Just once more, and then we’ll really have to get on with more pressing business. I could subscribe myself at any time to any of the following statements:
§ An Arab child born in Nablus should have no fewer rights in his or her homeland than a Jewish child born in Flatbush.
§ The United States of America has been the patron of predatory regimes on five continents.
§ The United States of America exports violence by means of arms sales and evil clients.
You can probably fill in a few extras for yourself. However, none of the above statements means the same thing if prefaced with the words: “As Osama bin Laden and his devout followers have recently reminded us…” They wouldn’t mean the same thing politically, that is to say, and they wouldn’t mean the same thing morally. It’s disgraceful that so many people on the periphery of this magazine should need what Noam Chomsky would otherwise term instruction in the elementary.
Here are two brief thought experiments that I hope and trust will put this degrading argument to rest. Both of them, as it happens, involve the date September 11.
I have long kept September 11 as a day of mourning, because it was on that date in 1973 that Salvador Allende was murdered and Chilean democracy assassinated along with him. We know all the details now, from the way the giant corporations subsidized subversion to the way that US politicians commissioned “hit jobs” and sabotage. It took the Chilean opposition many years of patient struggle to regain their country and their democracy, and the small help I was able to offer them is one of the few things in my life of which I can be proud. There was one spirited attempt to kill Augusto Pinochet himself during this period, with which I had some sneaking sympathy, but on the whole the weaponry of terror (death squads, car bombs, the training of special killers) was in the department of horror employed by Chilean and US officials working for, or with, the dictatorship. And now Chilean dignity has been restored, and Pinochet himself is a discredited and indicted figure, spared the rigor of law only for humanitarian reasons. We may even live to see justice done to some of his backers in Washington, though the holding of breath would be inadvisable.
I don’t know any Chilean participant in this great historic struggle who would not rather have died–you’ll have to excuse the expression–than commit an outrage against humanity that was even remotely comparable to the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. And I think I’ll leave it at that, since those who don’t see my point by now are never going to do so.