Noam Chomsky Owns Sam Harris and Indicts Bill Clinton
Noam Chomsky had a private email session with Sam Harris about Clinton’s bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory which Clinton allegedly believed was also manufacturing a nerve agent. I really recommend reading the entire exchange, which is hilarious and horrifying on multiple levels. First, because Harris just doesn’t get that Chomsky is smashing him flat and asks for permission to publish it. Second, because the sort of ethical reasoning Chomsky uses is so alien to so many people in the world (and, sadly, especially to Americans).
To put it simply, Clinton’s destruction of that factory meant that many people didn’t get the drugs they needed to survive. So they died. The number of people who died was much larger than the number of people who died in 9/11. Harris just doesn’t seem to get it, he thinks “intent” matters more and that Clinton deserves the benefit of the doubt. Chomsky points out that any intelligent person would have predicted the effects of bombing that factory and Clinton did it anyway.
If he did it without malice, well, that means he felt nothing even though he had to know he was killing all those people. Feeling nothing about mass murder–and that’s what it was–is arguably worse than murdering someone you acknowledge as human, as having worth.
(There is also a a brief discussion of the Iraq sanctions of the 1990s, which were a terrible crime, as well.)
The point I want to emphasize is this: If you knowingly do something which a reasonable person knows will lead to large numbers of deaths, you are on the hook for those deaths. It may be the “least worst option” in some cases (though not, I think, in either of these cases), but you are still responsible.
A reasonable man (and Clinton is a brilliant man, famed for staying up all night doing research, right down to reading all the appendices and footnotes, unlike many executives), is responsible for the effects of his actions that a reasonable man forsee.
This is Ethics 101—it is also Democracy 101. If you cannot understand this, you cannot hold your legislators and executives responsible.
Chomsky also dismisses questions of motives as irrelevant; virtually everyone says they have great motives, including the Japanese during their mid-20th century wars. At the end of the day, you can only judge with reasonable expectations and by results. Everything else is BS.
I will finally note something a lot of people don’t seem to understand, because they have been exposed more to propaganda about Chomsky rather than his own writings or his seminal work in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. Like him or hate him, Chomsky is one of the great geniuses of the 20th century. Even at age 86 and slowing down, getting into the intellectual ring with him is like trying to bear hug a grizzly. It is unlikely to end well for you
It sure didn’t for Sam Harris.
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