The world's top public intellectual responds to accusations of dishonestyby Noam Chomsky / January 22, 2006 / Leave a comment
I turned with interest to Oliver Kamm’s critique (Prospect, November 2005) of the “crude and dishonest arguments” he attributes to me, hoping to learn something. And learn something I did, though not quite what Kamm intended; rather, about the lengths to which some will go to prevent exposure of state crimes and their own complicity in them.
His substantive charges are as follows. To demonstrate “a particularly dishonest handling of source material,” Kamm alleges that “Chomsky manipulates a self-mocking reference in the memoirs of the then US ambassador to the UN… to yield the conclusion that Moynihan took pride in Nazi-like policies.” Kamm wisely evades the statements of Moynihan that I quoted from his 1978 memoirs. The topic is Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, condemned by the security council, which ordered Indonesia to withdraw. But the order had no effect. Moynihan explains why: “The US wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The department of state desired that the UN prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” He then refers to reports that within two months some 60,000 people had been killed, “10 per cent of the population, almost the proportion of casualties experienced by the Soviet Union during the second world war” – at the hands of Nazi Germany, of course. His comparison, not mine, as Kamm pretends. The only “manipulation” is Kamm’s, in his desperate effort to deny truly horrendous crimes of state; his state, hence his complicity.
Far more Timorese had been killed by the time Moynihan’s memoirs appeared in 1978, thanks to immediate US military and diplomatic support (or as Kamm prefers, Ford’s “indolence, at best”), joined by Britain in 1978 as atrocities were peaking, and continuing through the final paroxysm of violence in August-September 1999, until Clinton finally ordered a halt a few weeks later, under great international and domestic pressure. Indonesia instantly withdrew, making it crystal clear who bears responsibility for one of the closest approximations to true genocide of the post-war period.
A noteworthy performance on the part of someone who condemns the “amoral quietism” of those who do try to expose and terminate the terrible crimes of their own state, where their actions can have the greatest effect.
According to Kamm, I “deployed fanciful arithmetic to draw an equivalence” between 9/11 and Clinton’s destruction of the…