Chomsky, N., & Vltchek, A. (2013). On Western Terrorism from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare.

What is terrorism? Chomsky and Vltchek give an explanation of the ideological and economic interest behind how the word is defined and applied in western political arena. Namely: terrorism is when our enemies commit acts of terror. This redefinition by corporate and political elite has had and continues to have widespread consequences and has significantly stunted meaningful public discussion on the issue of war and peace.

Chomsky, N., & Vltchek, A. (2013). On Western Terrorism from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. London: PlutoPress.

  1. [Noam Chomsky office at MIT has a quote by Bertrand Russell] ‘Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly string have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind’. Vi[MOU1] 
  • According to my calculations; around 55 million people were killed directly after the end of the World War II, as a result of Western imperialism. Xiv[MOU2] 
  • Between 50 and 55 million people have died around the world as a result of Western colonialism and neo-colonialism since the end of World War II. 1[MOU3] 
  • Along with the 55 million or so people killed as the direct result of wars initiated by the West, pro-Western military coups and other conflicts, hundreds of millions have died indirectly, in absolute misery, and silently. 1[MOU4] 
  • When Columbus landed in the Western Hemisphere, there were probably 80-100 million people with advanced civilisations: commerce, cities, etc. Not long afterward about 95 percent of this population disappeared. In what is now the territory of the United States, there were maybe ten million or so Native Americans, but by 1900, according to the census, there were 200,000 in the country. 2[MOU5] 
  • According to the medical journal, The Lancet, six million children die every year from lack of elementary medical procedures, which could be provided at virtually no cost. 2[MOU6] 
  • NC. [United States, Canada & Australia] These are unusual imperial societies in that they didn’t just rule the native, the eliminated them. They took over the land and settlement and virtually exterminated them in most cases. 4[MOU7] 
  • AV. The first concentration camp were built not by Nazi Germany, but by the British Empire – in Kenya and South Africa. 5[MOU8] 
  • AV. Holocaust that was performed by Germans on European Jews was not the first German Holocaust; they were involved in terrible massacres in the southern cone on South America and in fact all over the world. Germany had already exterminated the majority of the Herero tribe in Namibia. 5[MOU9] 
  1. NC. In 2010 the French government decided to expel Roma residents in France to misery and terror in Romania. 5[MOU10] 
  1. NC. [In the Eastern Congo] Three to five million people have been killed. And who you do you point the fingers at? They have been killed by militias, but behind the militias are multinational corporations and governments, and they are not visible. 6[MOU11] 
  1. AV. … although it is mostly Uganda, Rwanda, and their proxies who are murdering millions of innocent people [in Rwanda], behind this are always Western geopolitical and economic interests. 7[MOU12] 
  1. NC. In November 1961, Kennedy sent the Air Force to begin bombing South Vietnam. He authorised Napalm, authorised chemical warfare to destroy crops and ground cover, initiated programmes which ultimately drove millions of people into so-called ‘strategic hamlets,’ in effect concentration camps, or urban slums. 8[MOU13] 
  1. NC. The effect of chemical warfare can still be felt. If we go to Saigon hospitals… you can still see those deformed foetuses. 8[MOU14] 
  1. AV. [Mines Advisory Group, a large British-based de-mining company, were trying to demine Vietnam but the company that made the bombs were refusing to share information on how long the mines stay active and other data]. 9-10[MOU15] 
  1. AV. What I was told on the ground in Cambodia was that, during the Khmer Rouge era, the atrocities were largely down to the people of the countryside settling scores with the urban elites of Phnom Penh. 10[MOU16] 
  1. AV. Phnom Penh was actually fully collaborating with the US during the bombing campaigns and the people in the countryside developed a profound hatred for the city dwellers, whom they saw as collaborators and often at the root of their suffering. 10[MOU17] 
  1. AV. More people were murdered during the US bombing campaigns of the Cambodian countryside than by Khmer Rouge actions. 10[MOU18] 
  1. NC. Khmer Rouge was a pretty marginal group in 1970 but mobilised a huge army of enraged peasants, who of course wet right after the urban elites, whom they saw as the perpetrators… They didn’t see the hand of Washington behind the urban elites. 11[MOU19] 
  • AV. Belgians killed more people in Africa than what was then the population of their own country. 13[MOU20] 
  • NC, AV. [King Leopold II of Belgium murdered ten million Congolese people.] 13[MOU21] 
  • NC. There can be an intellectual and moral colonization as well as political and economic colonization. 17[MOU22] 
  • NC. The main achievement of hierarchy and oppression is to get the un-people to accept that it it’s natural. 17[MOU23] 
  • AV. In some places the French managed to massacre the entire native population, such as the island of Grenada. Those they did not kill were jumping from the cliffs to escape the horror of falling into their hands. And on Ester Islands, which is not Chilean territory of Polynesia, the came extremely close to that 100 percent ‘success ratio’. 18[MOU24] 
  • AV. …Intellectuals in the United States think that people in Europe are better informed than those outside it, that they have a much wider sense of what can be discussed. I found out that this is maybe only the case in regard to issues that are directly related to the United States. Otherwise there is a screaming ignorance in Europe. 20[MOU25] 
  • NC. In fact, the way they put it was that every eight years India killed as many people as China killed during its years of shame, the great famine. 24[MOU26] 
  • NC. [US helped Japan avoid punishment for Nanking massacre] The San Francisco Treaty,  in which the U.S. insisted that the Japanese crimes be limited to those from December 7, 1941; nothing that happened in the preceding ten years could be discussed. 25[MOU27] 
  • NC. [Yugoslavia could not prosecute US in the International Court of Justice. When the US signed the Genocide Convention, they added a caveat of ‘inapplicable to the United States’—giving them immunity.] 27[MOU28] 
  • NC. …Congress passed legislation, which the Bush administration happily signed, which granted the White House authority to invade The Hague by force in case any American was brought there. 27[MOU29] 
  • NC. East European [Intellectuals] are typically concerned with themselves; they say, ‘we suffered’. Latin American are far more humanistic and internationalist. 29[MOU30] 
  • NC. There is a good deal of anger about illegal immigration, but why are these people fleeing? Well, we can’t look at that because there is too much blood on our hands, so it is forgotten about – Laos, Cambodia, you can pick a thousand cases like this. 30[MOU31] 
  • AV. … advertising is a very effective form of propaganda. 36[MOU32] 
  • CV. The Communist or Chinese propaganda are so weak that they can’t even defend their own countries, let alone influence the western countries to change their political, social, and imperialist system; something that is long overdue. 37[MOU33] 
  • AV. It is Western propaganda that is capable if mobilising the masses for whatever ends of goals anywhere in the world. For whatever reason, it can trigger coups, conflicts, terrible violence, and ‘strive for change’. 37[MOU34] 
  • NC. I had a good friend, Charlie Glass… he called me from Tripoli, around 6:30 at night and he said you should watch the 7 o’clock news tonight… I turned on the television at 7 o’clock. Precisely at 7 o’clock, the bombing started… They timed the bombing for prime time television… Nobody pointed out that it was the first time in history that a bombing was scheduled for prime-time television. 42-3[MOU35] 
  • NC. When the US invaded [Fallujah, Iraq], they first thing the marines did when they broke into Fallujah was to take over the general hospital. And the threw all the patients on the floor and tied them up… the military reported that the hospital was a propaganda agency because it was distributing casualty figures, and so therefore we had the right to smash it up. 43[MOU36] 
  • AV. I am very wary of countries like Cuba or China that are under siege, fully opening up their cyberspace and media[MOU37] .
  • AV. After living on all the continents of the world, I actually believe that the “Westerners” are the most indoctrinated, the least informed and critical group of people anywhere on earth, of course with some exceptions, like Saudi Arabia. But they believe the opposite: that they are the best informed, and the “freest” people. 45[MOU38] 
  • AV. I am very, very wary about countries like Cuba or China that are under siege, fully opening their cyberspace and media. I am afraid that all this damaging Western propaganda would enter which is actually geared to break the country as it was geared to break Czechoslovakia, as it was geared to break the Soviet Union. 47[MOU39] 
  • NC. Goebbels. He wrote that he modelled the German Nazi propaganda on American commercial advertising, which is at its best quite sophisticated. 49[MOU40] 
  • NC. It is also interesting that nobody mentions one very obvious fact about advertising—it is designed to undermine the market. If you take an economics course, you learn that markets are based on informed consumers making rational choices. Take a look at a television ad.; it is designed to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices. So you’ve got this immense contradiction staring you right in the face. 49[MOU41] 
  • NC. Actually they do the same with elections. The goal of elections now is to undermine democracy. They are run by the public relations industry and they’re certainly not trying to create informed voters who’ll make rational choices. They are trying to delude people into making irrational choices. 49[MOU42] 
  • AV. when they compare it to the virtual reality with which they are bombarded day and night, like some horrible insects destroying their country, or half of California falling off the cliff, of course all these things that they are facing in real life appear to be banal and really not too important. Real wars, hunger, plunder of resources in faraway places, homelessness, and lack of democracy: all banal. 54[MOU43] 
  • NC. One thing that he found is that there is a common theme running through the literature, a little bit like what you have described: “We are on the edge of an impending catastrophe, and there is some incredible enemy who’s just about to overwhelm and destroy us. And in the last minute we’re saved by a super weapon or some superhero which rises up.” 55[MOU44] 
  •   AV. Moscow’s invasion of 1968 to put down the Prague Spring was not necessarily something that should have happened and it broke the spine of their “socialism with a human face” but there was no massacre performed by the Soviets; few people fell under the tanks. Most of what happened was accidents; some people who died were drunk. 60[MOU45] 
  • NC. …the Soviet Union actually subsidized Eastern Europe so that it ended up richer than Russia. The Soviet Empire is the only empire in history where the imperial center was poorer than the colonies. 61[MOU46] 
  • AV. Leningrad was one of the richest cities in the Soviet Union, but even then it was very clear that occupied Czechoslovakia was allowed to remain much wealthier than the USSR. The Soviets didn’t really do anything about the disparities. They didn’t suck everything out of the country as we do. They could have, but they didn’t. 62[MOU47] 
  • AV. My Kenyan friend, a former parliamentarian and a closet Marxist, studied in India. He is black. He told me that he was treated well at the university, but once he got to the streets of New Delhi, children came running to him, often asking: “Uncle, where is your tail? Do you live on the trees?” 64[MOU48] 
  • AV. I think that perhaps the fascist parties are something quite natural for Europe and I find it easier to fight them when they surface, than those egotistic systems that Europe had after World War II, which created great social nets for Europeans at the expense of starving billions all over the world. 65[MOU49] 
  • NC. In fact there was a secret archive, kept from the public, which had in it the information about the Dutch collaboration with the Nazis. He said that to his surprise it was quite extensive. 71[MOU50] 
  • AV. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria—they were not really liberated, just as East Germany was not. All of these countries were actually defeated. They were fighting on the side of the Nazis. 72[MOU51] 
  • AV. …there were not tens of millions of people who died for political reasons under Stalin. There were plenty of people, but the camps were mainly labour camps. There were also rapists, there were mass killers, common criminals, all mixed with political prisoners. 72[MOU52] 
  • AV. British, Belgian, Dutch, German, French, and other Western nations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere slaughtered incomparably more people than in the Soviet Union in the same historic period. 73[MOU53] 
  • NC. you can’t compare what happened to Latin American dissidents with East European dissidents. It would undermine the entire groundwork; the underpinnings of the entire ideology, of policy of image and everything else. 73[MOU54] 
  • NC. Towards the end she wrote a couple of articles about the state of women in Kabul under the Russians, and it was a very positive picture… They wore what they liked, went to college and had opportunities. I think she sent the article to the Washington Post, which refused to print it. 74-5[MOU55] 
  • NC. [Cuba] offered to send medical teams to the United States after hurricane Katrina but they were turned down. 78[MOU56] 
  • AV. [India] No major mass media outlet in the West would criticize the Indian system, as it is some awful fusion of feudalism and capitalism, with historic anti-Chinese sentiments; exactly what we need. Their religions, caste system, clannishness, misery; all scream “failed state,” but it is never spoken of. 80[MOU57] 
  • AV. India was recently bragging about being the first country that imposed sanctions on South Africa, during apartheid.” But knowing the structure of Indian society, can you imagine how cynical that move was? With the appalling caste system, and with the feudalism that segregates hundreds of millions of people, India itself is living under terrible apartheid. 80[MOU58] 
  • AV. India is one of the best places to live if you are rich and of upper caste or, better still, both, but what a hell if you are poor or even belonging to what they call the emerging middle class. 81[MOU59] 
  • AV. [In Kerala, India] there was a tremendous outflow of skilled workers. So, in fact, instead of staying in Kerala and building the society, many of them went to the Middle East. 81[MOU60] 
  • NC. That’s right. And the state [India] is living on their remittances. 82[MOU61] 
  • NC. India is a very exciting country, with many remarkable achievements, but it is one of the most depressing countries I have ever seen. The poverty and the misery are so open and apparent, even compared to Pakistan. 82[MOU62] 
  • AV. Western propaganda is constantly glorifying India and vilifying China. The so-called Tibet issue never leaves the pages of the newspapers, while Kashmir is hardly mentioned. 84[MOU63] 
  • AV. India is full of bigotry. It is also being choked by fundamentalist groups from the two major religions of the country. You cannot leave those groups, you are basically owned by them, you can’t escape. 84[MOU64] 
  • AV. Ahmedabad during the massacres was one of the most shocking places I ever had to cover. The level of violence, of hate, of mercilessness, was just unimaginable. All that killing, plunder, and rape. The mob would attack Muslim houses, slit the bellies of pregnant women. India is an extremely violent country, like Indonesia… Although in India, unlike in Indonesia, most of the plundering is done by local elites. 86[MOU65] 
  • AV. But in India you can do nothing: no filming or photographing of museums, of government offices, of the metro… Security and surveillance are everywhere. It is one of the most oppressive societies I have ever encountered. 86-7[MOU66] 
  • AV. China has raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. 87[MOU67] 
  • AV. [ Panama] The destruction screams at you, with ten-year-old prostitutes on the sidewalks and American military ships docked at the cruise ship port. 93[MOU68] 
  • NC. NGOs are such a dubious contribution: not all, of course, but many. In Haiti, in East Timor, everywhere. They live totally differently, differently to local people. They are eating in fancy restaurants, driving nice cars, while people are starving. 94[MOU69] 
  • AV. There is also the Panama Canal there, one of the most strategic waterways in the world. 98[MOU70] 
  • NC. The World Trade Organization rules, the international rules, are set up to permit multinational corporations to sue governments for infringing their potential profits when they destroy a country. 100[MOU71] 
  • NC. Colombian legislators have gone so far as to introduce legislation to decriminalize all drugs and there are similar moves elsewhere. 102[MOU72] 
  • NC. (most of the arms in Mexico that are used for slaughtering people are coming from Arizona and Texas). 102[MOU73] 
  • AV. “The worst thing you can do to the poor is to take away their hope.” He said to take away hope from the poor is worse than murdering someone. Because once you are dead, you are dead. But hope is often all that the poor have, all that sustains them. 110[MOU74] 
  • NC. [David Lloyad George wrote in his diary] we have to “reserve the right to bomb niggers.” 112[MOU75] 
  • NC. American corporations have for years wanted to enter into normal relations with Cuba: huge sectors of the corporate system—agribusiness, energy, pharmaceuticals—these are not small actors. But the government won’t let them, because America has to punish Cuba for what Washington called “successful defiance” of U.S. policy going back 150 years, to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. 114[MOU76] 
  • NC. U.S. was able to engineer a coup that overthrew the Nasser-type nationalist government, and that’s where Saddam Hussein comes in. The CIA handed the new Ba’athist government a long list of Communists, radicals, and teachers, and then they all got assassinated. 114[MOU77] 
  • NC. The Saudis are pouring money all over the place to sponsor the most extreme forms of radical Islamism—Wahabbism—in Madrasas, in Pakistan, pouring money into Egypt to support the Salafis, all extreme Islamic elements. The United States is happy with that; it doesn’t try to prevent them. 115[MOU78] 
  • NC. A British diplomatic historian, Mark Curtis, wrote a very good book a few years ago called Secret Affairs: British Collusion with Radical Islam. Curtis went through the British records on Islam. It turns out the British had consistently supported radical Islamist elements, pretty much what the U.S. has been doing. They may not have liked it but they prefer them to the secular nationalists. 115[MOU79] 
  • NC. And the U.S., Britain, and France are quite willing to tolerate the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood because they are basically neoliberal. 117[MOU80] 
  • NC. One of the real achievements of the Arab Spring in Egypt has been to reduce, maybe eliminate, constraints on labor organizing. 118[MOU81] 
  • NC. As far as the U.S. and the West are concerned, it would be almost intolerable to allow functioning democracy in this region. 118[MOU82] 
  • NC. So for example, in Egypt, the most important country, about 80 percent of the population, maybe higher, regard the United States and Israel as the main threats they face. 118[MOU83] 
  • NC. Well, if you have a functioning democracy, then popular opinions would have some influence on policy. 119[MOU84] 
  • NC. … in eastern Saudi Arabia there is a Shi’ite population, which has been pretty harshly repressed. That is the area where most of the oil is, so it’s very sensitive. 119[MOU85] 
  • AV. In the Western attempt to pass the UN resolution against Syria, Russia and China opposed them. This was a clear signal that both powers—China and Russia—are unwilling to take orders from the West, and are ready to cooperate in opposing Western imperialism. 120[MOU86] -1
  • NC. [Iran sanction] The sanctions are virtually a blockade, which is an act of war. 124[MOU87] 
  • NC. Iran has very low military expenditure even by the standards of the region. 125[MOU88] 
  • NC. No. Israel won’t do anything as long as the U.S. backs it. And why should it? It is getting exactly what it wants. 131[MOU89] 
  • NC. … Europe is helping too, by dumping toxic waste into the ocean off the coasts of Somalia, killing off the fishing grounds and then complaining that the people turned to piracy. 140[MOU90] 
  • NC. South Africa changed for the better after the end of apartheid, but not on class issues. That remained pretty well fixed. You may have black faces in the limousines, but for the poor majority, miserable conditions remain. 141[MOU91] 
  • NC. Revolutionary leaders are typically from amongst the elite. They fight courageously, and it is not easy to overthrow a dictatorship; a lot of people get killed; in South Africa people were tortured and exiled. But when the leaders come into power they easily move into the same patterns as those people they have replaced. 142[MOU92] 
  • NC. When Chavez came in, for example, there was huge capital flight out of Venezuela. When he was briefly overthrown, it started coming back in. The same happened in Haiti with Aristide. As long as capital flow is free, that’s going to be a major weapon against any reform… domestic and international investor community which carries out a “moment by moment referendum” on government policies and if it doesn’t like the policies, it bars them by speculating against the currency, by capital flight and by other measures. 143[MOU93] 
  • NC. Take Korea, during its period of great economic growth: they not only barred capital flight, but you could get the death penalty for it. 144[MOU94] 
  • NC. The peak of U.S. power was in the 1940s. It’s been declining ever since. In 1945 the U.S. had half the world’s wealth, a position of overwhelming security, control of the hemisphere, both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, most of the other sides of the oceans. 149[MOU95] 
  • NC. George Bush senior and James Baker made a compact with Mikhail Gorbachev that they would permit a unified Germany to join a Western military alliance, which is no joke from Russia’s point of view. But in return, they said NATO would not move “one inch to the East.” Well, immediately they moved to the East and Gorbachev was pretty upset… Now NATO is a U.S.-run global intervention force. It has an official mandate for controlling the international energy system, sea lanes, pipelines, and so on. 160[MOU96] 
  • It is different from conventional imperialism, because they didn’t just rule the countries that they conquered or administered, they displaced the native population or exterminated them and then settled there. There was the same process in Australia and Canada, and almost the same in New Zealand except the Maori resisted so are still somehow integrated in the society, but its the same structure. 163[MOU97] 
  • NC. Ten years after the Civil War, after the amendments and so on, there was a compact between the North and the South which essentially enabled the South to reestablish a form of slavery by criminalizing black life. So almost anything that a black male was doing could be regarded as criminal, like standing at the street corner or looking at a white woman, or whatever. 166[MOU98] 
  • NC. If you get your workforce from the jails, you don’t have to take care of them, they are not going to strike, they are not going to ask for better wages. 166[MOU99] 
  1. AV. Obama’s father was recruited by Tom Mboya, a Kenyan right-wing politician from the Luo tribe, who was very close to the U.S. government. They went to Hawaii where they were trained or educated, and later sent back to Africa. There Mboya and Obama’s father helped Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya, to get rid of all the left-wing influences and to sideline the progressive leader Oginga Odinga. 168[MOU100] 
  1. AV. His father was an alcoholic, he had several car accidents in Kenya, and he was disabled for most of his later years. But it wasn’t only Obama’s Kenyan father who was on an anti-left crusade… His mother remarried after she met an Indonesian army officer who was being trained in Hawaii. He was called home to help with the aftermath of the 1965 coup. Obama’s mother and the young Obama actually moved to Indonesia just a short time after the coup; he grew up in Menteng, an elite neighbourhood of Jakarta… It was a solid upper-middle to upper-class neighborhood, and the family lived inside the military compound. Even now he speaks very warmly about his childhood, which in reality coincides with torture, mass murder, rapes and disappearances all over Indonesia. 169[MOU101] 
  1. AV. Indonesia had only around 100 million inhabitants; 2–3 percent of the population was murdered. Further millions were purged, raped, tortured, imprisoned. It would take great discipline [for Obama] not to notice and not to remember. 169[MOU102] 
  1. AV. It is interesting how complacent the American voter or European voter is… I always notice that when I go to Germany, or England, or France, to a café and talk and listen to the people, they seem to be totally disillusioned with their political and social system. They don’t like any of the political parties; they don’t even really want to participate in the system. 170-1[MOU103] 
  1. AV. “democracy” in the West is allowed to function as long as it serves the interest of the ruling elites… But in the moment when people refuse or reject the regime’s perception of what democracy should be, the mechanism of brutality and oppression will kick in. 171[MOU104] 
  1. AV. …drones, which are synonymous with terrorism and absolute impunity—they kill without the invading nation having to risk its own soldiers. It is a one-sided war; a video game for one side, the horror of destroyed villages, murdered individuals and mutilated bodies for the other. 172[MOU105]