• On Noam Chomsky and Osama Bin Laden

    Best buddies Noam and Hugo

    I recently wrote a post on the pseudo-intellectual Chomsky and his strong condemnation of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, which, unsurprisingly, drew the ire of a couple of his dyed-in-the-wool fans.  While the comments left in Chomsky’s defense are striking in their inanity and similar in tone to what I have received in the past from apologists for militant Islam, it seemed that a full post discussing them would be in order. If nothing else, as an example of how political ideology (extreme left in this case) could cloud the judgment of (I am assuming) otherwise intelligent people.

    Let’s start with a few facts that are not in dispute. Chomsky condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden, on the grounds that “his crime was not proven”. He was even dismissive of Bin Laden’s confession, comparing it to someone gloating about something that pleased them without actually having anything to do with it. Also, to borrow directly from my troll, according to Chomsky,

    It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial.

    What a nice example of Monday-morning-quarterbacking. The Marines DID NOT KNOW IN ADVANCE what they would face. Having sent in a large number of them was only prudent. Their number does not mean this was a “planned assassination”. The operation was extremely complicated and risky. As for what they did when they got there-I wasn’t there and I am not sure why they did what they did. The movie dramatizing the event was not called “zero dark thirty” for no reason. It was as dangerous a situation as it gets, at the darkest hour, deep within enemy territory. They had to finish their job and get out of there before the Pakistanis arrived. It is nice for Chomsky to stay in the comfort of his hometown and second guess what happened that night.

    But if you put Chomsky’s objection to the way the operation was conducted in the context of his opinion, of Bin Laden’s crime being far from proven, then it means something else altogether. Effectively Chomsky is telling us Bin Laden was killed because no court would convict him. That is pure rubbish. Can anyone doubt that a random jury of Americans (excluding Chomsky and his fans, and possibly 9/11 “truth” movement) would even need to leave the jury box to turn in a guilty verdict for Bin Laden? To put it differently, how many of those accused of terrorism since 2001 in either civilian or military courts have gotten acquittals?

    To put the matter differently, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (one of Bin Laden’s henchmen) is currently awaiting trial. He was not shot on sight, and there was no need to. Because he was not caught in a dangerous and delicate situation. He will be tried, and the videos in which he makes threats are going to be enough to get a conviction. Because, unlike Chomsky, sane people take a confession to a serious crime as evidence of guilt.

    My troll objects to my finding fault with Chomsky’s phrase “democratic deficit”. According to this Chomsky defender, there is nothing wrong with what he has said, as Chomsky made the indisputable claim that certain stances of the (then Bush) White House were at odds with public opinion. But that is not the point. The question is, is Chomsky himself the person with credibility to speak about the so called “democratic deficit”? In case Chomsky and his ilk missed it, they are not the only ones talking about the government not representing the will of the people. It is not hard to cherry pick some issues on which some government policy or another does not conform to opinion polls. And politicians themselves do it all the time, attacking one another for being “out of touch”. The question that arises, for example, when some Tea Party supporting politicians make this accusation against President Obama, is whether the persons making the accusations are themselves more in touch with the public than the accused. The most hilarious such example, perhaps, is Mitt Romney, living in what can be called a “space ship”, calling the Democrats “out of touch”.

    My troll then told me I shouldn’t mind Chomsky’s calling of Sam Harris and Christopher “religious fundamentalists”, because “they worship the state, enabling US action around the world”. Now, this coming from a person who apparently agrees with the context of “democratic deficit”, is hypocritical in the extreme. Look, for example, at the polls showing 70% of US population approve of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. While the killing of one man-Bin Laden-got Chomsky and his fan mad, the truth is that in that operation no one else was harmed. Drone strikes, on the other hand, do result in death of civilians (their one and only drawback). And yet an overwhelming majority of US population approve of them. Does this mean all those people are “religious fundamentalists”?

    But the gems of this Chomsky fan only get more and more jaw-dropping. When I pointed out that due to Chomsky’s extremism, few politicians ever openly endorse his views, he responded that that is “entirely to Chomsky’s credit”. Really? Well what about neo-confederates, neo-Nazis, and the KKK? Is the fact that no one openly speaks in their favor a plus for them? If Chomsky’s views are so popular that he has to complain about “democratic deficit”, why is it that no one acknowledges him?

    Speaking of which, how can anyone not see through Chomsky’s “democratic deficit” cliché, while Chomsky himself rubs elbows with less than democratic heads of state, like Hugo Chavez? Of course, in the end, Chavez’ undercutting of democracy became too much to stomach, even for Chomsky. But was Chomsky unaware all along that Chavez was a former coup plotter? That he was buddies with the likes of Ahmadinejad and Mugabe? What did he expect?

    While I do not expect facts to change the mind of an ideologue like my troll, I do think that the rehashing of the flaws of being motivated by political ideology is an important part of not falling into the kind of trap that skeptics and free thinkers always warn against. And even though I consider myself politically left leaning (to be point of criticizing political right and left being put on equal grounds when it comes to acceptance of science), sticking with facts is the only way to avoid pitfalls.


    I did make one mistake in this post that I need to correct. In addition to Bin Laden, 3 men and one woman were killed in the operation, as the agents believed was necessary to protect themselves and get to their target. On the other hand-I do not believe this has any bearing on what I have said otherwise. And if anything, I only find it surprising that in a jammed, crowded, dark, and completely (to the agents) cryptic environment, the death toll was not much higher.



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