event”) in which we’re reliant in our gauging of official conduct on vague truisms and testily avuncular assurances regarding the mercenary enforcement of justice by members of the military, all based on nothing more than the famous thinker’s undemonstrated expertise on such matters.

Additionally, by paternalistically denying (and thus, in psychological terms, perpetuating) the real and enduring trauma inflicted on 9/11, Chomsky would not only leave the collective psychological wound unfathomed, but brusquely dismiss (even as he falls prey to?) its deranging effects, as though we should be ashamed of ourselves for even considering the idea that anyone in our national power structure might have had a hand in murdering us (much less any evidence suggesting it), or of having any feelings whatsoever about the September 11th attacks.

Confirmed in his diatribe is what, in reference to his intellectual history, may fairly be regarded as Chomsky’s fundamentally Stalinist predilections, revealed on this crucial count by an irrational and ahistorical faith (of sorts) in a military establishment that has otherwise been the subject of his excoriations. Again, as is the case with so many “leftist critics” of the system, for Chomsky 9/11 marks an essentially magical exception to the malevolencies of US imperialism (not to mention the art and science of forensics), an exemption from history in which is preserved that immaculate, Janus-faced idol apparently sacrosanct to his didactics: the image of the terrorist as an essentially heroic or well-intentioned (however flawed) freedom-fighter, and the equally noble image of the patriotic and dutiful soldier sworn above all to protect the citizenry. Like the faith of some radical mullah or inquisitor, Chomsky’s secularism appears here as an idealizing adoration of power, a nigh-prurient beatification of a martial force he’s never participated in nor, judging from the evidence, studied in sufficient depth. Suggested here is a simplistic faith in the figure of the warrior (whether guerilla or soldier) that recalls the loyalty or “worship” accorded in the final analysis to the master by his fool—or the ravisher by the cuckold.

His sentimental 18th century impressions of military patriotism and martial conflict aside, Chomsky’s is, at least in this instance, not only a dogmatic but a voyeur’s leftism, one which, for all its intellectual pretensions, appears ultimately to aver to the glory of the greater or “final” conflict (those “serious issues?”) in whose name the academician is licensed to sanctify, or deny the relevance of, any intervening carnage. In that it insists we simply forget about an issue that would surely matter to a majority of the US if not world population (and which could impact like nothing else support for current US-imperialist war aims), Chomsky’s is a disgusting, vain and cruel intellectual elitism, a hallmark of which is his incessant ploy of substituting mere dismissal of arguments for serious engagement with them.

Chomsky’s stance on 9/11 is merely a reassertion of those tendencies which precluded his criticizing or distancing himself (until much belatedly) from Cambodia’s genocidal Pol Pot regime. Though the jig is up when he reasserts that ham-fistedly theatrical claim echoed among the doctrinaire—that 9/11 doesn’t matter—Chomsky raises the ante with a further asinine (if revelatory) provocation, contending that even if the attacks were an inside-job, “who cares? …it doesn’t have any significance.” Just like the JFK assassination, “People get killed all the time.”

Here, cold-blooded arrogance is the only mask sufficient to the intellectual authoritarian’s impotence. Though it’s disguised as consummate reasonableness, this “analytical” butchery emulates the physical carnage it envies. His pedantic sadism compensating for his historical irrelevance, Chomsky signals (however momentarily) a response to the possibility of 9/11’s state-sponsorship that’s far more craven and servile—if nevertheless predictable—than mere paralysis: an alignment with the attackers whomever they may be based in denial of their crime’s even mattering! This opportunistic concurrence with the killers, a squirming and obsequious capitulation to or veneration of their power is betrayed by a flippant readiness or unconcern (at least on the part of this moneyed old man and his “radical” discipleship) for whatever conflagration or apotheosis 9/11 might portend. The ugly armchair bluff (or is he leveling with us?) of this cynical fossil should sober those inured to his hagiography.

Claiming the minority position visa-vie 9/11, an ostensibly besieged Chomsky (here a cerebral warrior, at least) presents himself as the lone voice of reason on the matter. “I should say I’m pretty isolated on this in the west… A large part of the left completely disagrees with this and has all kinds of elaborate conspiracy theories, you know, about how it happened and why it happened and so forth… First of all I think it’s completely wrong but I also think it’s diverting people from serious issues.” If Chomsky represents a minority leftist position on 9/11 (which is doubtful), it’s curious indeed that practically no major left wing publication or forum has covered (much less endorsed) the inside-job hypothesis with other than begrudging timidity or outright contempt. (A recent article by David Ray Griffin in Tikkun is a welcome exception.) This may point to that disconnect between the left and those increasingly hackneyed and arrogant voices claiming to represent it. While interest in the truth about the attacks typically draws together a cross-section of working class people (including “first responders” to the attacks and various activists including students), those leftist voices ignoring, dismissing or deriding their efforts do so largely from tenured positions, graduate programs, endowed foundations, and editorships.

His conceit places Chomsky in denial of the possibility that those whose efforts he derides may have simply undertaken an entirely traditional and rational forensic procedure, basing their speculations on aspects of the public record relevant to the attacks—including scholarly, technical, military and professional expertise—and hashing out their positions in light of further research, revelations and behavior on the part of suspect or apparently complicit actors and entities. Especially in light of the abysmal and admitted failure of officials to have undertaken the essential task of adequately investigating 9/11, this would hardly seem the waste of time Chomsky portrays it as, but a critical endeavor based in self-respect, not to mention -preservation. Once again, had Chomsky demonstrated that he’d paid even modest consideration to the broad array of arguments and evidence—historical, circumstantial as well as physical—advanced by skeptics of the official 9/11 story, his posturing might be tolerable.

Fortunately, Chomsky’s anxiety here may reflect that the “fundamentalist” rationalism he represents is being effectively countered by a dynamic and nuanced historical empiricism (under)represented in the academy by (among others) Peter Dale Scott, the elder statesman of “deep politics” (the term Scott coined), a field of study that remains largely alien to that still-predominant strain of pedantry preferring the self-congratulatory pieties of its own hall of mirrors to the rigorous and detail-laden discipline of that class of intellects threatening not a moment too soon to supplant it.

In fairness, Chomsky has joined calls for a new investigation of 9/11. But even this is suspect, given his peevish performance critiqued here, in light of which this Stalinist, ever alert to power’s shifting nature, is merely covering his ass by having it both ways, while slanting—naturally—heavily to that position presently favored by public bias and intellectual chic. One wonders what Chomsky thinks a new investigation might reveal, given that 9/11 doesn’t matter regardless of who’s at fault! Perhaps he’s so sure his position will be born out that he’s willing to support a costly and in any case traumatic venture merely to enhance his own reputation? Or maybe he’d just like to see faith restored in the US government or the loyal military he so trusts to handle any civilians who—exclusively in his analysis—might get out of line? Given the record, one is hard pressed to make any sense of Chomsky’s “position,” other than to see it as reflective (and to this degree forgivable) of the schizophrenia which, as Webster Tarpley notes, is increasingly definitive of Anglo-American culture, and which the trauma of 9/11 has drastically worsened. (Chomsky’s own schizophrenia is apparent in the disconnect between his acknowledgement that 9/11 augmented authoritarianism world-wide, and his ensuing claim that the question of who’s responsible for the attacks is essentially “meaningless.”)

The screaming irony here is that it’s with nothing more than a kind of Norman Rockwell-idealization (however severe) of—of all things!—the United States military that Noam Chomsky—of all people!—denies—of all things!—the apparent reality that 9/11 was a direct attack (however covert) by the powerful Anglo-American elite upon the middle and working classes of the technological/industrial west aimed at marshalling them into aggression against the largely Arab/Islamic, resource-rich and strategically located nations (at least one of whose oil fields had already been divvied up by a vice president-elect’s Energy Task Force) of the lower-Caspian Sea region, all with the hoary imperialist (and clearly spelled-out US) aim of capturing control of central Eurasia and, thus, the world.

It’s in this context, which includes the parlous state of international affairs presently (with the US poised to attack Iran, a mercurial buckling of geopolitical alignments, instability in the world economy and heightened Russian bellicosity) that Chomsky’s supreme egotism in the face of 9/11 must be judged. In spite of precedent and the public record, this “critic” of the late-capitalist system is no more (or less!) than guaranteeing its infallibility in precluding a direct attack by the most powerful against the weaker among us. This is mere extolling of the power-principle at the expense of history and reason, an appliqué of legitimacy (courtesy of the system’s most illustrious detractor!) at just that forensically most tangled, revealing and vulnerable interstices of the regime’s legacy. There is every reason to reject as strident dilettantism, informed by little more than his own neurotic pretensions, Chomsky’s babbling about attacks that have triggered, in the vice-president’s words, “a war that will not end in our lifetime:” namely World War III, whose impending acceleration no amount of bullying obscurantism, however romantic its illusions, will ameliorate.

9/11 matters. Most especially if it’s an inside job. In a US hamstrung by terror-state cant, demonstrating state culpability in the attacks confronts people with a vision of monopoly-capitalist degeneracy more visceral than any number of Chomsky’s “serious issues” combined. It’s the truth about 9/11—all too apparent (however hazy certain of its details) to those who bother looking for it—that most immediately and fatally corrodes support for the criminal militarism that’s come to define “America.” At the very least, acknowledgement of 9/11 as an apparent act of state-sponsored terror inoculates, against the poisonous and incessant invective of Anglo-American state propaganda, those even moderately capable of grappling with the broader political issues facing humanity, as anyone who’s risked so harrowing a liberation can testify.

In spite of his aloof tut-tutting in the face of serious scholarship on the matter, the self-evident remains: the 9/11 conspiracy—if demonstrated with reasonable (what philosophers label moral) certainty—matters more than Chomsky dares imagine. His caviling contrarianism and obscene diffidence only detract from that most urgent task undertaken by serious scholars on the left, such as Nafeez Ahmed: facing the profound ramifications of 9/11’s actual nature. Meanwhile, however vague specific aspects of the attacks must for now remain, revealing the apparent reality behind 9/11 (as it’s ascertainable through consideration of the public record pertaining to the event overall) is the single most potent threat to oligarchic hegemony and its essentially predatory program of “globalization,” and is thus the “important issue” sine qua non.

Meanwhile, Chomsky’s drivel appears founded on little more than his neurotic defensiveness in regard to his legacy of denying apparent state-level conspiracies historically. His obdurate refusal to countenance serious scholarship on 9/11—his “invincible ignorance” (in the Jesuit’s phrase)—is, however galling, a measure of his own pinched and attenuated snobbery (a sort of anarchist vogue) and his humiliating failure to recognize the nature of present-day militarism, the techniques of secret intelligence agencies, as well as the essence of contemporary terrorism as a calculated if covert mechanism of statecraft, issues potently (if necessarily tentatively) analyzed by Ahmed and numerous others.

Chomsky’s intellectual dissipation, characterized by a carping if clinical detachment, could persuade only those who would imitate it. To anyone other than his most slavish acolytes, or those who in their own desperation or fatalism are inclined to credit his groundless assertions, what he’s demonstrated is that, when it comes to serious appraisal of 9/11—and much that’s related to it—it’s Noam Chomsky that doesn’t matter.

—March 2007