The two related questions before the house are these. Can the attacks of September 11 be compared to an earlier outrage committed by Americans? And should they be so compared?
Noam Chomsky does not rise much above the level of half-truth in his comparison of the September 11 atrocities to Clinton’s rocketing of Sudan. Since his remarks are directed at me, I’ll instance a less-than-half-truth as he applies it to myself. I “must be unaware,” he writes, that I “express such racist contempt for African victims of a terrorist crime.” With his pitying tone of condescension, and his insertion of a deniable but particularly objectionable innuendo, I regret to say that Chomsky displays what have lately become his hallmarks.
I have a very clear memory of the destruction of the Al-Shifa chemical plant in Khartoum on August 20 1998, and of the false claim made by the Administration that it had sought out and destroyed a nerve gas facility that was linked to Osama bin Laden’s shady business empire. I wrote a series of columns in The Nation, dated October 5, October 19 and November 16, 1998.The first one of these was recirculated on the web by Salon magazine. I then wrote an expanded essay for the January 1999 issue of Vanity Fair. And the chapter in my book No One Left To Lie To, titled “Clinton’s War Crimes,” is a summary and digest of all the above. I quoted Tom Carnaffin, the British engineer who had helped construct the plant. I quoted the German ambassador, Werner Daum, who had recently toured it. I interviewed one of the world’s leading authorities on inorganic chemistry, Professor R.J.P. Williams. I interviewed Milton Bearden, a retired CIA station chief. My conclusions, which were stated earlier and at greater length than by any of the journalists cited by Chomsky, were that the factory was a medical and pharmaceutical facility, unrelated in any way to the holdings of bin Laden, and that this could and should have been known in advance. In any case, I argued, the United States had no right to hit Sudanese territory without at least first requesting an inspection of the plant. In short, as I put it, several times and in several different ways, “only one person was killed in the rocketing of Sudan. But many more have died, and will die, because an impoverished country has lost its chief source of medicines and pesticides.” As I also phrased it, the President had “acted with caprice and brutality and with a complete disregard for international law, and perhaps counted on the indifference of the press and public to a negligible society like that of Sudan.”
Thus I think I am indeed “unaware,” with or without Chomsky’s lofty permission, of my propensity for racist contempt. Since Chomsky reads The Nation and seems to have a clip-file on Al-Shifa, he is in a position to know my views if he cares to. I think I can say without immodesty that I wrote more, and earlier, about this scandal than any other person. I also helped the late John Scanlon in preparing the basis for a lawsuit by the owner of the factory, Saleh Idris, seeking compensation from the US government. That suit is still active.