The 2010 anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone and the question that people are asking is whether America has learned anything from the most devastating attack ever launched on the American mainland. Has anything changed since the early days when a terracotta army of treasonable intellectuals assembled in rows to condemn the United States for having deserved the carnage visited upon it—and in the process acquitted both the terrorists who slaughtered thousands of innocents and Islam itself which incubated their murderous rage?
The rogue’s gallery is represented by the likes of Ward Churchill, Robert Jensen, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, William Blum and Howard Zinn, to name just a sparse handful.
That millions of Muslims celebrated 9/11 worldwide is understandable if deplorable; but that highly-educated Western intellectuals should blaspheme the memory of their own dead is almost beyond comprehension and surely beyond repentance. The sympathy they so prodigally exhibit is almost never with their own people, the particular individuals murdered by the terrorists—office workers, firemen and policemen, passengers, pilots and flight attendants, mothers and young children facing the horror of their own approaching deaths—but with an abstract population of Afghanis, Iraqis and Muslims worldwide to whom they gave scarcely a passing thought before the American counteraction.
Nothing much seems to have changed since September 2001 though the rhetoric has been toned down, more or less. The contemporary nuances, however, merely camouflage the underlying anti-American toxin. President Obama assures us, in the very teeth of the monstrous, that “we will not or ever be at war with Islam” but with “a small band of sorry men” who have hijacked a religion of peace and amity. The president is here displaying either his ignorance, his duplicity or his sympathies, probably all three. Similarly, Obama’s national security adviser for counterterrorism, John Brennan, acting on the orders of his boss, denies that “there is an Islamic dimension to terrorism,” which is tantamount to denying that there is a physical dimension to homicide.
The current development around which the ongoing controversy revolves is the proposed construction of the Cordoba mosque abutting Ground Zero, which has become what T.S. Eliot called an “objective correlative,” defined as “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of [a] particular emotion.” Many have come out in support of this project. The mayor of New York is all for it. Dennis Prager provides a long list of invective-spewing human keyboards like Michael Kinsley, Roger Ebert, Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart and James Zogby who have launched virtual obscenities at those who oppose the mosque. Media types like Dick Cavett, Frank Rich and Nicholas Kristoff and an army of left-liberal temporizers and appeasers, as Susannah Fleetwood points out, have all given the green light to the Cordoba project, notwithstanding that nine years after its destruction the World Trade Center has yet to be rebuilt.
Their logic and methodology are wondrous strange. Although political leaders, intellectuals, journalists and peace marchers have rallied around the mosque, stressing its sponsoring imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s constitutional right to build the mosque wherever he pleases, they have at the same time savagely attacked pastor Terry Jones who exercised his constitutional right by threatening to burn the Koran. The fact that Jones put his auto-da-fé on the back-burner does not appear to have mitigated the indignation of this sanctimonious and irascible multitude.
Then we have Jason Horowitz writing in The Washington Post who speaks of “rabble-rousing outsiders,” but neglects to mention that one of these supposed miscreants is Debra Burlingame, the sister of the pilot whose plane crashed into the Pentagon, who is co-founder of Keep America Safe and director of the National September 11 Memorial. Polls indicate that approximately 70% of the American public agree with Ms. Burlingame’s anti-mosque position, which disposes one to speculate about who are the real rabble-rousers. So much for Horowitz’s imputation that it is “national conservatives” who are targeting the center.
Even Christopher Hitchens, while recognizing the imam’s plainly suspect credentials, regrets “the crass nature of the opposition to the center” and believes that arguments countering the construction of the mosque are “so stupid and demagogic as to be beneath notice.” It would seem that the imam may not be above reproach but those who bridle at his “initiative” are undoubtedly beneath contempt. Hitchens titles his column “Much Ado About ‘Tolerance’,” a quality whose perilous ambiguity he has neglected to parse.
And in another of his vapid Newsweek articles, while not speaking directly about the Cordoba mosque, Fareed Zakaria breezily opines that “we overreacted to 9/11” when it is clear that, after the initial response, we have consistently underreacted to the threat, especially under the limp and conciliatory administration of the current president. Al-Qaeda, according to Zakaria, “is simply not that deadly a threat.” That al-Qaeda has reportedly now established itself in 62 countries floats right by this clueless and oleaginous pundit. Despite its setbacks in Iraq, al-Qaeda remains a player and is still in a position to wield considerable influence, as witness its centralized as-Sahab media wing that encourages and coordinates terrorist activities around the globe. To argue that it is not operationally relevant and a clear and present danger is to play into its hands.
It is equally disturbing that a generally astute historian like Gil Troy believes that “the lure of the normal, our addiction to the regular routines of our lives…iPods and iPads, rush hours and vacation days” constitute “America’s—and the West’s—true victory over Al-Qa’ida.” Troy goes on to comfort us with the factoid that terrorism “is on the wane” and affirms that “it is worth re-framing 9/11…not as a spectacular day of terrorism” but as “a day that demonstrated Western strength [and] Islamist weakness.” This rosy view of current history is no less troubling—because disarming—than the sinister prevarications of our ideological elite. It is the modern form of the “glad game,” which consists in finding something to celebrate in every untoward situation, described by Eleanor Porter in her 1913 classic, Pollyanna. It makes little difference, really, whether our intellectuals are cynical or Pollyannish by temperament, bigoted or naïve, since the jihadists are given a free pass in either case.