Chomsky, Noam. 9-11 Was There an Alternative?

Author:Magnarella, Paul J.
Position:Book review

Chomsky, Noam. 9-11 Was There an Alternative? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011. 174 pp.

This new edition of the 2001 book by the same title contains a new opening chapter Chomsky wrote shortly after the May 1, 2011 assassination of Osama Bin Ladin in Pakistan by U.S. Navy Seals. Asking "Was there an Alternative?" requires Americans to take stock of what has happened since 2001 and imagining what might have been accomplished peacefully and lawfully in lieu of invading Afghanistan and Iraq and involving Pakistan.

The finding of the 2011 Brown University Costs of War Project are sobering. In the first ten years of war over 6000 American troops died, and over 550,000 disability claims poured into the VA hospitals. The many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified. At least 138,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict. Indirect deaths from the wars, including those related to malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure, and environmental degradation, far outnumber deaths from combat. The Geneva Declaration Secretariat estimates that there have been four indirect deaths to every one direct combat death. The current number of war refugees and displaced persons--7,800,000--would be equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes. The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion. The negative effects on the U.S. economy have been devastating. Although the Bush administration promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by religion and ethnicity as a result of the war. Serious and compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the rush to war against Iraq.

As an alternative to invading Afghanistan, Chomsky agrees with Anglo-American military historian Michel Howard who proposed "a police operation [against those responsible for 9-11] conducted under the auspices of the United Nations ... against a...

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