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Noam Chomsky Appearance 4/6/03: "Freedom is not a right, it's a legacy"

by source0 Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 8:31 PM
source0-imc@hotpop.com

Ask a group of politicos on any side of the spectrum, and love or hate him, one would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know the name Noam Chomsky. Some call him an "America-hater." Some call him "Saint Noam." At Agape last Sunday, he was welcomed like a movie star. And in his unassuming yet unequivocably rich oral tradition, Noam Chomsky spoke of the American legacy

I showed up at the Agape Spiritual Center an hour and a half early and already there was a line snaking through the parking lot, filled with cars bearing peace flags, "Peace is Patriotic" and "War Is Not The Answer" bumper stickers. The buzz outside the Center was absolutely electric with excitement and anticipation. I leaned over to my friend and remarked, "Is it just me, or is the mood remarkably fannish?"

It wasn't The Stones or Mel Gibson that these people were expecting, but that's sure what it felt like. Instead of stalking a stage door or movie premiere, the sellout crowd stood patiently waiting to listen to one of the most prominent intellectual minds of our time. After some delays (made entertaining by a spontaneous round of singing led by Blase Bonpane), Noam Chomsky appeared, walking down the aisle through the beautiful Agape sanctuary. Someone yelled, "There he is!" and the crowd leapt to their feet in an enthusiastic standing ovation. It was at that point where I realized that this crowd was much more than simply "fannish" in the gloss-mag, flashy, fickle rock-star way. Their cheers and applause were born out of a deep, honest admiration for a humble linguist whose words had touched so many minds.

A Legacy to Defend

Chomsky began by addressing the movement - this incipient global social movement that has been unprecedented in its scale and rapid rise to prominence. He addressed the fears and cynicism many in the peace movement are battling now in the face of war, reminding us that we are privileged to live in these times - for we now have the remarkable ability to be able to organize and speak out against government actions that threaten our life and liberty. "Freedom," he admonished, "is not a right, it's a legacy" - that centuries of struggle, of people actively seeking justice and fighting repression, have won for us the freedoms we now enjoy. As a result, this privilege confers on us a responsibility to uphold and protect the legacy of freedom that has been created for us. That it is a choice, for we the people, to take on the responsibility of upholding our freedoms - or stand idly by and let them be eroded. This rich legacy of democracy and self-determination can be taken away if we do not continue to defend it - and with that much at stake the choice for many people would be hard but obvious.

World Opinion

He then proceeded to give us a glance at the war situation from the outside - world opinion, a factor pathetically underrepresented in the United States of CNN. People around the world - including Iraq's neighboring countries - are of the mind that this war is just the beginning of something bigger, a plan to dominate the earth and its resources. Many - especially in Iraq's neighbor states - "are more concerned with the unbridled use of US power than they are of Saddam Hussein." Iraq, he claimed, is the weakest country in the region, decimated by twelve years of sanctions and bombing. He spoke of US allegations of Iraq's violations of UN resolutions, and raised the question of why we would choose to go after a state on that basis when many other countries (including Israel, Turkey, and Morocco) have violated many more UN resolutions than Iraq has. He also brought up the USA's rampant use of its veto power in the Security Council to block resolutions that would have otherwise provided for the protection of human rights around the world, including Bush's withdrawal of the US from the UN World Conference Against Racism, his withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, and his unsigning of the ratification of the International Criminal Court.

In the eyes of world opinion, Chomsky continued, Bush's war against Iraq has transformed Saddam's image from one of a pitiless tyrant into a "figure of reverence" in the Arab world. He noted that ninety-five percent of the Arab population believes that the United States has no other intentions in Iraq than controlling its oil and the territory over which to transport it. Far from eliminating terrorism, Bush's success seems to have been in "fulfilling Osama Bin Laden's wildest dreams" by creating an anti-American, fundamentalist reaction throughout the Arab world, a breeding ground for more terrorist attacks.

"How did we get to this point?"
The American legacy of war and fear

Chomsky began his illustration of American militarist policy by citing the National Security Strategy of the United States, which is seen by many in the world as a doctrine where the US intends to rule the world by force - permanently - and "protect itself" by destroying any potential power that rivals it. He criticized Bush/Cheney/Rusmfeld (et al.)'s policy of preemptive strike, noting that a preemptive war doctrine - if one were to legally exist - should fall within the boundaries of international law, including being in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. Instead, the Bush doctrine appears to stipulate to the world that the US intends to arbitrarily attack "any power that may threaten" it. This is causing a "wave of hatred throughout the world," Chomsky warned, and said that in world opinion the Bush administration is "probably the most hated and feared administration in history."

Fear is a powerful tool for control, and Chomsky pointed to the midterm elections of 2002 as a Republican move to "stay in power by generating fear." He outlined how the Administration, using color-coded terror alerts and sabre rattlings from Baghdad, manipulated "fear to draw focus from domestic issues," which grow more woeful by the day. He examined the Administration's uses of fear by illustrating two basic attitudes that are prevalent among the uninformed masses in America: first, that Saddam Hussein poses an immediate threat to our survival as a nation, and secondly, that Saddam Hussein planned the 9/11 attacks. These beliefs, he revealed, are unique to the US and are not shared by the majority of the world's population (as those who watch anything other than US media know, they are simply not true). Despite this, he noted that many people in the US seem to have been aware that something was afoot, as the Republicans had gained control of Congress by only a small margin of votes.

He cited America's own campaign of "terrorist" fear abroad, and recalled US attacks on Panama, Grenada, and Nicaragua, the latter of which the United States was condemned by the World Court for international terrorism.

Chomsky noted the reports and footage of US soldiers in Iraq, portrayed as proudly claiming that they are "liberating Iraq for 9/11". When anyone else in the world sees these attitudes, he explained, they tend to come to one of two conclusions: either Americans are so "fanatically racist that they would take revenge for 9/11 against any Arab" regardless of distinction, or "Americans are indoctrinated with lies."

Almost out of time (as the event had to be over and cleared by 5pm, a disappointment to many attendees), he wrapped up with a mention of the October resolution by Congress to authorize the use of force in Iraq, which coincided with two events that went nearly unnoticed in US media: the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis (now revealed as the result of a US terror campaign to effect "regime change" in Cuba), and the US-Israel veto of two UN resolutions: one, a veto of the reaffirmation of the 1925 treaty banning chemical and biological weapons**, and the second, a veto on a treaty banning the use of weapons in space.

"How long are free people willing to let this go on?"

This was one of the last questions he posed, as the lecture hurriedly wrapped up in an all-too-brief Q&A session and dismissal. Unfortunately there was no time for discussion, for an in-depth look at this question. It was five o'clock, and the audience was rushed out of the hall, leaving many of us feeling a little gipped.

Still, it was clear that many in the audience were not ready to really leave. As the crowd exited into the parking lot, many people remained to talk amongst themselves, unwilling to let the discourse end so easily. Watching the throng cheer and applaud Saint Noam, as he walked to his car and was driven away, I could tell that all of us - who had given our Sunday afternoon not to fear, but to education - held that question in our hearts and minds.

What is to be our legacy? The legacy of fear, terror, and militarism of tyrants? Or the legacy of peace, freedom, and justice fought for by ordinary people over centuries of struggle?

To the lingering crowd in the parking lot, at least, the answer seemed obvious.


** = the author is seeking a source to confirm this event.
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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 147 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
I saw the weirdest picture of bush admirer here thomas Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 12:39 AM
Fowmper Lindsey McCabe Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 1:16 AM
Hi there Lindsey fresca Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 1:51 AM
fresca fresca Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 1:59 AM
What do you think fresca Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 2:00 AM
fresca y fresca y mas fresca thomaston Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 2:42 AM
Thomaston fresca Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 3:08 AM
sadasf afdfdasfdsa Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 3:34 AM
sadasf afdfdasfdsa Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 3:35 AM
Alz Sheepdog Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 4:09 AM
uh....yeah fresca Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 4:50 AM
Arabs? Sheepdog Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 5:06 AM
Who are these people? Francisco Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 6:05 AM
Well, Francisco Sheepdog Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 6:17 AM
Who are these people? daveman Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 8:16 AM
Okay. Sheepdog Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 10:36 AM
barking at chomsky? Evan Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 2:05 PM
The dumbest man and his ilk Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 12:56 AM
paranoid thomaston Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:20 AM
Bush Admirer daveman Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:27 PM
Very Helpful Summary Chomsky Listener Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 6:06 AM
Radicalism or Realism Constantine Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 5:47 PM
Bush admirer Parmenides Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 6:25 PM
NC GV Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 6:33 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 6:35 PM
I agree true Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 6:45 PM
Try again, Bush Admirer Didn't just fall off the turnip truck Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 10:23 PM
So again, monkeyboy Sheepdog Friday, Apr. 18, 2003 at 10:34 PM
CHOMSKY DUMB BUSHFANHATER Sunday, May. 18, 2003 at 1:23 PM
Exactly, BA daveman Sunday, May. 18, 2003 at 2:27 PM
pull your head out, dingo Sheepdog Monday, May. 19, 2003 at 6:05 AM
No, because when I read Chomsky too much... daveman Monday, May. 19, 2003 at 9:13 AM
in that case.... Sheepdog Monday, May. 19, 2003 at 12:15 PM
ACTUALLY BUSHFANHATER Friday, May. 23, 2003 at 4:14 PM
Sean Hannity typical am radio fan Saturday, May. 24, 2003 at 1:17 AM
Beautiful Bueatiful Saturday, May. 24, 2003 at 2:13 AM
Satire wavemaster Saturday, May. 24, 2003 at 2:20 AM
LISTENING IS THE FIRST STEP william fu. buckley Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 2:08 AM
Noam Chumpsky Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 1:45 PM
Chumpsky (i like that) fresca Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 1:59 PM
Mr. Chomsky fake Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 2:01 PM
Chumpski is a fool Josef Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 2:58 PM
kids read comics fake Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 3:45 PM
Reply to Bush Admirer Admirer Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 5:18 PM
as Sheepdog would say fake Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 5:23 PM
Sheepdog post under your own handle Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 5:41 PM
ha ha Sheepdog Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 5:50 PM
dear fresca wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 5:57 PM
dear bush admirer wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 6:13 PM
Dr Bush Hater Katalyst Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 6:40 PM
Bush Bush Admirer Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 8:06 PM
and what a Sheepdog Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 8:11 PM
uh no fresca Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 9:20 PM
i just might be the most illiterate person in the world :) wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 9:57 PM
where do you get your info fresca? wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 10:17 PM
where do you get your info fresca? wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 10:18 PM
dear fresca wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 10:42 PM
dear fresca wfb Monday, May. 26, 2003 at 10:42 PM
my my, setch talk. Sheepdog Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 11:16 AM
wfb fresca Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 3:18 PM
you still didn't give me any sources?? wfb Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 9:37 PM
oh bushie lover.... here boy! wfb Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 9:48 PM
still Sheepdog Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 10:28 PM
Some people are a waste of space Scottie Tuesday, May. 27, 2003 at 11:05 PM
can you at least listen objectively? wfb Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 12:35 AM
just use your common sense wfb Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 12:53 AM
wfb fresca Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 4:06 AM
This is not my view. fresca Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 6:49 AM
"America's Dumbest Intellectual" David Horowitz Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 11:59 AM
again for wfb fresca Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 2:46 PM
yes and no Sheepdog Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 2:59 PM
???? fresca Wednesday, May. 28, 2003 at 3:49 PM
Or Scottie Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:23 AM
how so fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:54 AM
Sheepy Scottie Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 7:36 AM
Scottie brigg Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 1:11 PM
^ brigg Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 1:18 PM
Snottie Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 1:19 PM
bogus post above brigg Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 1:19 PM
dear fresca.... if that's you?? wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 4:57 PM
sources fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 4:59 PM
fresca i think he meant wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:06 PM
fresca i think he meant wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:06 PM
i agree whole heartedly wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:11 PM
fresca i hope that's not you....? wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:14 PM
sources wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:16 PM
wfb fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:19 PM
oh bushie...that last article was wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:32 PM
fresca fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:38 PM
wfb fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 5:50 PM
Split Scottie Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:13 PM
hmmmm fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:21 PM
sorry.... Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:29 PM
Oh yeah. Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:31 PM
Sheepdog ? Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:51 PM
well.... fresca Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 6:59 PM
really... Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 7:04 PM
get back to the point! wfb Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 8:21 PM
Seems to me Eric Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 11:23 PM
yes Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 11:33 PM
Now, now, Sheepdog... daveman Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 11:37 PM
oh Sheepdog Thursday, May. 29, 2003 at 11:40 PM
Some thoughts Scottie Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 3:00 AM
damn Scottie fresca Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 7:53 PM
scottie fresca Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 8:11 PM
fresca fresca Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 8:29 PM
Palestine Scottie Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 10:08 PM
scottie fresca Friday, May. 30, 2003 at 10:10 PM
Sheepdog, thank you for the list Ted Thompson Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2003 at 5:42 AM
Ted daveman Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2003 at 7:55 AM
Truth I'm not stupid Saturday, Jul. 05, 2003 at 1:37 AM
nocheez Ronnie Neuhauser Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003 at 1:31 AM
Chomsky's words mr wilson Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003 at 5:59 PM
I'm impressed by mr. wilson fellow linguistics student Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003 at 7:52 PM
Chomsky Sheepdog Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 at 7:49 AM
again, for you... Sheepdog Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 at 11:02 AM
Noamy observation Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 at 12:57 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 at 9:47 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 3:52 PM
BandStand patron Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 4:50 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 4:58 PM
^ . Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 5:00 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 5:00 PM
Chumpski is God KPC Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 5:02 PM
mr. wilson . Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003 at 5:09 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 6:05 AM
The Proof nocheez Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2004 at 9:35 PM

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