Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

US is a leading terrorist state, Chomsky tells Irish audience

Top academic refuels debate over Shannon

Academic, linguist and outspoken critic of US foreign policy Noam Chomsky yesterday refuelled the debate about the US military use of Shannon.

Academic, linguist and outspoken critic of US foreign policy Noam Chomsky yesterday refuelled the debate about the US military use of Shannon.

His comments come just weeks after he accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of "shining the shoes" of President George Bush.

Prof Chomsky, perhaps the world's best known liberal intellectual, received a rapturous response last night for an Amnesty International lecture at Dublin's RDS during which he referred to the US as "a leading terrorist state".

The 77-year-old academic calmly, clinically and with at times barbed humour dissected US foreign policy in relation to the "War on Terror" and human rights.

Perhaps mindful of the furore his comments about Mr Ahern received when he delivered them last month, his lecture proper steered clear of commenting on the US use of Shannon.

During a Q&A session, Prof Chomsky responded to comments made by Richard Boyd Barrett of the Irish Anti War movement who said 300,000 US troops were going through Shannon in addition to 50 to 60 rendition flights, in which it is alleged the CIA has been illegally transporting prisoners for torture.

He supported Mr Barrett's call for demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq. He said even if part of what he claimed was true it would amount to participation "in the supreme international crime".

Professor Chomsky, described by Bono as the "Elvis of Academia", said that in examining the guidelines by which terror is established it followed "that the US is a leading terrorist state".

He began by telling his audience that terror was "a term that rightly arouses strong emotions and deep concerns," and added: "The primary concern should naturally be to take measures to alleviate the threat, which has been severe in the past and will be even more so in the future."

But he said guidelines were needed and there were three simple ones: "Facts matter, even if we do not like them; elementary moral principles matter, even if they have consequences that we would prefer not to face; and relative clarity matters. It is pointless to seek a truly precise definition of terror or of any other concept outside of the hard sciences . . . But we should seek enough clarity at least to distinguish terror from two notions that lie uneasily at its borders: aggression and legitimate resistance."

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