March 05, 2006

World in peril, Chomsky tells overflow crowd

There are dire consequences to the current direction of the U.S. foreign policy, said Noam Chomsky in a speech Saturday at Binghamton University. Among those consequences, he said, is a nuclear Armageddon.

"Under the current U.S. policies, a nuclear exchange is inevitable," the 77-year-old MIT professor said in his presentation, "Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions." He spoke to an over-capacity crowd in BU's Osterhout Concert Theater.

Chomsky cited nuclear proliferation and environmental collapse as the two greatest crises that "literally threaten survival."

Since the 1960s Chomsky, a widely acclaimed professor of linguistics, has crusaded against political contradiction, nuclear proliferation and Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Regarded by many as the greatest intellectual alive today and dismissed by others as a radical, Chomsky has voiced harsh criticism against the foreign policy of the United States since World War II.

About 1,500 people crammed into the main theater, while a television broadcast the speech to a room of about 500 next door. Ushers were forced to turn hundreds of people away as the building filled beyond its capacity.

Asked whether he had anticipated the number of people, the building's operations director, Darryl Wood, responded, "Not this many, no."

Inside the theater, Chomsky delivered an account of the world's ills. He addressed the history of the Iraq conflict, the unrest it has fostered, and Iran's intentions for nuclear armament - a path, he said, that is directly tied to U.S. aggression in the Middle East. Chomsky outlined a course of action. "All of this is under our control if we're not willing to observe passively and obediently," he said. "Take democracy seriously."

Peter Klotz drove two hours from Siena College in Loudonville to see the professor. "He knows what he's talking about," Klotz said. "His ideas are certainly not new, but he presents things in a very concise manner."

John Hamilton, who drove from Ithaca to see Chomsky, stood up to ask a question during the question-and-answer period following Chomsky's speech. "My question is, what do you find hopeful?" Hamilton said.

"I think one should be very optimistic for the reasons I just mentioned," Chomsky said. "The large majority of the population already agrees with the things activists are committed to. All we have to do is organize people who are convinced."


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