December 19, 2001



"We want to give him a big hug and then a little kick in the butt for not telling us what he was up to." -- American Taliban John Walker's father on "Good Morning, America."

Posted by BruceR at 10:40 PM



I don't share Andrew Sullivan's confidence that the latest David Horowitz stab at Noam Chomsky is irrefutable. Actually I found it to be one of Horowitz's weaker efforts, certainly worse than his anti-reparations arguments, for instance. As has happened before when he tackles this particular subject, Horowitz may start out strong, but then gets lost and stumbles.

Horowitz's first big mistake was fighting on Chomsky's chosen ground, by accepting his opponent's summary of the 5 "big questions" stemming from Sept. 11 as the proper framework for debate. But he acquits himself well in savaging the first (and most recent addition to the Chomsky oeuvre): the accusation that Afghanistan is an intentional "silent genocide." His recent Afghanistan work is weak by Chomsky's standards, and it's not hard to trip the old man up here. Still, score one point for Horowitz.

But Horowitz then skips over question 2, barely pausing to take a swipe (too bad, because Chomsky's assertion that Sept. 11 is unparalleled even by Pearl Harbour is certainly debatable) -- call it a tie: 1-0-1. He then tries to argue question 3 (Chomsky's attempt to equate American activities in Latin America with terrorism), and does a really horrible job of it. Frankly, it's a hard one: the American record in South and Latin America is pathetic, at times even horrific, and Chomsky's accusations here have generally been grounded in fact. But Horowitz also overreaches: the average reader cannot be taken for granted as automatically seeing why Pinochet was a better man than Allende. Horowitz's implicit assumption that such beliefs should be a given (and others like it) only impeaches his stronger arguments. Elsewhere, he quotes Chomsky's perfectly intelligible comparison of Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua's relative wealth, and then states he finds it hard to follow. Since he provides the quote, and it is, in fact, comprehensible English, Horowitz just ends up looking stupid. 1-1-1.

Point 4: Horowitz overreaches again, questioning, for instance, the veracity of Chomsky's quotation of Brzezinski (who has been so outspoken on this subject it's hardly necessary to cite a particular source) about his provision of non-military aid to the Mujaheddin long before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That the Carter Administration did this is both widely known and admitted, but as in the previous question, Horowitz positions himself as the reality-doubter, conceding to Chomsky the catbird seat of fact, at least among those who've done their reading. It's the equivalent of saying, "So, Mr. Chomsky... if that is your real name..." And once again, he claims here to be baffled and outraged by one of Chomsky's perfectly understandable points: this time the logical separation in moral responsibility between the agents of terrorism and their pool of support. Does anyone NOT believe in this distinction? Why does Horowitz attack this at all? And so badly, comparing it to trying to absolve Communism while vilifying Stalin? No, David, the real comparison is vilifying Stalin while absolving Russians of most (not all) guilt for Stalin's rise... or forgiving Afghans while hunting the Taliban. Horowitz goes below .500: 1-2-1.

Horowitz closes by, again, not even trying to debate Chomsky's final "What is to be done?"-type assertion. Again, this was an opportunity to really score some points against a weak spot in the Chomsky armour, but Horowitz wiffles. Final best-of-five box score: 1-2-2. After a strong first innings, Horowitz consistently confined himself to taking on Chomsky where he was strong, and letting him off with a pass where he was weak. And after accepting a fight on Chomsky's chosen five questions, he wasted space and time defending Pinochet and the mining of Nicaraguan harbours, rather than playing offense and taking on Chomsky on points such as his lack of constructive solutions, or what the professor's prescription would be for both defending the American rights that allow Chomsky and others the liberty to deconstruct American policy freely, and yet not offending Chomsky's rarefied concepts of superpower morality in the process. All in all, a shallow effort from Horowitz, and certainly not worth Andrew Sullivan's praise.

Posted by BruceR at 08:45 PM



The keynote speaker at the Toronto chapter of Science for Peace's Dec. 9 teach-in on Afghanistan, philosophy prof John McMurtry, becomes the first member of Canadian academia, to this writer's knowledge, to publicly state his belief that the Sept. 11 attack was a "big lie" of American intelligence. In his speech he compares it to the Reichstag fire. Yes folks, if you send your kids to Guelph, they too can get quality classroom insights from the tenured faculty such as this:

The evidence confirming U.S. and allied security awareness of and possible complicity in the 9/11 attack is considerable, but I have found no evidence disconfirming it. The principal reason against is the assumption that it is impossible that the U.S. national security apparatus would ever permit such a mass killing of Americans on U.S. soil, but this assumption itself is shaky given that Pearl Harbour itself was likely known about in advance, and non-defensive wars since have sacrificed tens of thousands of U.S. citizens (not to say millions of others) for so-called “foreign policy and national security objectives”...

To begin with, the forensic principle of “who most benefits from the crime?” clearly points in the direction of the Bush administration...

Also of note are some of the other speakers present, who, presumably, did not walk out:

Aileen Carroll, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Senator Lois Wilson
Prof. Emeritus Ursula Franklin, University of Toronto
Prof. Martha Shaffer, University of Toronto
Prof. Michael Mandel, York University
Prof. Jutta Brunnee, University of British Columbia
Prof. Atif Kubursi, McMaster University
Ali Mallah, Canadian Arab Federation
Kelly Gotlieb, Canadian Friends of Peace Now
Dr. Tommy Alulujainen, Doctors Without Borders

Once again, a shout out to Damian Penny for seeing it first.

Posted by BruceR at 07:55 PM