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Talbot: “The calls for herd-like conformity are on the rise”: I met with most of my L.A. friends last night, for the first time since Sept. 11. The conversation naturally veered toward how the U.S. should respond, and even how this very Warblog is spending so much time reacting to how other people react to the massacre. I pled guilty –- you can see from the first post at the bottom that this thing was started in a fit of rage at some Pacifist, Consequentialist claptrap. I also believe that it is important in the first few weeks to try and frame the debate, and engage lustily in a struggle for domestic opinion, as the U.S. goes off on a long campaign to hopefully make terrorism much, much more difficult to wage, both morally and physically. All that said, I think there is something to the notion that much hot air (including, surely, some of my own) is being devoted to over-reacting to the reaction elsewhere, instead of, say, trying to figure out what exactly to do next. So, naturally, this post is really a post reacting to David “Former CEO” Talbot’s over-reaction to the reaction. He writes, in typically overheated fashion:
Unfortunately, the calls for herd-like conformity are on the rise. In the last week, self-appointed sheep dogs from across the political spectrum have begun yapping at our heels, pushing us to all think alike and move in the same direction.
This is a typical complaint from the Bay Area Left. And I have no earthly idea what he is talking about. Seriously, I don’t know how you could spend much of your days reading around about this subject, and come to the conclusion that people are actively calling for, let alone engaging in, some kind of anti-democratic groupthink. The journals of opinion, the op-ed sections of newspapers, the online spychasers, the political screaming sites … they are all over the map, often times within the same publication. I invite anyone suffering from Talbot Syndrome to read just one day’s worth of posts at Fred Lapides’ estimable Bushwacker -- a promiscuous blog that plucks the strongest arguments and latest news items from Noam Chomsky to David Horowitz -- and then tell me again with a straight face that America is nation of conformist sheep. The Pacifist Left, with which I’ve been debating, is represented daily in the Los Angeles Times, on National Public Radio, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, in most alt weeklies, and especially on websites like Counterpunch, CommonDreams, Alternet, Tompaine.com, and my own WorkingForChange (which, naturally, has been receiving complaints from readers upset that one pro-war voice – mine – has infiltrated their ranks). A free press belongs to those who own them, and – thankfully! – prices have never been this cheap. Neither I nor any pro-war advocate I’ve heard has said “Gee, these pacifists just have too damned much access to media!” (Though, to be fair, my Internet problems prevent me from reading the New York Post.)

Talbot’s piece does bring up points of legitimate concern – columnists getting fired for writing anti-Bush op-eds, the government’s secrecy & lies, etc. It’s always healthy to remind ourselves that we need to be vigilant about exercising free speech and diverse thought. But it’s also healthy, I believe, to remind ourselves that we are, in fact, enjoying and exercising those very rights as we speak, thank you very much. And suggesting (as some Left commentators have) that we are flirting with a form of “intellectual Totalitarianism,” is sloppy, irresponsible, and worthy of rebuke – now more than ever.

As for me, I will make some attempts to get beyond reacting to the over-reactions (or, in this case, reacting to the over-reaction to the over-reaction to the reaction), and try to look “three steps forward,” as my friend Ben Sullivan recommended. First, though, I’m going to a baseball game with my crazy Dad, and learn about whatever new non-classified military technology we’ll be using.

9/29/2001 03:03:45 PM

Little Descriptive Number From Peter Maass in Pakistan:
A few minutes after I wrote the lines you have just read, my car passed one of those overcrowded buses I mentioned before, though this one had jackknifed and was lying on its side, splayed across the road like a metal carcass. I have no idea how many people were killed or injured, and I am unlikely to read about it in tomorrow's paper, because an accident of that sort is too ordinary. It is not news; it is life.

9/28/2001 05:01:53 PM

The New Yorker Rallies: The first post-Sept. 11 was notable only for its pictures, and for giving people like me an easy target in Susan Sontag. With a little more time, Remnick’s magazine rallied – first with a sensible leader co-written by the boyish editor and Hendrik Hertzberg (“The [terrorist missiles] were designed to undermine our spirit, unhinge our reason, and fog our vision. Whether they will prove to have succeeded or failed is beyond the power of the terrorists to decide. It is entirely up to us”), a fine breakdown by Joe Klein of the government’s bureaucratic impasses that prevented better preparation, a nice primer on the history of anti-hijacker airline safety measures by Malcom Gladwell (suffused with his current sub-theme about how regulation is counter-productive, but nevermind), and a quote-rich account of the Bush Administration’s confusion in the first 200 hours by Nicholas Lemann. I think the last two issues illustrate that the thing The New Yorker now does best is magazine reporting, not thumbsucking essays (unless said essays are by Anthony Lane). I’m not linking to the individual stories, because my home-networking problems prevent me from seeing the magazine’s website.

9//old/2001_09_23_archive.html#5979240">9/28/2001 11:49:06 AM

Anti-Vietnam Activists Have “Blood of Hundreds of Thousands” on Their Hands, Says David Horowitz: You know, there are intelligent conservatives in this country, even some who have made the trek from Student Left to Think-Tank Right. So why run columns from an ideological screamer with such depraved contempt for logic? Is it right-wing tokenism, shock value, or lack of imagination?

9/28/2001 11:20:02 AM

More Fun Hitchens on “Liberal Twit[s]”: With edifying sections on 1973 Chile, Salman Rushdie, and etc.
Perhaps, like me, you have been receiving various communications about the true meaning and motive for the immolation of the World Trade Centre. Or perhaps you have been reading the odd speech, or even Guardian letter, interpreting the wishes of the hijackers and the deep grievances that underlay their actions. I have a standard practice that I follow with such messages or such analyses. "Dear Sir or Madam," I reply. "You claim to have information about what was already in the minds of the death squads on the morning of September 11 2001. May I express the hope that, before communicating this valuable intelligence to me, you conveyed it to the proper authorities. Indeed, may I have your assurance that you have already done so? If, on reflection, you now decide that you did not have any advance intelligence of these actions, would you very much mind keeping your idiotic opinions to yourself." Try it. It works every time, by letter or in conversation.

9/27/2001 12:19:24 PM

Another Terrific Column by William Saletan: The Slate writer who brought us the term “Consquentialist Left” is back with a very clear-headed and pessimistic analysis of how George Bush’s self-styled coalition “of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom," includes a variety of undemocratic countries who support terrorism. We are entering into an anti-terrorism campaign, he argues, that mirrors the realpolitik anti-Communism and anti-Fascist campaigns in the past, during which many wretched mistakes were made in the name of expediency:
A coalition of governments that believe in all these principles can't include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan. According to the U.S. State Department's latest Human Rights Report, all three countries restrict freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. Jordan is a monarchy propped up by security forces that have committed "extrajudicial killings." The Saudi royal family "prohibits the establishment of political parties" and enforces "a rigorously conservative form of Islam" through "religious police." Egyptians "do not have a meaningful ability to change their Government." Egyptian security forces "arbitrarily arrest" and "torture" people in the name of "combating terrorism."

Are you passionate enough about freedom and democracy to exclude these countries from an anti-terrorism coalition? Are you willing to give up Saudi cooperation in the detection and destruction of Osama Bin Laden's financial network? Are you willing to give up Egyptian intelligence, which informed us of Bin Laden's plot to kill Bush in Europe two months ago? Are you willing to sever ties with Jordanian security forces, who thwarted Bin Laden's plans to massacre tourists in the Middle East two years ago? […]

We've been here before. Pearl Harbor drove us into an alliance with the murderous Josef Stalin against Hitler. The Iron Curtain drove us into an alliance against communism. To contain and defeat the Soviet Union, we compromised human rights, pluralism, and democracy wherever we thought it necessary. We propped up right-wing dictators. We tolerated torture. We armed Pakistan. We armed Afghanistan. We armed Bin Laden.

Then communism collapsed, and all the principles we had suppressed while fighting it rose to the surface. We sanctioned Pakistan. We denounced Afghanistan's religious intolerance. We started talking about human rights and the treatment of women. […]

The trouble with this kind of absolutism is that it's bounded only by itself. Everything hinges on the definition of a single enemy. Once you distort the scope or nature of that enemy, your campaign against it runs off the rails. Start calling liberals Communists, and anti-communism becomes a totalitarian monster. Start calling conservatives fascists, and anti-fascism becomes a pretext for purging them from universities.

Anti-terrorism faces the same problem. What counts as terrorism, and what doesn't? […]

If anti-terrorists twist the definition of terrorism so that they can continue to use it while slaughtering civilians in the name of fighting it, they'll be the ones who have obliterated every value except the will to power. Like Joe McCarthy, they'll become the enemy they set out to defeat. They'll be the ones who end up in history's grave. Or worse, they won't.

9/27/2001 11:22:18 AM

What Happens When a U.S. Government Lies, Applies Inappropriate Pressure on Media: Well, you get a public spanking, for one. Jake Tapper does a nice job today tweaking Ari Fleischer’s nose for the Air Force One deception, and rounding up the Administration’s increasingly hostile actions toward the media. I’ve been thinking lately about the Reagan-era internal deceptions, such as Bill Casey’s CIA being forced to drum up some sham document about how the USSR supported terrorism. Such craven dishonesty is first shielded from the Congress, then the press, and then whatever leaks come out start off by repeating the original lie. Bush Jr. is surrounded by Reaganites, and old CIA hacks like his father, and they’re all pushing for a return to the pre-Church Commission “glory days” of double-covert operations. Besides the War Crimes-level nastiness of Kissinger’s covert foreign policy back then, the atmosphere of law enforcement was such that the FBI or any post office – to cite one banal example – could rifle through your mail without a search warrant, and without notifying any supervisory body. People like my friend Barney, who likes to put stamps on things like pigs and plastic guns, or taking tours of areas around classified missile silos, might find a lot less breathing room in the post-Sept. 11 era. This is why now is a good time to be nice to your ACLU friends, even if their politics annoy you. With pressure, maybe the Administration can be made to understand that lying to and bullying the press makes for counter-productive Propaganda.

9/27/2001 10:55:08 AM

Buck Up, Lefties! And Make a List of War Aims: That’s the subject of my latest NewsForChange column. Those strangers in their own country are already having a restraining effect on the War, and the sooner they repudiate Consequentialism and get busy with the Pragmatism, the better chance they’ll have to stave off their own morose marginalization. It was written on Sept. 22, and may feel that way.

9/27/2001 10:06:26 AM

Evening Round-up of the Previously Mentioned: Here are the latest columns by civil libertarian Nat Hentoff and internationalist-grump Robert Kaplan. Here, inevitably, is the frothing anti-Liberal rant by David “Always Blinded by Some Ideology” Horowitz, entitled “The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky.” The subhed: "’The most important intellectual alive’ is a pathological ayatollah of anti-American hate -- and the leader of the treacherous fifth-column Left.” Fortunately, that’s all you can read, unless you belong to Salon Premium … or if you head over to Bushwacker. Also, quite unhelpfully, it seems that Vaclav Havel is undergoing shock treatment for a bum heart. I was going to type in one last bit from “An Anatomy of Reticence,” but I think instead I’ll drink a beer in his honor and attempt some paying work. Good night!

9/26/2001 09:21:44 PM

Who Needs Allies? The Spectator’s Mark Steyn ranted humorously a few days back about weak-kneed NATO allies and the usual suspects at the Guardian. Don’t necessarily agree with his thesis, or some of his side-arguments, but enjoyed the read (thanks, Tim Blair!) and found this passage interesting:
[The Guardian’s Rana] Kabbani would want to know why I’m not moved by the deaths of Palestinian mothers and fathers and children. Well, I am, and I realise that in this awful war we, too, will end up killing pregnant women, young sons, beloved grandmothers. But it’s not me who values an Arab life less than an American one. The Arab states do that when they deny their subjects the little bundle of rights and responsibilities loosely known as ‘liberty’ that every American takes for granted. The Western media diminish every Arab man, woman and child when they want to re-re-re-re-re-count every last dimpled chad in Palm Beach County while writing off the utter absence of democracy in the Arab world as just an example of quaint, charming, authentic Eastern ‘culture’. In the Middle East you can choose to live under a theocracy, an autocracy, a plutocracy or a nutocracy, but the only Arabs living in freedom are the two million who live in the United States and the others who live in Britain, Canada, Ms Kabbani’s France and the rest of Europe. If Washington treated Arabs the way Damascus does, you’d never hear the end of it at UN conferences.

9/26/2001 04:27:15 PM

U.S. Muslims – a Mixed Picture: Jake Tapper has an excellent story in today’s Salon about the complicated views and legitimacy of groups that claim to speak for Muslim-Americans. Some, for instance, refuse to condemn Osama bin Laden. Others proudly proclaim support for terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. Most all have been outspoken in their fears of a an anti-Islam backlash in the United States. Speaking of which, the L.A. Times today interviewed a bunch of Southern California Arabs and Muslims who expressed surprise at all the kindness and genuine interest they’ve received from their neighbors:
Many Americans also are investigating, some for the first time, one of the world's great faiths and oldest civilizations. Bookstores are selling out of copies of the Koran. University classes and teach-ins on the Middle East and Islam are filled to capacity. Middle East scholars are being invited on television news shows repeatedly and being spotted on the street like celebrities. And many everyday Middle Easterners -- Muslim or not -- are fielding a daily barrage of questions about Islam from neighbors, co-workers and strangers.”

"They don't ask in a rude way," said Mitra Mikaili, a Persian American who is a member of the Baha'i faith, a persecuted minority in Iran. "They say, 'You are from that part of the world. What is your insight about this?' They ask about the Muslim religion and the way they do things."

And finally, Ken Layne has a nice little links-poem about giving peace a chance.

9/26/2001 04:08:36 PM

Arianna’s Response to the Crisis: Three Lunatic Columns Somewhere along her journey from the Rabid Right to the salon-hosting Center of Limousine Liberalism, Arianna Huffington’s original critics largely ceased complaining about her habits of butchering facts and screeching like a wild bat about whatever ideological crusade she's backing this month. I guess it’s kinda cute, as long as we all know that her “heart’s in the right place” (a sentiment I’ve heard each time I’ve witnessed her rubbing shoulder pads with the hoary old goats of the Santa Monica Mafia). Anyways, to steal a classic headline from a British rock magazine about Morrissey, “This bloke just isn’t funny anymore.” With the Sept. 11 massacre calling for ever-more-careful rhetoric, Arianna spent her first post-slaughter column blaming the media, for failing to sufficiently cover a congressional report six months ago (and no, she never wrote about the report at the time). In a climate when one should take extra care not to shove all events through one’s narrow ideology, Arianna blamed the campaign finance system for preventing lawmakers from taking terrorism seriously enough. For her third and latest trick, she’s decided to cry “censorship!” because two advertisers pulled out of her pal Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect show, in the wake of him calling Americans “cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away.” Here’s some excerpts:
I was sitting next to Bill when he said this. And not only did I not object, I wholeheartedly agreed. In fact, in the past, I've made much the same criticism of a foreign policy that obliges our military to fight at great remove from the theater of battle. It was a mistake when we bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, and it was a mistake when we killed the very Albanian refugees we were trying to protect with our indiscriminate carpet-bombing of Kosovo. […]

What becomes of a country when opinions considered perfectly legitimate -- and indeed uttered by hundreds of academics, journalists and members of Congress -- suddenly become a crime worthy of the media death penalty?

And don't the corporate sponsors, the affiliates and ABC itself see the inconsistency in the fact that, as a way of showing solidarity against the Taliban, they are using the Taliban's trademark weapon -- the stifling of dissent?

A few questions for our Greek pal: 1) Would it be less “cowardly” to engage in hand-to-hand combat, perhaps with bayonets? 2) Is it less cowardly, or more cowardly, to deliberately target innocent civilians? 3) Would it have been less cowardly to engage in hand-to-hand combat at the Sudanese factory (the bombing of which I agree was wrong)? 4) Is it accurate to describe our military action in Kosovo (which, of course, Arianna opposed vehemently at the time, like she opposed every other anti-Serb use of force) as “indiscriminate carpet-bombing”? Wait, I have the answer to that one – no it’s not! 5) Sorry, I’m confused from having spent time in countries where journalists are routinely jailed – when exactly and by whom did Maher’s comment get labeled as a “crime”? 6) What’s the “media death penalty,” and where do I sign up for it? I could use one of those seven-figure entertainment salaries, guaranteed book deals, and Brentwood petitions to support me. Come to think of it, how much do you get paid per appearance, Arianna? 7) I thought the Taliban’s “trademark weapon” was state-sponsored murder and terror, against people who do things like teach girls how to read. Do I need to get “educated”? 8) Do you think, in light of the recent horrific slaying of 6,500 innocent civilians, you can maybe stop comparing the terrorists to ABC executives? 9) Since you are a woman of principle, can we assume you led a similar campaign against the “censorship” of those who sought to boycott advertisers on Dr. Laura’s show?

I hope Bill Maher’s show isn’t pulled for political reasons by affiliates. I think it was inappropriate of Ari Fleischer to criticize Maher's comments today. I, too, am worried about censorship – but real censorship of correspondents covering the military and government, not phony censorship of jackass millionaire comedians and the frivolous dilettantes who love them.

9/26/2001 12:58:53 PM

What David Rieff’s Saying: In the ongoing battle for the title of World’s Most Depressed Internationalist, David Rieff has always been just about neck-and-neck with Robert Kaplan and the International Herald Tribune’s William Pfaff. Here’s what Rieff said yesterday about a number of pressing topics. First, on the Consequentialist Left:
Some on the left -- there are, it seems, still a few good Fanonists left -- all but legitimized the attacks. Writing in the London Guardian, Dutch migration expert Saskia Sassen wrote, "The attacks are a language of last resort; the oppressed and persecuted have used many languages to reach us so far, but we seem unable to translate the message. So a few have taken the personal responsibility to speak in a language that needs no translation." Or as Sara Pursley wrote in Salon about the Sept. 14 National Cathedral memorial ceremony: "There was not an ex-president in that church who did not have the blood of tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim civilians on his hands, and who did not commit these acts in the name of the American people."

Admittedly this sort of exercise in depraved rationalization -- the murder of more than 6,000 people as a message from the oppressed; bin Laden couldn't have put it better himself -- was the exception rather than the rule. But once again, not only in Western Europe but also, though to a somewhat lesser degree, in the United States, that by now familiar gap between leftist activists and intellectuals and artists, who tended to oppose American retaliation and called for the attack to be treated as a criminal matter (as if there were in place an international police force capable of "arresting" bin Laden), and large majorities of the population, who favored American military strikes, was exposed. By now, it is probably unbridgeable.
On the balance between criticizing U.S. policies, and standing up against the Islamo-fascists (note to Lefties crying about the alleged “Totalitarian” lack of dissent in this country – read very slowly):
The alternative view, to which I happen to subscribe, is that the destruction of the World Trade Center was one of those rare events that symbolically marks a new and much bleaker era. I oppose the embargo against Iraq (which I believe is an abomination and at least possibly a crime against humanity in the strict legal sense), and while I support the state of Israel I loathe the occupation and favor unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. But those issues are beside the point. Bin Laden and the rest of the Islamic fascists for whom terrorism has become the central element in their war with the West would not stop their campaign if Palestine was given statehood. They are not for a two-state solution; rather, their demand is the abolition of the Israeli state. As for Saddam Hussein, he is far too secular for their liking, and they support him (and may well be supported by him) only on the age-old principle of statecraft that says the enemy of my enemy is my friend. […]

In one way, albeit perversely, those who lay the terrorists' crimes at the door of American aggression are right. Islamic fascists believe that the United States is waging a cultural war against them. As one Palestinian textbook distributed in Hamas-run schools in Gaza put it, "Western civilization … deprived man of his peace of mind, stability, and noble human examples ... when it turned material well-being into the exemplary goal." They believe, probably quite sincerely, that they are only defending themselves against what they call Westernization and we call modernization, which they believe will lead to the end of human stability and belief. Fascism is almost always based on the fear of pollution, and Islamic fascism is no exception. And it is that fear that not only has impelled terrorist acts but has defined the experiment in Islamic fascism that Taliban rule has become -- an experiment led by Osama bin Laden.

And, finally, on the necessity for some kind of War:
The genius of the terrorists was to turn the artifacts of modernity into weapons against modernity. Civilian airliners were transformed into flying bombs; it turned out to be that simple to demonstrate that nothing, not the World Trade Center nor the Pentagon, could be protected against people with 13th century morals and 21st century technical skills. There will be a war -- What else is there to do? -- because there is no assuaging the anger of people like bin Laden or mitigating their resentment. […]

Odd and indeed disgusting as it is to find oneself writing that there is no alternative to war (and knowing full well how filthy and degrading that war will be), I find myself nonetheless with nothing else to suggest. Modernity, newly vulnerable, is, for all its faults, infinitely preferable to fascism. And that, I fear, is the choice that confronts us.

9/26/2001 11:51:16 AM

“Some people take these writers seriously. It's time they didn't.” Like Andrew Sullivan, I’m being urged by my Sensible Liberal friends to stop picking on the loonies of the Left. Like him, I’m too astonished to let some of these things go, and I think it’s important that we record, for history, how some of these buffoons behaved when the chips were down. You might recall my little “Tale of Two Op-ed Writers” from the other day, and how political activist-novelist Barbara Kingsolver distinguished herself by calling the Sept. 11 slaughter “a large lesson,” and arguing that “many people before us have learned honest truths from wrongful deaths.” Well, Kingsolver was at it again, in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Before I quote her, I have an open question – how the hell can people like her continue to cry censorship, when their views are more than adequately represented in every newspaper I read, on the NPR I listen to, and even (yes!) on the cable news shows I watch? I mean, yes, the military is cooking up some serious censorship, the administration is clamping down hard, and we should all be worried … but the self-marginalizing Left seems to be implying that their voices are somehow being silenced within the United States. And it’s simply not true. Read an alt weekly lately? Checked out CommonDreams.org (I’m too tired to link)? Read the op-ed section of the L.A. Times or San Francisco Chronicle? Man, I can introduce you to quite a few Cubans who would just love to face the kind of “censorship” you’re all enduring so heroically. Fighting for civil liberties in wartime is one thing, and something I support. Bleating “censorship!” every time you see an American flag or suffer a dirty look … that’s just pathetic. Speaking of pathetic, here’s Kingsolver, discussing that evil thing called “patriotism”:
Patriotism threatens free speech with death. It is infuriated by thoughtful hesitation, constructive criticism of our leaders and pleas for peace. It despises people of foreign birth who've spent years learning our culture and contributing their talents to our economy. It has specifically blamed homosexuals, feminists and the American Civil Liberties Union. In other words, the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder? Who are we calling terrorists here?
We’re calling the terrorists terrorists, Barbara (well, except for Reuters). Falwell and Robertson are being properly hounded into marginalia by the press, late-night comedians, and the Republican Party. Assholes who shoot innocent Sikhs are being arrested for hate crimes, while every newspaper and politician in the country cries out for tolerance and condemns racism. Go ahead and cringe at the flag, Barbara, but please don’t confuse criticism of your impotent wailing with “intimidation” and “censorship.” We are “infuriated” because dolts like you keep trying to find some way -- any way! -- to draw moral equivalence between fascist mass-murderers and Americans. That is wrong, and that is hateful.

9/25/2001 10:33:05 PM

Conason Joins Sensible Libs … But Trashes Hitchens! The New York Observer columnist comes down equally on Consequentialist fools Right and Left, rails against the “bloodlust” and “barbarism” of the “medieval” attackers, and calls for them to be “resisted with force.” But, in what must be an unfortunate typo, he lumps Hitchens with the rationalizing Left:
Their contribution to the current debate is to suggest, as professors Noam Chomsky and Edward Said and writer Christopher Hitchens have done in recent days, that the attacks must be “understood” as the reaction of the world’s dispossessed to the depredations of an imperial America and its Zionist client state. More broadly, these same commentators and others insist that the savagery of the bin Laden group and its comrades is rooted in the poverty and misery that arise from globalization.

For thoughtful Americans concerned about the past excesses of our own government and of Israel, these are seductive arguments. They are also mistaken, at best, and sinister at worst.

As a general proposition, it is true that terrorist groups have exploited real grievances over the years, from the Irish Republican Army and the early Zionist movement to the Palestine Liberation Organization. But in the conflict that we are about to enter, the enemy is not an oppressed nationalist group with negotiable goals. It is instead a reactionary international movement with aspirations to destroy Western democracy. Its ideology is medieval, opposed to progress in every sense. Its policy is the brutal repression of women, labor, peasants and any dissenting social force. Its model is its own version of “the Caliphate,” meaning an imperial perversion of Islam that puts infidels to the sword. Its bloodlust would not be satisfied by a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

That barbarism is what needs to be understood—and resisted with force.

9/25/2001 03:20:30 PM

Hey, Tell Me Where I Can Find Those Statistics About Iraqi Babies! I want to compile all the online resources available that study the question of how the U.S. embargo of Iraq is or is not leading directly to the deaths of Iraqi civilians. Please e-mail me with URLs of any specific study you can think of. Thanks!

9/25/2001 12:24:43 PM

Hitchens, on the Chomskyite Left: “It no longer matters what they think” Christopher Hitchens took some heat from Nation readers after smacking them around for “rationalizing” the Sept. 11 massacre. Hell hath no fury like his response. A must-read:
I might, from where I am sitting, be a short walk from a gutted Capitol or a shattered White House. I am quite certain that [Sam] Husseini and his rabble of sympathizers would still be telling me that my chickens were coming home to roost. … Only the stoicism of men like Jeremy Glick and Thomas Burnett prevented some such outcome; only those who chose to die fighting rather than allow such a profanity, and such a further toll in lives, stood between us and the fourth death squad. One iota of such innate fortitude is worth all the writings of Noam Chomsky, who coldly compared the plan of September 11 to a stupid and cruel and cynical raid by Bill Clinton on Khartoum in August 1998.

I speak with some feeling about that latter event, because I wrote three Nation columns about it at the time, pointing out (with evidence that goes unrebutted to this day) that it was a war crime, and a war crime opposed by the majority of the military and intelligence establishment. The crime was directly and sordidly linked to the effort by a crooked President to avoid impeachment (a conclusion sedulously avoided by the Chomskys and Husseinis of the time). The Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant was well-known to be a civilian target, and its "selection" was opposed by most of the Joint Chiefs and many CIA personnel for just this reason. (See, for additional corroboration, Seymour Hersh's New Yorker essay "The Missiles of August"). To mention this banana-republic degradation of the United States in the same breath as a plan, deliberated for months, to inflict maximum horror upon the innocent is to abandon every standard that makes intellectual and moral discrimination possible. To put it at its very lowest, and most elementary, at least the missiles launched by Clinton were not full of passengers. (How are you doing, Sam? Noam, wazzup?) […]

The Taliban and its surrogates are not content to immiserate their own societies in beggary and serfdom. They are condemned, and they deludedly believe that they are commanded, to spread the contagion and to visit hell upon the unrighteous. The very first step that we must take, therefore, is the acquisition of enough self-respect and self- confidence to say that we have met an enemy and that he is not us, but someone else. […]

When a stand was eventually mounted against [Slobodan] Milosevic, it was Noam Chomsky and Sam Husseini, among many others, who described the whole business as a bullying persecution of -- the Serbs! I have no hesitation in describing this mentality, carefully and without heat, as soft on crime and soft on fascism. No political coalition is possible with such people and, I'm thankful to say, no political coalition with them is now necessary. It no longer matters what they think.

9/25/2001 11:53:46 AM

An Anatomy of Reticence: Czech President Vaclav Havel supports the coming war. He was also, unlike American Leftists (and Rightists), strongly in favor of expanding NATO and intervening militarily in Yugoslavia. In 1985, he wrote an essay called “An Anatomy of Reticence,” in which he explained, in devastating detail, the reasons why Central European dissidents didn’t exactly hit it off well with the “Western peace movement” (which, you’ll remember, was calling for unilateral disarmament and the withdrawal of U.S. nukes from Western Europe, while mocking Ronald Reagan’s battle against Communism at most every step). Havel spent a lot of time in jail between 1977-89, for doing things like requesting that his government follow its own laws. He also wrote a series of political essays astonishing in their intellectual clarity and global impact, which (among other things) predicted with alarming accuracy how Charter 77’s Quixotic struggle would end up toppling a Totalitarian government. You can find “An Anatomy of Reticence” in the aptly named collection “Living in Truth,” and also in “Open Letters.” Like all of Havel’s best essays, it ages even better than the political writings of George Orwell, and clangs with an uncanny relevance to our current crisis.

Here’s a passage, for instance, about Afghanistan, and the single-minded orientation of the Western Left:

How much trust or even admiration for the Western peace movement can we expect from a simple yet sensitive citizen of east-central Europe when he has noticed that this movement has never, at any of its congresses or at demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of participants, got around to protest the fact that one important European country attacked a small neutral neighbour five years ago, and since that time has been conducting on its territory a war of extermination which has already claimed a million dead and three million refugees? Seriously, what are we to think of a peace movement, a European peace movement, which is virtually unaware of the only war being conducted today by a European state? As for the argument that the victims of aggression and their defenders enjoy the sympathies of Western establishments and so are not worthy of support from the left, its incredible ideological opportunism can provoke only one reaction – total disgust and a sense of limitless hopelessness.
Here’s one about failing to confront evil:
Czechoslovaks learned only too well, from their own fate, where a policy of appeasement can lead – they still have not quite got over it. For many years to come, historians are likely to conjecture whether the world could have avoided the Second World War with its millions of corpses if the Western democracies had been able to resist Hitler forcefully and in time. Is it any wonder that in this country, whose present decline began at Munich, people are especially sensitive to anything even remotely reminiscent of the pre-war capitulation to evil? I do not know how much genuine courage there would be in this country in any extreme situation. I do know, however, that one idea is firmly rooted in our common awareness: that the inability to risk, in extremis, even life itself to save what gives it meaning and a human dimension leads not only to the loss of meaning but finally and inevitably to the loss of life as well – and not one life only but thousands and millions of lives.
And finally, a note about anti-Americanism:
On one side of the spectrum, anti-Americanism [among Central European dissidents] is nearly as strong as it is among Western leftists; on the other, the viewpoint tends to be Reaganite: the Soviet Union is the evil empire, the US the land of the good. As for myself – should anyone care – I have no great illusions about America, about the American establishment, and about American foreign policy. Still, the degree of internal freedom and consequently of international political credibility characteristic of the two superpowers appears to me so profoundly different that to consider the current situation simply symmetrical, in the sense that both colossi are equally dangerous, appears to me a monstrous oversimplification. Yes, both are dangerous, each in a different way, they definitely are not dangerous in the same way.

9/24/2001 09:34:33 PM

Peter Maass on the Job: For the last decade, Budapest has been both staging point and safe haven for many of the foreign correspondents and stringers who covered the Balkan wars. When I lived there (1995-97), good friends would drop out of sight for three months, then re-emerge with spooked eyes and an enormous thirst, eager to find healing in Hungary’s civilized outdoor cafes and bars. Others would squirrel away in their Dual Monarchy apartments, pecking away at book projects they were too wrapped up in to explain. As soon as I fix up my computer properly (I can’t see about 15% of the Internet) I’m going to start hunting down old buddies and acquaintances like John Nadler, Julius Strauss and Adam LeBor, to see if they are lending their considerable experience to the coming clash (I recommend LeBor’s very relevant first book, “A Heart Turned East: Among the Muslims of Europe and America”). I met Peter Maass exactly once, while he was working on his terrific Balkan lament “Love Thy Neighbor.” I remember him talking about wanting to get back to the U.S. and work a City Desk or something. Thankfully for us, that experiment didn’t last, and now he’s on the case in Central Asia. Here’s a little dispatch from Skopje about U.S. troops’ reaction to the Sept. 11 massacre; on Sunday he wrote a very interesting account of how Pakistanis he’s meeting in Peshawar think Israel is responsible for pulverizing the World Trade Center.
Although the Israel-destroyed-the-World-Trade-Center theory is absurd, most people I speak to in Pakistan believe it. It's not just the headband rabble who sense the hand of the Mossad at work. I even heard the conspiracy theory during a visit to the posh Islamabad home of Ijzal ul-Haq, vice president of a major political party. As it happens, Ijzal ul-Haq is also the son of Pakistan's late military dictator Zia ul-Haq; an oil portrait of the old man hangs a few feet from the front door.

Ijzal, who was educated at Southern Illinois University and worked for Bank of America for more than a decade, believes a government had to be involved because the attacks were too sophisticated for the likes of Osama Bin Laden. I asked which governments might have been responsible.

"It is just a wild guess," he replied. "It could be somebody who wants to take revenge on the Muslims."

Israel?

"Could be. They're taking full advantage of it. They want to totally alienate the Palestinians from the rest of the world. ... Time will tell, but the people who are being targeted are not behind it."

9/24/2001 05:43:02 PM

Warblogrolling: Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for linking to this site and writing kind things about me. Jeff is the president of Advance.net, which handles the online action for Conde Nast. He was at the station under the World Trade Center when one of the airplanes crashed, and he’s in no great mood to hear about why this was America’s fault. Check out his excellent WarLog, which he started on the same day as mine.

9/24/2001 12:15:43 PM

Tony Said Photoshop The Rev. Poet Pierce runs a nice gallery of the kids’ doctored images of Osama Bin Laden in various hilarious and tragic positions. My favorite is this one -- because it was the first thing that popped in my head when someone asked how I thought the twin towers should be rebuilt. Speaking of good taste, I still can’t stop laughing about the ridiculous Osama-ization of two dozen celebrities on the Daily Probe. My favorite there, obviously, is Osama Bin Lassie. Hopefully today I'll drive to the Fashion District downtown and get me that "Osama Yo Mama!" T-shirt I saw on the news....

9/24/2001 11:39:49 AM

Finally, a Column From Me! I wrote it last Wednesday, so it might feel a bit dated, but here is my throat-clearing plea for level-headedness and caution as we dive into this battle for public opinion on the home front.

9/24/2001 10:45:22 AM

The Pro-American Brit Strikes Back: Bryan Appleyard goes off on anti-Americans in the Sunday Times UK. It’s not one of more nuanced arguments you’ll read, but it is long, full of quite interesting comments from historians, and an interesting aside about anti-semitism … plus a lot of fun cheap-shots against U.S.-bashing Western liberals.
Let us ponder exactly what the Americans did in that most awful of all centuries, the 20th. They saved Europe from barbarism in two world wars. After the second world war they rebuilt the continent from the ashes. They confronted and peacefully defeated Soviet communism, the most murderous system ever devised by man, and thereby enforced the slow dismantling - we hope - of Chinese communism, the second most murderous. America, primarily, ejected Iraq from Kuwait and helped us to eject Argentina from the Falklands. America stopped the slaughter in the Balkans while the Europeans dithered.

Now let us ponder exactly what the Americans are. America is free, very democratic and hugely successful. Americans speak our language and a dozen or so Americans write it much, much better than any of us. Americans make extremely good films and the cultivation and style of their best television programmes expose the vulgarity of the best of ours. Almost all the best universities in the world are American and, as a result, American intellectual life is the most vibrant and cultivated in the world. […]

There is a lot wrong with America and terrible things have been done in her name. But when the chips are down all the most important things are right. On September 11 the chips went down. […]

Anti-Americanism has long been the vicious, irrational, global ideology of our time. "It combines," says Sir Michael Howard, the historian, "the nastiest elements of the right and left." It is dangerous and stupid and, in the days after September 11, shockingly distasteful.

In the name of God, more than 6,000 noncombatants are dead, more than 6,000 families bereaved. From what dark wells of malevolence springs this dreadful reflex desire to dance on their graves?

9/23/2001 10:15:30 PM

Greek Soccer Fans Boo Moment of Silence, Burn U.S. Flag: Good old Athens, that birthplace of democracy. Here’s The Scotsman’s memorable description of how football hooligans Friday night in the least democratic Western European country honored the 6,400-plus civilians (including – maybe – 50 Greeks) who were slaughtered by evil terrorists Sept. 11:
Intimidating isn’t the word, though disrespectful most definitely is. The minute’s silence before kick-off in memory of those murdered in the recent terrorist atrocities was sabotaged by those wild incumbents of the notorious skepasti - "the covered ones" - end of the stadium, who whistled and jeered throughout, and then burnt the stars and stripes for good measure.

You wonder what the Toronto branch of the AEK fan club, seated beneath a Canadian flag at the opposite end, thought of that performance. One crazed fan had clambered up to the top of a 30-foot fence in order to set fire to the stars and stripes, and was still hanging there as the game kicked off. This was no Saturday at East End Park, be very clear about that. The balmy conditions were, it seemed, robbing many of their faculties, and some of their humanity.

Coach Alex McLeish of Edinburgh’s Hibernian football club reacted nicely.
"We are obviously pretty disgusted," he said. "At first when I heard them shouting, I thought it was their own way of observing the minute’s silence. I know the Italian fans clapped through the minutes’s silence while the players were holding hands in the centre circle earlier this week. I thought it was the way they did it in Greece. Then someone nudged me and said they were burning the American flag. It was anti-American feeling in a European Community country. They may have their reasons for it, but it seemed to me pretty awful."
Ah, Greece. Best place in the world to take a vacation, wonderful people … until you start talking about politics. There was that friendly young guy Alexander (like in the Slav countries they hate, all the Greeks are named Alexander), who told me matter-of-factly that he’d spent years training his pit bull to smell and attack all Albanians. There was the angry young Marxist on Corfu who lectured me about how “Americans know nothing about Sandinistas,” and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise about why, for instance, I never registered for the draft back in 1986. There was the high school history teacher who broke down into tears describing what it was like to finally see a photograph – officially suppressed in Greece – of the Acropolis draped with the Swastika. I will always visit Greece, drink buckets of their Retsina, marvel at their bold and simple architecture and food, enjoy the tragicomic patriarchs who run tourist establishments and ply me with free booze for playing Beatles songs … and I will detest their politics – and Bill Clinton’s caving to their politics – that allowed a democratic government in Macedonia to deteriorate behind an indefensible Greece-led blockade in the early 1990s. It’s too much to call “Blowback” on that case, but there was surely one of the moments in the post-Cold War era where an engaged, informed U.S. president could have made the world a better place with a simple act of modest courage.

9/23/2001 09:32:59 PM

Leftist ‘Voices’ Alive and Bleating in L.A.: Next time someone complains to you about the lack of “progressive voices in the mainstream media,” invite them to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. My hometown paper has been chock full of commentators who make my old friend Bob Scheer look like a centrist (Bob’s two columns have been the best of the genre, along with a moving contrast to the 1973 coup in Chile by transplanted Chilean Ariel Dorfman). There have been, on average, more than one anti-war column per day, not even counting crazy Arianna Huffington’s foolish rants blaming the Sept. 11 massacre on the media and (of course!) the campaign-finance system. I’ve dealt with Barbara Kingsolver and Colman McCarthy in separate posts below; here’s a selection of the rest:
Robert Fisk
So many of our politicians provide us only with the same tired promises about hunting down the guilty--British Prime Minister Tony Blair's contribution last week was a pledge to "dismantle the machine of terror." […]

The vile, if small, Palestinian "celebrations" were a symptom of this, albeit unrepresentative. They matched the "bomb Baghdad into the Dark Ages" rhetoric we heard from the American public a decade ago.

Nation contributor Marc Cooper, “interviewing” Berkeley Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Q: Given your concern about the importance of democratic debate, what does it say about your colleagues that you turned out to be the lone voice on this issue?

Public high school teacher C. Cushing-Murray
As I taught 11th-grade English last week, one star-spangled student asked me why I was not wearing the colors of our flag. Despite the emotionally charged state of our nation and with due caution toward trying not to impose my beliefs, I gave the only answer I could: I fear patriotism.

Naomi Klein
Americans don't get daily coverage on CNN of the ongoing bombings in Iraq, nor are they treated to human-interest stories on the devastating effects of economic sanctions on that country’s children. […]

And when NATO bombed civilian targets in Kosovo -- including markets, hospitals, refugee convoys, passenger trains -- NBC didn't do "streeter" interviews with survivors about how shocked they were by the indiscriminate destruction. […]

Here's a different question that must be asked: Did U.S. foreign policy create the conditions in which such twisted logic could flourish, a war not so much on U.S. imperialism but on perceived U.S. imperviousness?

Alexander Cockburn
President Bush gave a timid and stilted initial reaction in Sarasota, Fla., then disappeared for an hour before resurfacing in at a base in Barksdale, La., where he gave another flaccid address with every appearance of being on tranquilizers. He was then flown to a bunker in Nebraska, before someone finally had the wit to suggest that the best place for the U.S. president at time of national emergency is the Oval Office. […]

"Freedom," said Bush in Sarasota, "was attacked this morning by a faceless coward." That properly represents the stupidity and blindness of almost all of Tuesday's mainstream political commentary.

Jonathan Schell
The exit from this folly, by which we endanger ourselves as much as others, must be found. Rediscovering ourselves as political animals also means understanding that the sources of the hatred that the United States has incurred in a decade of neglect of international affairs.

And, loopiest of all, Howard Zinn
Both [Timothy] McVeigh and the leaders of our government have considered the toll of human life secondary to whatever else was destroyed, and therefore acceptable. […]

We should remind ourselves that the awful scenes of death and suffering we are now witnessing on our television screens have been endured by people in other parts of the world for a long time, and often as a result of our nation's policies. […]

True, we can find Bin Laden, if he was indeed the perpetrator of last week's tragedy, and punish him. But that will not end terrorism so long as the pent-up grievances of decades, felt in so many countries of the Third World, remain unattended.

Here at home, our true security cannot come from putting the nation on a war footing, with the accompanying threats to civil liberties that this brings. It can only come from using our resources to make us the model of a good society, prosperous and peacemaking, with free, universal medical care, education and housing, guaranteed decent wages and a clean environment for all.

No $10 minimum wage and universal health care, no peace, eh Howard?

9/23/2001 06:09:22 PM

What Kaus Does Well: I sometimes reserve my greatest venom or at least distrust for writers whose politics closely resemble my own, whose careers are better than mine on paper, and who cloak their work in a false distance and knowing smirk. I’m basically talking about everyone who has ever worked with Michael Kinsley, either at The New Republic or Slate. Mickey Kaus definitely falls into that category, but for whatever reason I check him more often than any of the others (with the very new exception of Andrew Sullivan). Kaus’ shtick so far hasn’t really risen to the occasion, but today he uses all his meta-parsing talents to actual good use, in a column about what the Sept. 11 massacre has to do with Israel. You have to read it slowly, but it brings up a couple of interesting points, and introduces a phrase I hope to see pundits everywhere begin to embrace – “I don’t know!”
The reaction of Israel's defenders reminds me of the decades-long domestic policy debate over the "culture of poverty." Intellectuals on the left (with a few exceptions, such as Michael Harrington) fiercely resisted the idea that a dysfunctional "culture," rather than the mere absence of jobs, kept the poor impoverished. These intellectuals did this out of the not-crazy fear that accepting the "culture of poverty" thesis would lead voters to write off and abandon the poor. The problem was a) the fear was inflated, based on an excessively unflattering view of the American electorate, and b) the thesis was true -- there was a culture of poverty. Denying the obvious didn't help the poor, but did help discredit their champions. Similarly, fear of Israel's abandonment isn't crazy. It is, however, inflated, and denying the obvious doesn't help.

How much might the terrorist threat diminish if Israel and the PLO reached a settlement? (Presumably less than "if Israel had never come into existence" -- but how much is that?) Is the Israel issue a bigger motivating factor for Bin Laden's terrorist cadres than, say, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia? I don't know! Kausfiles is not a haven of expertise (or certainty) in the current crisis. But resolving the Israel-PLO conflict would almost certainly remove a non-trivial amount of motivational fuel from the radical Islamic terrorist machine. Even if Israel isn't the main issue for Bin Laden himself -- and even if Bin Laden would try to violently sabotage any PLO deal -- such a settlement might still make a big difference, in practice, for his potential recruits. Perhaps more important, as [Jacob] Weisberg notes, it would make it easier for moderate Arab states to help America out in the anti-terrorist campaign to come.

9/23/2001 03:25:16 PM

A Tale of Two Op-Ed Writers: The front page of the Opinion section in today’s L.A. Times features dramatically opposing columns from William Shawcross and Barbara Kingsolver. Each is representative of a distinct and opposite school of thought regarding the Sept. 11 massacre. Before excerpting from them, I figured it might be illustrative to contrast their two lives. You can play along at home, by referring to Shawcross’ and Kingsolver’s personal websites.

Shawcross, a Brit, is a London-based international journalist, columnist and author, probably best known for his 2000 book “Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict,” in which he railed against the West’s cowardice in confronting atrocities such as the Rwanda genocide. Kingsolver, a Yank, is a Tuscon-based novelist, poet and essayist, probably best known for her 1998 Congo novel “The Poisonwood Bible,” which she said she wrote “because as an adult I'm interested in cultural imperialism and post-colonial history.” At age 24 (in 1970), Shawcross wrote a biography of Alexander Dubcek. At age 24 (in 1979), Kingsolver entered graduate school. Shawcross’ nonfiction works include an account of the Shah of Iran’s last days, a 1979 Polk-prize-winning book condemning U.S. policy in Cambodia, a 1989 pamphlet on the ramifications of Tiananmen Square, and a biography of Rupert Murdoch. Kingsolver has published one nonfiction book: “Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983,” and several essays, including "Civil Disobedience at Breakfast,” and “A Woman's Unease About the Men's Movement." Kingsolver describes herself on her website as an “environmental activist and human-rights advocate,” for whom “writing is a form of political activism.” Shawcross describes himself on his website as an “Independent writer and broadcaster travelling frequently to The United States, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe”; only by reading his CV do you learn that he has been an active member of a half-dozen groups that defend free expression, help political refugees and aid disaster victims. Kingsolver encourages readers to buy “an hour-long PBS documentary in which Barbara speaks extensively about writing, her background and her published works,” for the low price of $39.95 (it’s “suitable for classroom use or book discussion groups,” in case you were wondering). Shawcross lists the contact information for his agents. Kingsolver has a “dialogue” section on her site, in which she appears to interview herself; Shawcross has a “guest book” section, which is empty. Before we roll tape, I leave you with this salient item -- a main criticism with Shawcross over the years has been that he reflexively blames the U.S. for murderous acts committed by others. In other words, that he’s a Consequentialist.

So, how did their columns today differ? It all comes down to one subject: anti-Americanism. First Kingsolver:

And those [Palestinian] children dancing in the street? That is the hardest question. We would rather discuss trails of evidence and whom to stamp out, even the size and shape of the cage we might put ourselves in to stay safe, than to mention the fact that our nation is not universally beloved; we are also despised. And not just by "The Terrorist," that lone, deranged non-man in a bad photograph whose opinion we can clearly dismiss, but by ordinary people in many lands. Even by little boys -- whole towns full of them it looked like -- jumping for joy in school shoes and pilled woolen sweaters.

There are a hundred ways to be a good citizen, and one of them is to look finally at the things we don't want to see. In a week of terrifying events, here is one awful, true thing that hasn't much been mentioned: Some people believe our country needed to learn how to hurt in this new way. This is such a large lesson, so hatefully, wrongfully taught, but many people before us have learned honest truths from wrongful deaths.

Now Shawcross:
Anti-Americanism may be a minority sport, but it is a popular one. It is not just tolerated but often applauded throughout Europe. In the days since the terrorists' mass murders, newspapers have carried commentary blasting Americans for their "slaughter of the innocents of Iraq" and their "unabashed national egotism and arrogance." Like any other nation, the United States makes mistakes both at home and abroad. But the disdain with which its efforts, its failures and even its successes are greeted by some in Britain and elsewhere in Europe is deeply shocking.

In fact, the U.S. administration and the American people have behaved with impeccable restraint, courage and dignity in the face of this terrible mass murder. […]

It is when you consider regimes like the Taliban, or the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or the horribly anti-Semitic regime in Syria, that you are stunned by the casuistry and the fundamental dishonesty of those intellectuals who wear their hatred of America like a badge of honor. […]

It seems to me that this is an appropriate time to assure Laden that the vast majority of the world does not hate America. The United States remains a beacon of hope for the world's poor and dispossessed and for all those who believe in freedom of thought and of deed. It always has.

In my view, the United States is the most important democracy on Earth. It has also long been the most generous country on Earth. It is the anchor of what we call (properly) the free world. And while the free world is an imperfect world, it is far better than anything else on offer -- as millions of migrants attempting to join it from other parts of the globe will testify.

In Britain, most people are very conscious that American wealth and American blood were essential to our victory of 1945. America is the vital center that held through the Cold War and enabled the world to defeat communism, the greatest terror of the 20th Century. Washington has made mistakes, some very serious. But American international engagement was essential to progress in the last century. Far from being the enemy of Islam, America can do more than any other nation to reduce existing tensions between the Islamic world and our own.

9/23/2001 01:06:21 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

ss.com/guest.html">guest book” section, which is empty. Before we roll tape, I leave you with this salient item -- a main criticism with Shawcross over the years has been that he reflexively blames the U.S. for murderous acts committed by others. In other words, that he’s a Consequentialist.

So, how did their columns today differ? It all comes down to one subject: anti-Americanism. First Kingsolver:

And those [Palestinian] children dancing in the street? That is the hardest question. We would rather discuss trails of evidence and whom to stamp out, even the size and shape of the cage we might put ourselves in to stay safe, than to mention the fact that our nation is not universally beloved; we are also despised. And not just by "The Terrorist," that lone, deranged non-man in a bad photograph whose opinion we can clearly dismiss, but by ordinary people in many lands. Even by little boys -- whole towns full of them it looked like -- jumping for joy in school shoes and pilled woolen sweaters.

There are a hundred ways to be a good citizen, and one of them is to look finally at the things we don't want to see. In a week of terrifying events, here is one awful, true thing that hasn't much been mentioned: Some people believe our country needed to learn how to hurt in this new way. This is such a large lesson, so hatefully, wrongfully taught, but many people before us have learned honest truths from wrongful deaths.

Now Shawcross:
Anti-Americanism may be a minority sport, but it is a popular one. It is not just tolerated but often applauded throughout Europe. In the days since the terrorists' mass murders, newspapers have carried commentary blasting Americans for their "slaughter of the innocents of Iraq" and their "unabashed national egotism and arrogance." Like any other nation, the United States makes mistakes both at home and abroad. But the disdain with which its efforts, its failures and even its successes are greeted by some in Britain and elsewhere in Europe is deeply shocking.

In fact, the U.S. administration and the American people have behaved with impeccable restraint, courage and dignity in the face of this terrible mass murder. […]

It is when you consider regimes like the Taliban, or the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or the horribly anti-Semitic regime in Syria, that you are stunned by the casuistry and the fundamental dishonesty of those intellectuals who wear their hatred of America like a badge of honor. […]

It seems to me that this is an appropriate time to assure Laden that the vast majority of the world does not hate America. The United States remains a beacon of hope for the world's poor and dispossessed and for all those who believe in freedom of thought and of deed. It always has.

In my view, the United States is the most important democracy on Earth. It has also long been the most generous country on Earth. It is the anchor of what we call (properly) the free world. And while the free world is an imperfect world, it is far better than anything else on offer -- as millions of migrants attempting to join it from other parts of the globe will testify.

In Britain, most people are very conscious that American wealth and American blood were essential to our victory of 1945. America is the vital center that held through the Cold War and enabled the world to defeat communism, the greatest terror of the 20th Century. Washington has made mistakes, some very serious. But American international engagement was essential to progress in the last century. Far from being the enemy of Islam, America can do more than any other nation to reduce existing tensions between the Islamic world and our own.

9/23/2001 01:06:21 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

/BODY> ial" SIZE="2" COLOR="Black">© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

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