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9/11 And The Left


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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.”

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver let it be known in the San Francisco Chronicle that “the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry … and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder.”

In case anyone was feeling deprived for having missed that particular outburst, Kingsolver obligingly returned shortly afterward with another testament to her judgment and clarity, this time in the Los Angeles Times:

“It is not naive to propose alternatives to war. We could be the kindest nation on earth, inside and out…. I’d like an end to corporate welfare so we could put that money into ending homelessness…. I would like a humane health-care system organized along the lines of Canada’s. I’d like the efficient public-transit system of Paris in my city, thank you. I’d like us to consume energy at the modest level that Europeans do…. If this were the face we showed the world, and the model we helped bring about elsewhere, I expect we could get along with a military budget the size of Iceland’s.”

And what if the U.S. had followed that prescription and still come under attack? That’s easy. Here again the brilliant Ms. Kingsolver: “The World Court and the entire Moslem world stand ready to judge Osama bin Laden and his accessories. If we were to put a few billion dollars into food, health care and education instead of bombs, you can bet we’d win over enough friends to find out where he’s hiding.”

Also weighing in was the late Studs Terkel, whose popular oral histories caused many to mistakenly label him a writer when in fact he was nothing more than an energetic tape recordist, to use the memorable term coined for him by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Neal.

Terkel, an old leftist whose worldview was described by the writer Jacob Weisberg as a “dogmatic insistence that American society is bigoted, ignorant and greedy,” informed a radio interviewer after the 9/11 attacks that the U.S. is “the only country in the world that has been fighting a war since 1940.”

Apparently intent on painting 9/11 as an overreaction by incorrigible militarists, Terkel went on to say, “Count the wars. Count the years. We’ve built up a body politic of old men who look upon military service as a noble adventure.”

Another leftist who can always be counted on for a bad word about the U.S. is Columbia University professor Eric Foner, who came through with this gem for the ages in the Village Voice: “I’m not sure which is more frightening, the horror that engulfed New York or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House.”

But Foner was topped by cartoonist Ted Rall, who wrote: “We’ve been treated to some astonishingly vile images…. Office workers hurling themselves into a 100-floor-high abyss. A gaping, smoldering hole in the financial center of our greatest city. George W. Bush passing himself off as a patriot, even as he disassembles the Constitution with the voracious glee of piranha skeletonizing a cow.”

Yet another dose of idiocy came from the novelist Alice Walker: “In a war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden will either be left alive, while thousands of impoverished, frightened people are bombed into oblivion around him, or he will be killed in a bombing attack for which he seems quite prepared. But what would happen to his cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he’s done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love.”

We’ll close with novelist Arundhati Roy, who used the pages of the London Guardian to unburden herself of her disdain for “America’s foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal…its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think.”

The above is just a very small sampling of the calumnies heaped by leftists on America in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 – nearly a year and a half before George W. Bush invaded Iraq and provided them a fig leaf for their never-changing and never-ending hostility to the United States and what it stands for.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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