BU Today

In the World

Noam Chomsky Deplores a Rogue Nation: Ours

Iconic linguist offers stinging commentary, little hope on Mideast


Speaking at BU December 8, Noam Chomsky criticized President Obama and the United States and its allies, among others, but pointed to encouraging developments in Northern Ireland. Photo by BU Productions

Armed with a stockpile of caustic sound bites, Noam Chomsky took to a lectern at the College of General Studies Tuesday night to address the chances for Middle East peace and to rail against the world’s most ruthless terrorists.

He was referring to the United States and Israel.

Although he acknowledged that President Barack Obama “is probably a nice man,” Chomsky had no constructive words for the president, who he charged with deceiving and humoring those who elected him while continuing to do the bidding of those who have turned America into the imperialist “Godfather.” Pointing out that the Nobel Committee’s award of the Peace Prize to Obama in October coincided with his endorsement of a plan to build more stealth bomber planes, Chomsky disparagingly referred to “Obama’s inspiring contribution to peace … which you can look for under a microscope.” This drew laughter from the mostly student audience in Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, which was about three-quarters full.

Pale features framed by a full head of long white hair, the frail-looking Chomsky still travels and lectures widely. His latest book, Hopes and Prospects, is due out next year.

The famed linguist was also critical of the domestic media, which he believes is complicit in demonizing Iran (“a massive propaganda campaign”) while ignoring violations of international law and United Nations resolutions by the United States, Israel, India, and Pakistan. In particular, he derided New York Times high-profile Middle East hand Thomas Friedman for being a flak, and not seeing beyond U.S. interests.

Attributing Obama’s victory to backing by major financial institutions, he dismissed U.S. presidential elections as “a façade, like a TV commercial, a way to get uninformed consumers to make irrational choices.”

Chomsky charged that the Obama administration is secretly undermining a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout his talk, cosponsored by the School of Education and the BU-based nonprofit Axis of Hope, Chomsky insisted that if the United States directed Israel to cease aggressions in Gaza or new settlements in the West Bank, Israel would oblige. He chided Obama for going soft on “evil dictator” Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, during his June speech in Cairo.

“Israel knows that all settlements in the West Bank are illegal; its own courts says so,” he argued. “But they can keep doing it as long as ‘the Godfather’ says it’s fine.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Chomsky pointed to the powerful, enduring end to apartheid in South Africa. And he’s encouraged by developments in Northern Ireland, which he visited and found “peaceful, at least on the surface.” He praised U.S. special envoy George Mitchell for his efforts in Northern Ireland and called him a good choice for Middle East envoy.

Occasionally, when he retreats from statistics and arcane historical details of insurgencies and international law, Chomsky hits at the human heart of violent conflict. “On a visit in 1993, a woman took us to meet an Irish hit man,” he said. “I asked him, ‘What do you think you’re changing?’ He said, ‘Nothing. Someone killed my brother so I killed his cousin; he killed my cousin so I killed his nephew.’”

Except for a question about whether it was appropriate to make light of a potential threat from Iran, the handful of questions revealed that Chomsky was preaching to the choir. As he rose to thank the audience and was met with applause, the 81-year-old did something he hadn’t done in the previous hour and a half. He smiled.

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.


19 Comments on Noam Chomsky Deplores a Rogue Nation: Ours

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 6:20 am

    Mr. Chomsky, with all due respect to your monumentous discoveries in linguistics, you are a sellout to both your heritage and your country, a dependable asskisser of every Islamic fundamentalist regime, and a bloodsucking leech of American freedoms, and you do not have much longer to spew your Hugo Chavez-esque nonsense.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 7:56 am

    Chomsky’s views are nothing if not interesting, and good for stretching and challenging the status quo.

    But as the years go by, it seems clear that he picks and chooses the targets for his criticism mostly to try and get a rise out of his audience’s presumed ideology, and not because of any grand ethical or moral code.

    This is the guy who was a denier of, and later apologist for, the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and the massacre of millions in Cambodia. Sometimes, trying to get a rise from your audience puts you on the side of the devils and evil people of the world. And he either hasn’t learned that, or doesn’t care.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 8:44 am

    chomsky is great. where are the rest with the critical thinking?

  • Tarik Borogovac on 12.10.2009 at 10:05 am

    Chomsky is a genocide denier

    Noam Chomsky has many times commented on the genocide in Bosnia, saying that it “probably didn’t happen” and that it is “much less” than certain other massacres around the world. He has repeated these statements many times while ignoring mountains of evidence that have been presented to him.

    The Bosnian genocide is probably the best documented in history. Every day even to this day large numbers of human remains are being dug up from mass graves, and identified through DNA analysis as belonging to non-serb civilians who were executed by serbian death squads. Serbian generals have been convicted for genocide at the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia at the Hague. In the town of Srebrenica alone, 8000 non-Serb captive men and boys were executed in a period of about 4 days in July 1995. The international court of justice has ruled that Bosnian Serb police and military carried out that ethnically motivated massacre and that Serbia had the knowledge, opportunity, and means to stop it, and did not. For that, Serbia is the only country to be formally convicted of a genocide charge — that of non-prevention of genocide.

    As a Bosnian American I am horrified by Chomsky’s stance, since denying genocide is the first step toward repeating it. I know many people, ordinary Bosnians just like me, who have lost family to Serbian death squads just for having names that sound like mine. But I can see that repeating, because Bosnia is still an unsettled and dangerous state on the edge of war. This is due to the continuing refusal by Serb leaders in Bosnia and Serbia to lead their people away from the ideals of “ethnic cleansing” first invented by Milosevic. They continue to preach that it is “us against them” i.e. Serbs against Bosniaks and Croats, they talk of “holding on to war gains” in Bosnia. And they continue to deny that Serb military, police, and paramilitary forces carried out genocide.

    Chomsky just makes their job easier. But he has no excuse. He has been made well aware of the evidence.

  • Abram Trosky on 12.10.2009 at 10:25 am


    You missed the most important part of Chomsky’s anecdote in the penultimate paragraph: that IRA hit man, who had little hope of the troubles’ resolution, is now part of the government cooperating with the Northern Irish.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 10:29 am

    USans need to hear Chomsky

    Thank you for running this article – USans need to hear more of what Noam Chomsky says.

  • Suzann on 12.10.2009 at 10:36 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mr. Chomsky and admire him for his courage to stand up against some of the policies the U.S and Israel have adopted over the years. Some audience members scoffed at his words, but I think he presented a valid argument that much of the international community undoubtedly supports.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 11:05 am

    Chomsky is an anti-American and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. BU Today should leave him to writing introductions for books that deny the Holocaust rather than spending time covering another one his hate rallies.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 11:48 am

    Give me a break.....

    I can’t wait for all of the undergrads who drink this cool-aid to get out in the real world. Learn some history other than the far left agenda that academia is cramming into your heads.

    BU has every right to bring quacks like this in to spread his rediculous views….. and I have every right as an alummus to NOT give BU any of my money

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 11:54 am

    He is anti semitic? Hes

    He is anti semitic?

    Hes jewish. Idiot.!

  • Neema on 12.10.2009 at 3:09 pm

    Chomsky may be a bit confused in his rejection of the free market, but his anti-war analysis has always been spot on. Those who say he’s anti-American should ponder the Idea that Washington DC is not the real America, and just about every policy to come out of that totalitarian Imperial capital is detrimental to the millions of non-tax-eaters who are the real Americans. Killing people for no reason is not an American idea its a Washington DC Idea. DC sends Americans to die in wars against countries that have no capability of attacking America. Terrorist don’t hate us for our freedoms they hate having an occupying army in their homeland just like I as an American would hate having Chinese soldiers roam around my hometown trying to change my society to their image. Honestly Washington DC is America’s worst enemy, the most American thing to do would be for every other part of the country to secede and leave the evil parasites without a host to feed off of

  • Mark W. Paris on 12.10.2009 at 3:38 pm

    Poor journalistic standard

    A basic tenet of modern journalism requires the writer to leave personal opinions out of the report, a dictate Susan Seligson would do well to adhere to more closely. Whatever her opinion of Noam Chomsky, the job of the reporter is to present a factual account of a given event. This article, however, is full of point-of-view statements which impute a distinctly negative intent on the part of the subject, Professor Chomsky.

    As a good example of this we have the writer’s opinion that, “Chomsky had no constructive words for the president.” What metric was used to assess how “constructive” is a given statement? And: what does this phrase do to inform the reader of the factual accounting of the event?

    Now, it is clear from the above (and a nearly continual stream of commentary by Seligson) that the writer doesn’t appreciate the commentary offered by Prof. Chomsky. (If I’m wrong, it would be gratifying to hear a public announcement of that fact by Seligson.) The point is, however, that most readers don’t care what her opinion is.

    There is a place in most newspapers for opinion. Perhaps Ms. Seligson should be taken off reporting and relegated to a forum where people can readily detect that she’s using the newspaper to air her feelings.

  • Anonymous on 12.10.2009 at 6:15 pm

    The real problem is that the author of this article has completely forgotten about objectivity. Chomsky, whether you agree with him or not, is a controversial figure; a lot of people find his statements very offensive, and this has to be taken into consideration, especially since this is a university website. There are students from Israel on campus, as well as students who support Israel. There are also those who strongly oppose Iran, which Chomsky defended, and some of those students are from Iran who suffered or now people who have suffered from the Iranian regime. And Chomsky’s argument relies heavily on historical, legal and political data, which I don’t really think he is capable to analyze properly, since he is not a specialist, at least according to Wikipedia (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chomsky): “Chomsky has frequently stated that there is no connection between his work in linguistics and his political views, and is generally critical of the idea that competent discussion of political topics requires expert knowledge in academic fields.” If this is what he thinks his opinion is void of any substance. In my opinion, and I do have a bias, he is completely wrong and a hypocrite as well, accusing media of all evils and himself spreading what is essentially propaganda through the same medium. But this is my opinion and if it were in a news article it would have to be quoted, and so should be Chomsky’s opinion.

  • Anonymous on 12.11.2009 at 12:10 am

    Chomsky inspiration

    Before being Jewish, Chomsky is human, and owes his loyalties to humanity. He is a revolutionary thinker and we need more of these. We need society to learn how to think, not with the object of the gains of one, but with the object of gains for the collective. He appears to be justly questioning reality and imposed ideologies and searching for truth and justice for all involved, not only for USans (I loved that!), or any other individual group. I see this as highly laudable and praiseworthy. We need to be incited to bring just ideals into practice. Westerners today are too tyrannical and only able to see their own navel.
    Let’s free the mind and usher in equitable life, not just exploitation of man by man. Chosmky is adding to this movement. Hail Chomsky.

  • Sheridan on 12.12.2009 at 3:09 am


    to “Mr. Chomsky, with all due”: in what sense has Chomsky sold out to his heritage and country? And an “asskisser” of Islamic regimes? He is, on the contrary, a fierce critic of them all, especially the worst one–Saudi Arabia–the one Washington has supported through and through. A leech of American freedoms? Chomsky, as a 60’s activist and inspiration to the movement, is one of the contributors to winning the greater civil freedoms we all enjoy today. Hugo Chavez-esque nonsense? You don’t explain what that means.

    to “Chomsky”: show me the evidence that Chomsky was an apologist for the massacres in Cambodia, etc. I remember Chomsky labeling Kissinger’s Cambodia-aimed directive “anything that flies against anything that moves” as the most direct call in history for genocide.

    to “Chomsky is an anti-American”:
    Chomsky is anti-American on the tacit assumption that you identify a national culture with state power. (i.e. I guess I’m anti-German for criticizing Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland.) 1984 is recommended reading for you. May scare you into avoiding propaganda-language yourself.

    to “Give me a break…..”:
    The term “far left agenda” in reference to understanding history is a derogatory term often used by apologists for state violence (maybe you are one of them) as an attempt to discredit academics who analyze the world critically and pay attention to evidence, etc. And I hope you didn’t spend too much tuition money at BU – you’d apparently have been supporting “far leftism” and, furthermore, they didn’t even teach you to spell. Another failure of the far left I guess.

    to “Chomsky may be a bit”:
    Chomsky does not “reject” the free market. Do a little more looking into what he has to say about economics. He directs specific criticism towards hypocrites in Washington, on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms who give verbiage to free markets and then subvert them at every turn. (Remember, the Reaganites were the most protectionist leaders in the last 60 years.) He rightly criticizes the failure of markets to account for what he calls “externalities”, that is, the “ripples” made in the real world by individual financial transactions. This failure opens the door for systemic risk, with the obvious consequences we’re all seeing now in the US financial system. Remember how Greenspan’s Libertarian anti-regulatory framework helped lead to this disaster. No one was a more vocal proponent of the pure wonder of “free markets” than he.

  • re: chomsky is a genocide denier on 12.14.2009 at 1:39 pm

    RE: Chomsky is a genocide denier

    You are misinformed about Chomsky’s stance on the massacre.


  • Anonymous on 12.20.2009 at 12:10 am

    RE: Chomsky is a genocide denier

    Another link on the ridiculous campaign of misinformation around Chomsky’s position on this issue:


  • Rafi on 12.20.2009 at 3:46 am

    Real Peace

    Jerusalem is the source of problems of our world and I wonder why thinkers like Chomsky don’t come up with a “short” road map for the hard knot?
    Israel (USA!), Palestinians, Iran , Arab (fanatic Islamists)world and even tiny Armenia with her small share in the Holy Land, all wish to have a finger in the pie.
    My short road map would suggest establishment of a second Vatican out of Jerusalem, i.e. an independent free state, protected by UN and serving all politicians who “hide” behind great relegions, Christianity to Islam.
    Obamas, Chavezs and Perezs would need thinkers to think about real peace and let their own interest aside.
    Time is running short.

  • Mr. Anonymous on 11.02.2011 at 8:34 am

    It is important to keep the bias of the journalist out of an article. Seligson failed to do so in this piece, and it shows. Perhaps a more qualified journalist should be appointed to cover such events in the future?

Post Your Comment

(never shown)