Of course, these were cold and calculated lies. In fact, it is this kind of malicious libel, characteristic of Chomsky’s political writings that has put them on the shelf alongside the Turner Diaries and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the genre of paranoid conspiracy tracts. Readers unused to such blunt mendacity, might still want to give Chomsky the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they think Chomsky could not possibly have meant what he wrote. Surely he does not mean to place American democracy on a par with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and other apostles of the mass annihilation of innocent populations. If so, however, they would be wrong, and Chomsky is the first to let them know it. "All right," he continues, "let’s turn to the slightly more abstract question, forgetting for the moment that we are in the midst of apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people, not Taliban, of course, their victims..."
Recall how Chomsky sets up the scenario of a Washington plot to deliberately starve 3-4 million innocent Afghan civilians: "On September 16th, the Times reported, I’m quoting, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population." That was September 16th. A month later, on October 16th -- two days before Chomsky’s speech another article appeared written by Elisabeth Busmiller and Elizabeth Becker, which began: "President Bush promoted his relief fund for Afghan children at the headquarters of the American Red Cross today…" In other words, the Bush Administration was working to prevent the starvation of Afghan civilians.
"The Pentagon and the British Defense Ministry," the same article reported, "have agreed to coordinate the air strikes so they will not hit relief convoys…" Evidently, the truck convoys continued. To get to Chomsky’s conclusion, therefore, one has to deny first the reality of American governmental relief efforts and then convert every concern expressed by private relief agencies – some of which like Oxfam have a history of hostility to United States foreign policy -- into irrefutable statements of fact. One would also have to ignore the role played by the Taliban itself in the food crisis. As the Times story itself notes (and Chomsky ignores), the Taliban was stealing food from the very convoys Chomsky refers to, in order to supply their own forces:
The Taliban have also begun levying a tax of $8 to $37 a ton on wheat coming into the country. "One convey of 1,000 tons of wheat was held up for five days trying to negotiate the tax," Mark Bartolini of the International Rescue Committee said. Since airstrikes began, several warehouses have been looted and local staff members have been beaten.Of course the war conditions in Afghanistan that militate against the delivery of food are the result of the terrorist aggression supported by the Taliban regime. No one would think of blaming Churchill and FDR, rather than Hitler, for the harsh conditions in Germany during the war.
Actually, I rather think Chomsky would.
On November 16 -- almost a month after Chomsky’s MIT talk -- another article appeared on the front page of the New York Times with the title, "Now, the Battle to Feed the Afghan Nation." Written by Tim Weiner, the article reported that the American military was using its full resources to "deliver relief for millions of hungry, cold, sick, war-weary Afghans." Moreover, "NATO allies" -- acting as a "full partner" to relief agencies – "will ship food, clothing, shelter and medicine to the nations surrounding Afghanistan for United Nations relief organizations, private aid groups and intrepid Afghan truckers to deliver to people in ruined cities and shattered villages."
In other words, the facts tell a story the exact opposite of Chomsky’s malicious claims. US led military action saved Afghan lives, led to the restoration of food relief, and lessened the danger of the mass starvation that might have been in store had Taliban rule continued. Because of the US action, some five million Afghans, who could have starved, now have hope. While the aid effort is international, the US alone is "paying for much of the good that the coalition is moving into Afghanistan." As Mark Bartolini, vice president of the International Rescue Committee told the Times, "had this war not occurred, we wouldn’t have had the access we have now -- the best access in the past decade." At the time, the Bush administration had in fact provided $320 million in food aid, which has "resolved for the moment" the question of actual food supplies getting to the people.
The Times story was reinforced by an article by Laura Rozen in the on-line magazine Salon.com, which appeared the next day: "Aid experts say that the agencies’ repeated alarms about the impact of the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban have ignored the fact that more food has been reaching Afghanistan since the U.S. bombing began than was before—a lot more." Rozen quotes John Fawcett, a humanitarian relief worker, who stated unequivocally, "more aid has gone into Afghanistan in the past month than in the past year. The aid agencies cried wolf. They said the bombing will stop us from delivering humanitarian aid. It will create 1.5 million refugees. Well, in fact, the result of the bombing is there are 150,000 new refugees -- one-tenth of what they expected, and there’s been a tenfold increase of humanitarian aid getting in..."
Chomsky’s indictment had two counts – the alleged genocide and the silence that supposedly accompanied it: "Plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it." The first count -- as we have easily established -- is obviously false. The second originates in a thesis familiar to readers of Chomsky’s book, Manufacturing Consent, a vulgar Marxist tract arguing that the American media functions as a propaganda agency for the government and its ruling class bosses. In his MIT address, Chomsky asserted, "the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I’m aware that was unreported. [Chomsky did not reveal how he knew this if it was "unreported."] That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can’t find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir."
In fact, the story in the Boston Globe was headlined "Fighting Terror Tensions in South Asia" – a region that includes Afghanistan – and there were three full paragraphs on the pleadings of the aid groups to stop the bombing. Moreover, as the citations above show, the story received attention in other sources, including the Times story of October 16. It was also reported on the nightly television network newscasts. It is reasonable to presume that the reason the story failed to receive even wider coverage was that it had no basis in fact, but only in the exaggerated fears of the aid groups, which responsible reporters would check. Put another way, the reason the genocide of Afghans was not a big news feature was that it was not news at all; it was just a figment of Noam Chomsky’s malignant imagination. Since there was no such planned genocide there was also no silence concerning one. Chomsky built his case, as his practice, on a tissue of distortions. It is in the cumulative effect of these distortions that his cultic power derives.
A good final point there. The blizzard of facts and figures, which goes by so quickly that the audience can barely register them, let alone verify their context or authenticity, is the preferred form of Chomskyite argument. The real issue here, however, is bad faith. Chomsky sees his audience's likely ignorance as an opportunity to exploit, rather than an impetus to intellectual responsibility. This is the true mark of the totalitarian intellectual at work. His goal is not to enlighten or to educate, but to control. I have to say, I think Chomsky's statements on Afghanistan represent some sort of nadir for the American intellectual Left. Here is their primary guru, immediately following a horrendous terrorist atrocity on American soil; accusing his own country of monstrous crimes in full consciousness of the fact that there was no truth in it whatsoever. If you want to know how low Chomskyites can sink, this is it.