Noam Chomsky

Some excerpts from the intro by Bob Olsen

The complete document is at

Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas September 20, 1999
Transcribed by James R. Benkard

The concern for sovereignty has gone through two phases. The first phase was in the first part of the year when the focus was on the US/NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and the second phase is in the past few weeks - in connection with the renewed atrocities in East Timor.

During the first phase there was "extreme exuberance" that we were entering a new era in human history in which the "enlightened states" will use force when they believe it to be just, disregarding old-fashioned concepts of sovereignty and international law. No more restrictive old rules. The "enlightened states" will act on their traditional principles with "the defense of human rights as their mission." Secretary of State Albright proclaimed, reported with awe by the New York Times.

The second phase is the past few weeks. The tune changed very radically, as attention shifted to East Timor, where there was a resurgence of the terror and violence and massacres that have been going on for twenty-five years. That's actually the worst slaughter, relative to population, since the Holocaust.

Now, it turns out that the sovereignty of Indonesia has to receive delicate and exaggerated respect in this case, even when there is no sovereignty. Because, of course, Indonesia has no claim to sovereignty in East Timor, apart from the claim that resides in the support given to its aggression by the great powers, in particular the enlightened states, in particular the leader of the enlightened states, the U.S.

Well, it's an interesting transition, and it does raise some questions: what happened? What's the difference?

Last modified 13th October 1999.