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September 11: Book Review of Noam Chomsky's "The Attack"

"Perhaps the media are only a well-lubricated propaganda machine", Irene Dische writes, "that now pleads strongly for Bush and the religious right. `America at War' is the national show and thus also the national experience. Protest was not desired." This book review is translated from the original German.
September 11

By Darius Dunker

[This book review of Noam Chomsky. The Attack. Backgrounds and Consequences, Europe Verlag 2002 originally published in: CuS (Christ und Sozialist 4/01 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.brsd.de/CuS_Aktuell/Elfter_September/elfer_septermber.html.]

A great need for information arose right after the attacks in New York and Washington. At the same time, we realized that the quick simple answers would not be enough to judge the events and their consequences. How can anything serious be published a few weeks later? Many opinions should be compiled without declaring one opinion definitive.

Rowohlt published a collection of newspaper articles on the first reactions. A pathetic speech by Toni Morrison on the "September dead" is followed by several reports on impressions of the day of the attacks that hardly went beyond shock. Irene Dische also heard the more gentle tones and seismographically described the changes in the course of the first days after the attacks. "Perhaps the media are only a well-lubricated propaganda machine", Dische writes, "that now pleads strongly for Bush and the religious right. [... ] `America at War' is the national show and thus also the national experience. [... ] Protest was not desired. However it slid into the program sometimes. The restaurant, Windows on the World on the top floor of the tower, was the first to fall. The young woman knew that her husband was dead. However she also knew that her husband had a message to the American people. [... ] `He would reject all vengeance. No retribution. No revenge. He would speak with the perpetrators. His death cannot be cancelled by shedding the blood of other persons.' [... ] `We should try to reach a common understanding with those who hate us.'"

Amid all the repetitions on the channels, this interview did not appear any more. Instead we see Americans who buy flags and demand retribution, revenge and God's blessing.

In his article "Are we all Americans?", Klaus Harpprecht sees this very differently. "Is it true that Americans after the frightening signal of September 11 are abandoned to an orgy of hate feelings and longings for revenge? They announce their unremitting hostility to the terrorists. However don't the voices admonishing level-headedness and circumspection predominate?"

In his book "September 11", the American linguist Noam Chomsky sees references to Europe. "During the last two hundred years, the US annihilated the native population of North America (millions of people), conquered half of Mexico, occupied Hawaii and the Philippians (and killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos) and after the Second World War extended its form of violence to nearly all regions of the earth. This entailed enormous casualties. Now the cannons are turned around for the first time. This is a dramatic change."

This is also true for Europe which unlike the US was driven to the edge of destruction by intercontinental wars. Nevertheless this did not stop the European powers from conquering the world with brutal force without fearing the retaliation of their victims (Chomsky names India, Congo, Ethiopia and Algeria). "No wonder that Europe experienced September 11 as just as much a shock as the United States."

As to Bin Laden and his organization, globalization and cultural hegemony of the US don't matter to them any more than the poor and oppressed in the Middle East whom they harmed for years. They say clearly what is central to them: they are in a holy war against the corrupt, oppressive and `un-islamic' regimes of the region and their supporters."

Whoever reads "War Against People" and Chomsky's other articles from the last years already knows much of this. "The Attack" is ultimately only an interview on current developments extended to nearly a hundred pages. Many points are concretized here that Chomsky presented elsewhere. In addition this volume offers backgrounds on Bin Laden and the secret services.

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