Niklas's blog

A few American actions: Chomsky and Prashad


This is a short quotation from The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power1 which is published on 2022-08-30 by The New Press.

All links are created by myself, not the authors nor the publisher. I've created them as links to sources.

VIJAY: In 2015, you told Isabelle Kumar that the United States is the greatest terrorist country in the world 2. That was the headline. What you were actually talking about was the U.S. assassination campaign by drones in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. You said that the assassination campaign is the worst terrorist campaign in the world by far, orchestrated in Washington by a liberal democratic administration. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism3 has a reliable catalogue of the drone strikes. It calculates that between 2010 and 2020, the United States conducted over fourteen thousand drone strikes, killing between 8,858 and 16,901 people (of them 910 to 2,200 were civilians and of them again 283 to 454 were children). Azmat Khan and her colleagues who produced the Civilian Casualty Files4 on U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria have found that in half the strikes there was no Islamic State member nearby and the only deaths were of civilians. Between the Bureau— with good information on Afghanistan and Pakistan— and the Civilian Casualty Files—with good information on Iraq and Syria—we have an astounding collection of facts on the murderous nature of these wars. This drone campaign was another recruitment tool for the Taliban in the Afghanistan and Pakistan borderlands, while the air war on Iraq and Syria certainly deepens antipathy to the United States. These are pretty self-evidently terrorist actions.


Data from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism on the minumum number of confirmed strikes. Screenshot is taken 2022-08-04 by Niklas Pivic.

NOAM: Imagine if Iran were carrying out an international terrorist campaign to assassinate people who it thought might pose a potential danger to Iran? Every leading figure in the U.S. government and the Israeli government, and anybody else who happened to be standing around, would be treated as collateral damage for this campaign. Suppose that they did that. What would the United States say? First of all, we wouldn’t say anything, because we’d nuke them and wipe them out. But if we were to say anything, we would say, They’re the greatest terrorist threat in the world. How can a country dare to go around assassinating people? Which is what the drone campaign is actually all about. It kills people that the United States believes pose a threat to the United States or to its interests. What it actually means is that a couple of guys in northwestern Pakistan are fixing a tire, and a drone circles around them, decides that they are up to no good, and then blasts them with a hellfire missile. That’s President Barack Obama’s policy. President Donald Trump made it worse, using the Mother of all Bombs on the people of southeastern Afghanistan5.

I know that the statement about the United States being a terrorist country is considered an outrageous statement. I make outrageous statements purposely if they are true. I don’t care if they are outrageous. A few years ago, I said that Trump is the most dangerous criminal in world history. How can you be more outrageous than that? But then let’s look at the facts. Can you think of any other figure in world history who is as dedicated with passion to destroying the prospects of human life on Earth? Not Hitler, not Genghis Khan, nobody except Trump. The United States had been dragging its feet on efforts to do something about the impending existential catastrophe of environmental destruction. Trump accelerated the devastation. He said, Who cares? Let’s race to the precipice as fast as possible, maximize the use of fossil fuels, including the most dangerous of them, get rid of all the regulations that somewhat mitigate their effect, let’s destroy everything as quickly as possible for the benefit of my masters, the people in the ExxonMobil corporate headquarters who need to register their profits tomorrow. That’s the precise order of things. Wipe out everything. Can you find an analogous figure in history? The point is that these are outrageous statements, but they happen to be true, and they are true not just in my opinion. The Gallup organization once made a mistake. This was in 2013, the Obama years, when it asked, “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace?”6 There was no competitor to the United States. It was far ahead, with Pakistan second, inflated no doubt by the Indian vote. China, North Korea, Israel, and Iran brought up the third tier of threats, far behind the United States. That poll didn’t get published in the United States. Look at the key foreign-policy initiatives of the United States government: the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the blockade of Cuba, the sanctions on Iran and Venezuela—overwhelming opposition from the world’s peoples and governments.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush sighed plaintively, Why do they hate us? The point is that we are supposed to be so noble and so wonderful, so why do they hate us? The government did set up a Pentagon investigation to answer Bush’s question. Its answer was: They hate us because of what we have done to them. That didn’t get very far. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked his staff the same question: Why do they hate us? We’ve been so good to them.7 We even forced Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw from the Sinai, not because we opposed it but because they were getting into our turf. We’re the only ones who can do things like that. They shouldn’t do it. They’re the nineteenth-century people. So, we kick them out. And yet, the people are not grateful to us. They still hate us. Well, there was an answer given by the National Security Council, basically the same one that was given to Bush: They hate us because of what we do to them.

Can’t imagine why the remnants of Native Americans might have some negative feelings about the United States, or why, say, Mexicans could look at the town where I live in occupied Mexico and say something was wrong with a war of aggression; we stole half of Mexico from Mexico, now the Southwestern and Western United States. How could they have any negative feelings about that? It’s all for the benefit of civilization. In fact, if they don’t know it already, they could read the leading American writers, people like Ralph Waldo Emerson or Walt Whitman, who asked what a bunch of ignorant Mexicans have to do with the future of the human race? You don’t have to read crazed imperial maniacs like Theodore Roosevelt. You can read one of the liberal commentators, like Emerson and Whitman, who were in a more modulated tone saying pretty much the same thing. Apologists for the British Empire said the same: Look at all the wonderful things we’re doing for India after we’ve destroyed them.

  1. Chomsky, Noam, and Vijay Prashad. 2022. The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power. The New Press. 

  2. “Chomsky Says US Is World’s Biggest Terrorist.” 2015. Euronews. April 17, 2015. 

  3. “Drone Warfare — The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism.” n.d. The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism (En-GB). Accessed August 4, 2022. 

  4. Khan, Azmat, Hassan Sarah, and Sarah Almukhtar. 2021. “The Civilian Casualty Files.” The New York Times. December 18, 2021. 

  5. Editors, 2021. “U.S. Military Drops ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ On ISIS Tunnel Complex.” HISTORY. August 23, 2021. 

  6. Chomsky, Noam. 2014. “The Greatest Threat To World Peace.” Chomsky.Info. February 5, 2014. 

  7. Fullerton, Ticky. 2002. “The Campaign Of Hatred Against Us, Noam Chomsky Interviewed By Ticky Fullerton.” Chomsky.Info. January 26, 2002.