Book Review: 9-11

9-11 is a book published in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of New York on the 11th of September 2001.

It is a compilation of answers Noam Chomsky has given to the media and especially newspapers such as The New York Times, il manifesto, El País, Libération, etc., relating to the September 11th attacks.

This book is by no means to be mistaken for the recent film by Michael Moore Fahrenheit 9/11. Although they both attack the actions of the US government, Chomsky’s book is a well balanced, academic insight into why the attack happened, and what the future may hold. He comes from an academic socio-linguistic background and his interest has therefore stemmed from the language politicians and the media use to justify, convince and to persuade the public of their cause.

In this book, there are some hard-hitting questions the media have asked of Chomsky, which could be seen as finding out if he is anti-American or unpatriotic. His answers to these questions clearly show that he is not anti-American nor unpatriotic. Unlike Moore, he does not lay the blame on one side or another, but simply asks why the attack happened. He addresses what we mean by the terms terrorism, war and humanitarian intervention. This is especially relevant when Chomsky examines the US’s definition of a terrorist offence. He points out that if the US was to take literally their own description of terrorism, they themselves could easily be seen as the terrorists. He points out that we cannot see the world as black and white, as good and evil, and that most of the World actually see the US as the terrorists.

He does not make any apologies for the September 11th attacks or feel in anyway as though they were justified, but he instead asks that we need to understand that because of US foreign policy the US cannot be seen any longer as the “innocent victim”. Chomsky says that it is very convenient for the West to believe that the attacks are a revolt against the western, culturally homogenised, “globalised” world. He points out that Osama Bin Laden knows very little of the outside world and has probably never heard of “globalisation”. Bin Laden’s reasons for the attacks were instead; US foreign policy and a resentment of the treatment of Muslim and Arab countries; the contrasting US policies toward Iraq and Israel’s military occupation, the harsh sanctions against Iraq and the US support of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the US supported Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and the US sponsorship of the terrorist bombing of Beirut. It was also a reaction to US support of fundamentalist Islamic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, in order to secure co-operation from the Arab ruling elite, for the exploitation of Middle-Eastern Oil.

Noam Chomsky’s 9-11 was an informative book that makes the reader aware that the terrorist attack on the US was a wake-up call for the US government. The solution, Chomsky believes, is not to declare a war against evil, but to recognise that the atrocities committed by the US in the past and the current policies, are seen by some nations as being terrorist in themselves. The US cannot be seen ONLY as “innocent victims”, but need to take responsibility for their own, in some nation’s eyes, terrorist, actions. This could lead to a revolt against their own nation. He also comments on the possible future action that the US could take in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. He makes the point that when the IRA bombed London, the British government did not bomb Northern Ireland, nor indeed Boston (the source of much of the IRA’s funding). This is an important point, which in light of the fact that the book was compiled within months of the actual attack, could be seen as incredible foresight on Chomsky’s part.

My only criticism of the book is that Chomsky constantly refers to his other publications for a further explanation of some topics discussed briefly in the book. This is to some extent understandable, as the book is quite short, and based on interviews. My objection is that you are left with the feeling that in order to read this particular book it is necessary to buy several other books. At one point I wondered why I bought this book instead of buying one or more of his other publications! On that point though, if anyone is interested in more of Chomsky’s publications, I could recommend some other titles, written before the September 11th attacks that were of great interest to me. They were:
Rogue States The Rule of Force in World Affairs
The Culture of Terrorism
Manufacturing Consent The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Profit Over People neoliberalism and global order

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