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"Is America a Terrorist State": Naom Chomsky vs. Bill Bennett on CNN

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  • Tarek Fatah
    CNN SHOW: AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN May 30, 2002 Thursday 8:33 AM Eastern Time Transcript # 053001CN.V74 SECTION: News; International HEADLINE:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2002
      May 30, 2002 Thursday 8:33 AM Eastern Time
      Transcript # 053001CN.V74
      SECTION: News; International
      HEADLINE: Interview with Noam Chomsky, Bill Bennett
      GUESTS: Noam Chomsky
      BYLINE: Paula Zahn, Bill Bennett

      HIGHLIGHT: In his book, "9-11," Noam Chomsky accuses the United States of
      being a terrorist state. In Bill Bennett's "Why We Fight," he says the war
      on terror is morally just.

      PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: They are two best selling authors with two very
      different takes on terrorism. In his book, "9-11," Noam Chomsky accuses the
      United States of being a terrorist state. He says the war in Afghanistan is
      wrong, states that in recent history, America has committed acts of
      terrorism, and maintains that America's foreign policy is hypocritical.

      In Bill Bennett's "Why We Fight," he says the war on terror is morally just.
      He maintains that democracy and human rights are America's noblest exports,
      and that we must be prepared to respond to anti-American critics. Talk about
      a war of words. Well, Bill Bennett joins us now from New York, and Noam
      Chomsky joins us from Boston. Welcome, gentlemen. Great to have both of
      you with us.

      NOAM CHOMSKY, AUTHOR, "9-11": Hello.

      ZAHN: I would like to start off, professor, by reading a very small excerpt
      from your book where you write that nothing can
      justify crimes such as those of September 11, but we can think of the United
      States as an innocent victim only if we adopt the convenient path of
      ignoring the record of its actions and those of its allies, which are, after
      all, hardly a secret. What are you referring to here?

      CHOMSKY: Well, for example, the United States happens to be the only state
      in the world that has been condemned by the World Court for international
      terrorism, would have been condemned by the Security Council, except that it
      vetoed the resolution. This referred to the U.S. terrorist war against
      Nicaragua, the court ordered the United States to desist and pay
      reparations. The U.S. responded by immediately escalating the crimes,
      including first official orders to attack what are called soft targets --
      undefended civilian targets. This is massive terrorism. It is by no means
      the worst, and it continues right to the present, so for example...

      ZAHN: Bill Bennett, your response to what the professor said, and then we
      will let him pick up from there.

      BENNETT: It's quite extraordinary to hear a supposedly learned person call
      the United States a leading terrorist nation, one of the leading terrorist
      nations in the world. It's false and very treacherous teaching. In the
      situation Mr. Chomsky is talking about, of course, the United States
      supported the Contras in Nicaragua. The condemnation or judgment by the
      World Court was not that it was terrorism, but that we supported some
      unlawful activity. However, when there were free elections in Nicaragua, and
      Mrs. Chamorro took office, all the lawsuits, all the complaints against the
      United States were dropped, when you had a democratically elected country.

      We have done more good for more people than any country in the history of
      the world. What I want to know of Mr. Chomsky is if he believes we are a
      leading terrorist state, he is obviously welcome in the United States, why
      do you choose to live, sir, in a terrorist nation?

      CHOMSKY: First of all, the World Court condemned the United States for what
      it called "the unlawful use of force and violation of treaties."

      BENNETT: Which is not terrorism.

      CHOMSKY: That's international terrorism.

      BENNETT: No, it is not.

      CHOMSKY: Yes, it is exactly international terrorism.

      BENNETT: No, it is not, sir.

      CHOMSKY: Furthermore, the escalation to attack undefended civilian targets
      is just a classic illustration of terrorism. And furthermore, it continues
      right to the present, as I was saying, so for example...

      BENNETT: It's quite...

      CHOMSKY: May I continue?

      BENNETT: Sure.

      CHOMSKY: In the late 1990s, some of the worst terrorist atrocities in the
      orld were what the Turkish government itself called state terror, namely
      massive atrocities, 80 percent of the arms coming from the United States,
      millions of refugees, tens of thousands of people killed, hideous
      repression, that's international terror, and we can go on and on.


      ZAHN: Before you go further, let's give Bill a chance to respond to respond
      to the Turkish string (ph) of this -- go ahead, Bill.

      BENNETT: America responsible for hideous repression and refugees? Why is it,
      Mr. Chomsky, whenever there are refugees in the world, they flee to the
      United States rather than from the United States? Why is it on balance, Mr.
      Chomsky, that this nation, when it opens its gates, has people rushing in?
      Why is it that it is this nation the world looks to for support and
      > encouragement and help? We rebuilt Europe twice in this century, after two
      world wars. We liberated Europe from Nazi tyranny. We have liberated Eastern
      Europe in the last few years from communist tyranny, and now we are engaged
      in a battle against something else.

      When we went in to Kabul, even the "New York Times" in mid- November showed
      pictures of people smiling at the presence of American troops, because this
      country was once again a force for freedom, and a force for liberation.
      Have we done some terrible things in our history? Of course we have. But as
      Senator Moynihan has pointed out, our people find out about them from
      reading the newspapers and watching television. When you look at this nation
      on balance, in terms of what good it has done and what bad it has done, it
      is grossly irresponsible to talk about this country as a terrorist nation,
      and to suggest, as do you in your book, that there is justification, moral
      justification, for what happened on 9/11. For that, sir, you really should
      be ashamed.

      CHOMSKY: You should be ashamed for lying about what is in the book, because
      nothing is said -- in fact, the quote was just given, nothing can justify
      the terrorist attacks of September 11. You just heard the quote, if you want
      to falsify it, that's your business.

      BENNETT: No -- well, I...

      CHOMSKY: Just a minute -- did I interrupt you? Did I interrupt you?

      ZAHN: Professor, let me jump in here, but implicit in that -- aren't you
      saying that you understand why America was targeted?

      CHOMSKY: Do I understand? Yes, so does the U.S. intelligence services, so
      does all of scholarship. I mean, we can ignore it if we like, and therefore
      lead to further terrorist attacks, or we can try to understand. What Mr.
      Bennett said is about half true. The United States has done some very good
      things in the world, and that does not change the fact that the World
      Court was quite correct in condemning the United States as an international
      terrorist state, nor do the atrocities in Turkey in the last few years --
      they are not obviated by the fact that there are other good things that
      happen. Sure. That's -- you are correct when you say good things have
      happened, but if we are not total hypocrites, in the sense of the gospels,
      we will pay attention to our own crimes. For one reason, because that's
      elementary morality -- elementary morality. For another thing, because we
      mitigate them.

      ZAHN: All right, professor, I'm going to have to leave it there with you,
      Bill Bennett, and we have got to leave it to about 20 seconds.

      BENNETT: It there any nation that acknowledges its errors and its sins and
      its crimes and the things it has done that are not consistent with its
      principles more than the United States? No, there is not. This is also the
      man, just let it be said for the record, who said that the reports of
      atrocities by the Khmer Rouge were grossly exaggerated. This is the man who
      said when we engaged the Soviet Union that we...

      CHOMSKY: No, it's not. But that is...

      BENNETT: I didn't interrupt you -- that we were continuing the Nazi effort
      against Russia. Go through the Chomsky work, line by line, argument by
      argument, and you will see this is a man who has made a career out of hating
      America and out of trashing the record of this country. Of course, there is
      a mixed record in this country, why do you choose to live in this terrorist
      nation, Mr. Chomsky?

      CHOMSKY: I don't. I choose to live in what I think is the greatest country
      in the world, which is committing horrendous terrorist acts and should stop.

      BENNETT: I think you should say greatest -- I think you should say greatest
      a little more often.

      CHOMSKY: If you want to be a hypocrite...


      BENNETT: I think you should acknowledge its virtues a little more often, Mr.

      CHOMSKY: And you should acknowledge its crimes.

      BENNETT: I do. Read my book. You will see it.

      CHOMSKY: No, you never do. No, sorry. And if you want to...

      BENNETT: I am reading other people's books.

      CHOMSKY: If you want to know what I say, do not listen to Mr. Bennett's
      falsifications of which I just gave an example.

      BENNETT: Read both books.

      ZAHN: Gentlemen, we are going to have to cut off both of you there. Noam
      Chomsky, Bill Bennett, thank you for both of your thoughts, and I think
      probably the best course of action anybody can take out there, is buy both
      of your books so they can make their own judgment.

      BENNETT: That's fine.

      ZAHN: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time.

      CHOMSKY: Yes.
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