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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 19:00 GMT
Chomsky: Afghan attacks unlawful
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Noam Chomsky
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Noam Chomsky
The American political philosopher Noam Chomsky has condemned the US bombing of Afghanistan as a series of "unlawful" revenge attacks.

Mr Chomsky, one of America's foremost intellectuals, also said the failure of the US to get the Security Council to authorise the use of force under Article 51 of the UN charter projected an image of America as domineering and conceited.

"All of this is as clear a statement as you can imagine that we do not want to follow international law," Mr Chomsky told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk.

If the leading mafia don in town wants to pick somebody up, he doesn't get a court order

Noam Chomsky
"We are telling the world we do not defer to any authority."

Article 51 permits the use of force against an armed attacker if authorised by the Security Council.

Mr Chomsky also commented on why he thought the rest of the world went along with the US decision to attack Afghanistan.

"If the leading mafia don in town wants to pick somebody up, he doesn't get a court order, he just goes and sends his goons to pick him up and nobody objects because they're afraid."


Osama Bin Laden
Mr Chomsky believes he can take Osama Bin Laden at his word
Mr Chomsky said it was "entirely possible" that Bin Laden did not know about the 11 September attacks and that he could have just been boasting in a videotape released by the US in December 2001 which links the Saudi-born militant to the atrocities.

He also claimed that Bin Laden could be taken at his word because his statements had been "consistent over time and very consistent with his actions over a long period".

Mr Chomsky denied that he was kicking the US when it was down, but maintained that his native country is not a completely innocent victim in the struggle and that there are "plenty of Bin Ladens on both sides".

"I'm asking that we accept the definition of hypocrite given in the gospels, " he said.

"The hypocrite is the person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applies to others.

"I think we should try to rise to the level of minimal moral integrity."

Mr Chomsky who is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology went on to identify his reasoning as a quest for political fair play.

"Minimal moral integrity requires that if we think something is wrong when they do it, it's wrong when we do it."


Mr Chomsky said he perceived some improvements in American attitudes.

"In the United States there is a level of questioning, openness, protest and concern about these actions which is beyond anything in my memory," he said.

"I think it is a sign of the increased civilisation of the American population."

You can hear the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
27 February 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
27 February 0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

Noam Chomsky
"We are telling the world we do not defer to any authority."
See also:

01 Feb 02 | Americas
Forum protesters look to ending war
16 Jan 02 | Americas
War on terror 'curbing human rights'
23 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush plots attack plans
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