My post on the Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment leads to the question on how terrorism should be defined.
Interesting here is Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book ” A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”, and a review essay in the 29 July NYT Book Review by the same author, and comments on that essay in ‘ Net Blogs ‘ 31 July 2007 by Noam Chomsky.
I begin with quotations from Wikipedia.
“Terrorism in the modern sense is violence or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians for political or other ideological goals. Most definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are intended to create fear or “terror”, are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or utterly disregard the safety of non-combatants. Many definitions also include only acts of unlawful violence.”
“The word “terrorism” was first used in reference to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. A 1988 study by the United States Army found that more than one hundred definitions of the word exist and have been used.”
“Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, considered to be one of the most significant contributions to the field of linguistics made in the 20th century. He also helped spark the cognitive revolution in psychology through his review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior, in which he challenged the behaviorist approach to the study of behavior and language dominant in the 1950s. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has also affected the philosophy of language and mind (see Harman and Fodor). He is also credited with the establishment of the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar during the 1980-1992 time period, and was the eighth-most cited scholar in any time period.”
“Beginning with his critique of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Chomsky has become more widely known â€” especially internationally â€” for his media criticism and politics. He is generally considered to be a key intellectual figure within the left wing of United States politics. Chomsky is widely known for his political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments.”
“Samantha Power (born 1970) is a journalist, writer, and professor. She is currently affiliated with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Power was raised in Ireland before emigrating to the United States in 1979. She attended Lakeside High School in Atlanta, GA. She was a member of the cross country team as well the basketball team. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School. From 1993 to 1996, she covered the Yugoslav wars for U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, The Economist, and The New Republic.
She is a scholar of foreign policy especially as it relates to human rights, genocide, and AIDS. Her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”, won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2003. She endorses the Genocide Intervention Network.”
Noam Chomsky was asked to comment on the essay in the New York Time Book Reviews by Samantha Power and replied as follows (some extracts, bold by me) (for the complete reply and comments by various people click here).
Noam Chomsky: “It was an interesting article, and her work, and its popularity, gives some insight into the reigning intellectual culture.
There are many interesting aspects to the article. One is that “terrorism” is implicitly defined as what THEY do to US, excluding what WE do to THEM. But that’s so deeply engrained in the state religion that it’s hardly worth mentioning. A little more interesting is Power’s tacit endorsement of the Bush doctrine that states that harbor terrorists are no different from terrorist states, and should be treated accordingly: bombed and invaded, and subjected to regime change. There is, of course, not the slightest doubt that the US harbors terrorists, even under the narrowest interpretation of that term: e.g., by the judgment of the Justice Department and the FBI, which accused Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch of dozens of terrorist acts and urged that he be deported as a threat to US security. He was pardoned by Bush I, and lives happily in Florida, where he has now been joined by his associate Luis Posada, thanks to Bush II’s lack of concern about harboring terrorists. There are plenty of others, even putting aside those who have offices in Washington. Like John Negroponte, surely one of the leading terrorists of the late 20th century, not very controversially, so naturally appointed to the position of counter-terrorism Czar by Bush II, with no particular notice. Even keeping to the completely uncontroversial cases, like Bosch, it follows that Power and the NY Times are calling for the bombing of Washington. But — oddly — the Justice Department is not about to indict them, though people are rotting in Guantanamo on far lesser charges. What is interesting and enlightening is that no matter how many times trivialities like this are pointed out — and it’s been many times — it is entirely incomprehensible within the intellectual culture. That reveals a very impressive level of subordination to authority and indoctrination, well beyond what one would expect in totalitarian states.”
“To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.—-I’ve written about this repeatedly, for example, in 9/11. And I’ve been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it’s all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture.—It should be unnecessary to comment on how Western humanists would react if Iranian-backed terrorists destroyed half the pharmaceutical supplies in Israel, or the US, or any other place inhabited by human beings. And it is only fair to add that Sudanese too sometimes do rise to the level of human beings. For example in Darfur, where their murder can be attributed to Arabs, the official enemy (apart, that is, from “good Arabs,” like the tyrants who rule Saudi Arabia, “moderates” as Rice and others explain).
“I don’t think, incidentally, that it would be fair to criticize Power for her extraordinary services to state violence and terror. I am sure she is a decent and honorable person, and sincerely believes that she really is condemning the US leadership and political culture. From a desk at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School at Harvard, that’s doubtless how it looks. Insufficient attention has been paid to Orwell’s observations on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. One factor, he proposed, is a good education. When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things “it wouldn’t do to say” — and we may add, even to think.—–His insight is quite real, and important. These cases are a good illustration, hardly unique.”