In his first statement on the terrorist attack, Chomsky’s response to Osama bin Laden’s calculated strike on a building containing 50,000 innocent human beings was to eclipse it with an even greater atrocity he was confident he could attribute to former president Bill Clinton. Chomsky’s infamous September 12 statement “On the Bombings” began:
The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it).(4)
Observe the syntax. The opening reference to the actual attacks is clipped and bloodless, a kind of rhetorical throat clearing for Chomsky to get out of the way, so that he can announce the real subject of his concern – America’s crimes. The accusation against Clinton is even slipped into the text, weasel fashion, as though it were a modifier, when it is actually the substantive message itself. It is a message that says: Look away, America, from the injury that has been done to you, and contemplate the injuries you have done to them. It is in this sleight of hand that Chomsky reveals his true gift, which is to make the victim, America, appear as an even more heinous perpetrator than the criminal himself. However bad this may seem, you have done worse.