This week marks the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America by Islamic fundamentalists. What really stands out in looking back at that day and its aftermath are the initial reactions voiced by many highly visible liberals and leftists, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Contrary to the revisionist history that has emerged in recent years which would have you believe it was the alleged warmongering of President Bush – specifically, the 2003 invasion of Iraq – that caused the Left to turn with a vengeance on the Bush administration and U.S. Mideast policy (read: support of Israel), liberals and leftists were in fact rushing to denounce America as the ruins of the World Trade Center still lay smoldering.
Michael Lerner, the former ‘60s radical-turned publisher, used the Jewish High Holiday season to urge America to begin “a period of repentance and atonement” for its many sins, including the country’s “hoarding of the world’s resources by the richest society in world history, and our frantic attempts to accelerate globalization with its attendant inequalities of wealth.”
Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery, meanwhile, wrote that America “is hated by millions of Arabs, because of its support for the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people. It is hated by multitudes of Muslims, because of what looks like its support for the Jewish domination of the Islamic holy shrines in Jerusalem.”
That festering bag of gas also took a swipe at America’s principled departure just weeks before from the UN farce in Durban, South Africa, managing in a single phrase to ascribe racist motives to the American walkout and to pin part of the blame on Israel:
“When the U.S. delegation left the world conference in Durban, in order to abort the debate about the evils of slavery and in order to court the Israeli right [italics added], Jefferson must have turned over in his grave.”
After an interlude that lasted maybe 48 hours from the time of the terrorist attacks, the editorialists at The New York Times returned with a vengeance to the obsession that had consumed them since the previous winter: the relentless undermining of George W. Bush, his policies, his performance, his presidency itself.
In one memorable line the Times lamented that “Mr. Bush came to the White House with as little preparation in international affairs as any modern president.” (Funny, but the Times never seemed to hold that particular lack against Bill Clinton, whom the paper endorsed twice and who also had no experience in international relations, save for formulating the foreign policy of the great state of Arkansas.)
Speaking of the Times, one could already, by the end of September 2001, sense the inevitable doubts and hesitancy creeping into its editorials. The paper’s ridiculous posturing was described with appropriate bite by The New Republic’s Lawrence Kaplan: “Plotting strategy from the cheese line at Zabar’s, the editorial writers at The New York Times have let it be known they find the ‘war talk we have heard from Washington … disconcerting.’ ”
(In a monumental case of bad timing, the Times had embarrassed itself by running, on the very morning of the terrorist attacks, a gushing profile of Bill Ayers, the unrepentant former ‘60s radical who was out with a new book recounting his exploits as a domestic terrorist involved in bombings of New York City police headquarters, the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in the early 1970’s.
(“The Times,” wrote the late columnist Michael Kelly, “found Ayers to be possessed of an ‘ebullient, ingratiating manner,’ and accorded him the respect of 2,000 words in the paper plus a generally fawning and deeply stupid interview in the Sept. 16 New York Times Magazine, which was printed before the events of September 11.”)
Seeking justification for Islamic terror in the “plight of the Palestinians” had long been a pastime of leftist European journalists, many of whom had begun to appear with increasing regularity in American publications like The Nation, the sclerotic far-left bulletin board for anyone with a grudge against capitalism, democracy, Western culture and, of course, Israel.
For its first issue after the 9/11 attacks, The Nation imported the ravings of the anti-Israel British reporter Robert Fisk, who informed his readers that “this is not really the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about U.S. missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and U.S. helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia – paid and uniformed by America’s Israeli ally – hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps.”
In a rambling piece that matched Fisk’s in terms of sheer hostility to Israel, Salon.com executive editor Gary Kamiya declared: “We must pressure Israel to take the concrete steps necessary to provide justice for the Palestinian people…. If this were a case of good vs. Evil, the righteous Israelis fighting for their survival against the evil Arabs, it would be a cause worth America enduring the hatred of millions of people. But it is not. No one in the world, aside from some segment of the Israeli public and, apparently, the U.S. government, believes this.”