As we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, it would be instructive to look back at the early reactions to the atrocity on the part of some prominent leftists. It’s become something of a mantra on the left that the whole world initially sympathized with the U.S., and that America’s image was so irredeemably tarnished only after the evil warmonger George W. Bush trashed the Constitution and sent the American military off to slaughter innocent Muslims in the interests of Halliburton and other capitalist behemoths.
In fact, once the initial shock wore off and it became clear 9/11 was not the work of homegrown terrorists, the rationalizations and excuses began to fly. And, as always seems to be the case with those on the left, the real culprits were not Islamic extremists but the U.S. and Israel.
In its first issue after the attacks on New York and Washington, The Nation magazine imported the ravings of 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 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 its sheer hostility to Israel, Salon 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.”
It wasn’t long after the Twin Towers fell that the late Norman Mailer, arguably the most overrated American literary figure in recent memory, weighed in with his take on 9/11, telling a gathering in the Netherlands:
“The World Trade Center was not just an architectural monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn’t work there, for it said to all those people: ‘If you can’t work up here, boy, you’re out of it.’ Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be destroyed.”
Wait, Mailer was just warming up:
“The key thing is that we in America are convinced that it was blind, mad fanatics who didn’t know what they were doing. But what if those perpetrators were right and we were not? We have long ago lost the capability to take a calm look at the enormity of our enemy’s position.”
A similarly sagacious response to Sept. 11 and its aftermath came from the late Marxist historian Howard Zinn. “Let us be a more modest nation,” Zinn pleaded in a letter published by The Nation. “The modest nations of the world don’t face the threat of terrorism. Let us pull back from being a military superpower and become a humanitarian superpower. We, and everyone else, will then be more secure.”
Not to be outdone, the novelist Arundhati Roy used the pages of London’s 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.”
Such was the mindset of many on the left (and there are hundreds of other examples for each of those cited above) even as the ruins of the World Trade Center still smoldered and the dead of 9/11 were being accounted for, eulogized and memorialized.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org