Memories of Leftist Glee About 9/11

How progressives saw poetic justice in planes plunging into U.S. buildings packed with innocents.

With the 19th anniversary of 9/11 having just passed, Frontpage Mag editors have deemed it vital to run an excerpt from Frontpage Editor Jamie Glazov's United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. The excerpt is from Chapter 14: Cheering for Al-Qaeda. Don't miss it.


The story of leftist reaction to 9/11 has been recounted in various works.[1] It would do well, however, for our purposes to briefly recreate the chilling scene.

Immediately following the 9/11 attack, leftist academics led with a drum roll. The very next day after the terrorist strike, Chomsky exonerated the terrorists, stating that the Clinton administration’s bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan constituted a far more serious terrorist act, and warning that 9/11 would be exploited by the United States as an excuse to destroy Afghanistan.[2]

Leftist academics across the country echoed Chomsky’s themes, lamenting the tragedy while cheering the terrorist acts—which they deemed a just retribution for America’s transgressions. History professor Robin Kelley of New York University stated: “We need a civil war, class war, whatever to put an end to U.S. policies that endanger all of us.” History professor Gerald Horne of the University of North Carolina asserted that “the bill has come due, the time of easy credit is up. It is time to pay.” Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University, the renowned Marxist historian, expressed his personal confusion about “which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House.”[3] Barbara Foley, a professor of English at Rutgers University, felt 9/11 was a justified response to the “fascism” of U.S. foreign policy. Mark Lewis Taylor, a professor of theology and culture at Princeton Seminary, thought the WTC buildings were justifiable targets because they were a “symbol of today’s wealth and trade.” Robert Paul Churchill, a professor of philosophy at George Washington University, rationalized that the terrorist attack was justified because

What the terrorists despised and sought to defeat was our arrogance, our gluttonous way of life, our miserliness toward the poor and its starving; the expression of a soulless pop culture . . . and a domineering attitude that insists on having our own way no matter what the cost to others.[4]

Of course, the infamous Ward Churchill, as we have seen, outdid all the others, blaming not only Bush and America but the “little Eichmanns” themselves for the attacks.[5]

Churchill, Chomsky, and their kin on the academic Left were joined by prominent figures in the progressive culture at large. Norman Mailer stepped forward to opine that the suicide hijackers were “brilliant.”[6] In his view, the attack was completely understandable, since “Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel which consequently had to be destroyed.”[7] Oliver Stone affirmed that he saw 9/11 as a “revolt,” and compared the ensuing Palestinian celebrations with those that had attended the French and Russian Revolutions.[8] Susan Sontag held that the terrorist attack was the result of “specific American alliances and actions.”[9] Tony Campolo, a leading Christian evangelist who served as one of former President Clinton’s “spiritual advisers,” believed that 9/11 was a legitimate response to the Crusades.[10 Novelist Barbara Kingsolver was incredulous that her daughter’s kindergarten teacher instructed the students to come to school the next day dressed in red, white, and blue.[11] Nation columnist Katha Pollitt had the same reaction regarding her teenage daughter’s impulse to fly an American flag outside the family home. Pollitt told her that she could “buy a flag with her own money and fly it out her bedroom window, because that’s hers, but the living room is off-limits.” This was, Pollitt explained, because the American flag stands for “jingoism and vengeance and war.”[12]

Similar sentiments were heard throughout Europe as well. The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen described 9/11 as “the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos.”[13] Dario Fo, the Italian Marxist who won the 1997 Nobel Prize for literature, observed: “The great [Wall Street] speculators wallow in an economy that every year kills tens of millions of people with poverty, so what is 20,000 dead in New York?”[14]

As the Twin Towers lay in ruins and America tried to come to grips with an unspeakable act of evil, the Left’s glee mutated into a desperate feeling of compassion and protectiveness for the entity that had harbored the hijackers and facilitated their crime—the Islamofascist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. There were some two hundred “antiwar” demonstrations in the United States and around the world before the end of September. On October 18, eleven days after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan, Chomsky informed an MIT audience that the United States was the “greatest terrorist state” and was planning “a silent genocide” against the Afghans.[15] Leftists took their guru’s lead and staged “peace vigils” and “teach-ins” on campuses across the country.[16]


[1] David Horowitz’s Unholy Alliance remains the best work on the subject.

[2] The Clinton administration suspected the pharmaceutical plant of being a factory which produced chemical weapons for terrorists. The attack on the plant was a response to the Islamist blowing up of two American embassies in Africa, which killed hundreds of people, most of them African civilians. While the terrorist attacks’ main objective was to kill as many people as possible, the Clinton administration’s attack tried to minimize the taking of human life, which is why it occurred at night, when the building would be unoccupied. (Horowitz, Unholy Alliance, p. 183.)

[3] Daniel Pipes, “The Left's Dream,”, March 18, 2003.

[4] All these statements are now on the public record. Paul Hollander has an excellent sampling of them in his Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2004), pp. 24–27. For a wide selection of academics who verbalized similar praise of the 9/11 attacks, see David Horowitz, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006).

[5] Ward Churchill profile,

[6] Quoted in Pipes, “The Left's Dream.”

[7] Norman Mailer profile,

[8] Hollander, ed., Understanding Anti-Americanism, p. 24.

[9] Ibid., p. 25.

[10] Ibid., p. 27.

[11] Horowitz, Unholy Alliance, p. 13.

[12] Katha Pollitt, “Put Out No Flags,” The Nation, September 20, 2001.

[13] Quoted in Pipes, “The Left's Dream.”

[14] Ibid.

[15] For an account of Chomsky’s response to 9/11, see David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh, “Chomsky and 9/11,” in Collier and Horowitz, eds., The Anti-Chomsky Reader, pp. 161–181.

[16] Horowitz, Unholy Alliance, p. 11.


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