LAHORE, Nov 24: Renowned American scholar Dr Noam Chomsky said on Saturday that the United States did not seek authorization for launching air strikes on Afghanistan from the United Nations because the involvement of the world body could have limited its unilateral power to act.
Delivering a lecture and then answering questions from a packed hall at a hotel as well as an on-line audience in Karachi, he said Russia and China were happy because of their own interests.
Hundreds of people had come to listen to the scholar, many of them without invitation with the result that most of them had to sit on the floor. They gave a standing ovation to Prof Chomsky as he stepped into the hall.
Prof Chomsky said that except for standing on the side of the international coalition, Pakistan had few options in the situation — partly because of Islamabad’s role in the past, especially its support for the CIA and then the Taliban.
He said the Muslim world as a whole was in serious trouble. Making an obvious reference to the Arab states, he said they were surviving on oil wealth which would not last long. Resources of these countries were being drained to the West and in case the situation remained unchanged, the future of next generations would not be good.
He did not agree with the suggestion that the American people had supported US attacks on Afghanistan, or that the results of the opinion polls in this regard were reflective of their thinking. In fact, he said, the response by the American people depended on the questions put to them. If they were asked whether action should be taken against the perpetrators of the Sept 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, their response would be in the affirmative. But if they were asked whether innocent people should be targeted, their answer would be quite different. When a questioner tried to support the US action against a ‘repressive’ regime in Afghanistan, Prof Chomsky said it was not for America to take action against repressive regimes. He said the governments of India and Pakistan were “highly repressive” but this did not mean that they should be destroyed.
In his opinion the US system was most fundamentalist in the world, more fundamentalist than even that of Iran. He said a fundamentalist system could be possible even in a democracy.
Answering a question, the American dissident said that going by the definition of terrorism, the US itself was a terrorist state.
He did not agree with the suggestion that American people were supporting what their government was doing in Afghanistan. He said the media was not portraying the entire picture because of which people were not fully aware of the ground situation. He recalled a UN agency’s request that US should withdraw the threat of bombing of Afghanistan as it was obstructing humanitarian assistance in that country and creating danger for starvation of millions of people there. But, he regretted, it was ignored by the media. The paper which carried the report made only a passing remark at the tail of some other story.
In reply to a question about the US establishment’s assertion that after Afghanistan they would target more countries, Iraq being one of them, Prof Chomsky said the US had said at the outset that they would go after everyone, every defenceless.
He said the US would not touch countries where its own interests were hurt. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, he added, was one example.
He pointed out that statements by Osama bin Laden and President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were identical, although both sides interpreted them differently. While Osama said he would use force to drive aggressors out of Afghanistan, Bush and Blair meant that they would drive such people from the world.
Prof Chomsky said the US was pressing Afghanistan to “hand over” Osama and not “extradite” him as in the latter case the US would have required the Security Council’s sanction.
He said it was strange that war against terrorism was being led by a country which was condemned by the world for terrorism.
Referring to American plans for militarization of space, he said no other country was in race with the US and it alone was its competitor.
He was critical of the US support to Israel, saying when an Israeli helicopter killed somebody, it should be taken as an American helicopter because the Jewish state did not manufacture helicopters.
Prof Chomsky paid glowing tributes to Dr Eqbal Ahmad, saying he never wavered from his cause despite reversals and always supported good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and India. He also wanted an end to religious and secular fanaticism in the two states.
The race for nuclear arms between the two countries and cycle of repression was yet another matter of serious concern for Dr Eqbal, Prof Chomsky said.
The lecture was organized by The Friday Times and Eqbal Ahmad Foundation. This was the fourth lecture of the series and the next year’s guest speaker will be Prof Edward Said.
Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin also spoke.
Ministers, politicians, diplomats, etc., attended the lecture and the proceedings were also relayed to a hall in Karachi.