The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


In an op-ed in yesterday’s USA Today, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani discussed 9/11 and its aftermath. In his op-ed, he touches on the topic I wrote about in my last post, Five Years. Giuliani writes:
Some argue that our enemies seek negotiation and understanding. But our enemies have made clear to us that what they seek is the annihilation of our most precious freedoms.

One of the main reasons for the founding of the United States was to establish freedom, particularly freedom of religion. Our enemies oppose freedom, particularly freedom of religion. This was made shockingly clear by the recent gunpoint "conversion" of two kidnapped journalists in Gaza. The terrorists don't want to understand and co-exist alongside Western democracies. There are those over the past 30 years, and even to this day, who want to negotiate with the fanatic Islamic terrorists. But the fanatics don't want to negotiate. They want to establish a world in which everyone practices a perverted version of their religion. They want to return to a time before the modern age, to a world in which women have no rights and religious dissent is met with death.

These attacks are about a radical form of Islam that views our very existence as a grave threat. This is not a debate over values or policies. This is not a border dispute. This is a war over the preservation and expansion of the modern world.

And then there’s Christopher Hitchens in yesterday’s on-line Wall Street Journal who writes:
In the past five years, I have either registered or witnessed or protested at or simply "observed" the following:

(1) The reopening of a restaurant in Bali, where several dozen Australian holidaymakers and many Indonesian civilians had earlier been torn to shreds. (2) The explosion of a bomb at a Tube station in London which is regularly used by two of my children. (3) The murder of a senior Shiite cleric outside his place of worship in Iraq. (4) The attempt to destroy the Danish economy--and to torch Danish embassies and civilians--as a consequence of the publication of a few caricatures in the Danish press. (5) The murder of the U.N. envoy to Baghdad: a heroic Brazilian named Sergio Vieira de Mello, as vengeance (according to his murderers) for his role in shepherding East Timor to independence. (6) The near-successful attempt to blow up the Indian parliament in New Delhi, and two successful attempts to disrupt the commerce and society of Mumbai. (7) The destruction of the Golden Dome in Samara: a place of aesthetic as well as devotional importance. (8) The bombing of ancient synagogues in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco. (9) The evisceration in the street of a Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, and the lethal threats that drove his Somali-born colleague, a duly elected member of the Dutch parliament, into hiding and then exile. (10) The ritual slaughter on video of a Jewish reporter for this newspaper.

This list is not exhaustive or in any special order, and it does not include any of the depredations undertaken by the votaries of the Iranian version of Islamic fundamentalism. I shall just say that I have stood, alone or in company, with Hindus, Jews, Shiites and secularists (my own non-sectarian group) in the face of a cult of death that worships suicide and exalts murder and desecration. This has not dimmed, for me, the importance of what happened in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. But it has made me slightly bored with those who continue to wonder, fruitlessly so far, in what fashion "we" should commemorate it.

The time for commemoration lies very far in the future. War memorials are erected when the war is won. At the moment, anyone who insists on the primacy of September 11, 2001, is very likely to be accused--not just overseas but in this country also--of making or at least of implying a "partisan" point. I debate with the "antiwar" types almost every day, either in print or on the air or on the podium, and I can tell you that they have been "war-weary" ever since the sun first set on the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on the noble debris of United Airlines 93. These clever critics are waiting, some of them gleefully, for the moment that is not far off: the moment when the number of American casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq will match or exceed the number of civilians of all nationalities who were slaughtered five years ago today. But to the bored, cynical neutrals, it also comes naturally to say that it is "the war" that has taken, and is taking, the lives of tens of thousands of other civilians. In other words, homicidal nihilism is produced only by the resistance to it! If these hacks were honest, and conceded the simple truth that it is the forces of the Taliban and of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia that are conducting a Saturnalia of murder and destruction, they would have to hide their faces and admit that they were not "antiwar" at all.

In another anniversary column, Cathy Young of the Boston Globe comments on the vicious political divisions within our country and the arguments made on both the left and the right:
Today, rancorous partisanship is one of the defining features of American political life, and the debate about the practical and moral aspects of the West's response to terrorism abounds with questions to which there are no clear answers.

Take, for instance, the comparisons of the radical Islamic terror network to the threat once posed to democracies by Nazism and by communism. Some say that the analogy is ridiculous, and that a network of a few thousand people with guns and homemade bombs can hardly be equated with Hitler's war machine or the nuclear missile-armed Soviet empire. Others argue that the Nazi and Soviet parallels may underrate the terrorist threat, since today's enemy is far more amorphous, dispersed in our very midst, and likely, like the hydra in Greek myth, to sprout new heads to replace severed ones. Each side in this debate has strong and convincing arguments.

Or take national security versus civil liberties and the rules of civilized warfare. Many conservatives argue that the magnitude of the threat necessitates an indefinite state of emergency in which our survival may require expanding the government's power of surveillance, limiting the rights of suspects, and curbing the disclosure of sensitive information in the media. Liberals and libertarians argue just as passionately that if we compromise our freedoms and our ethics, we will lose the very things that make our civilization worth fighting for.

While I support the libertarian argument and agree that the terrorist threat has been used for demagogic purposes, I don't think conservative warnings can be dismissed out of hand. But can we dismiss a scenario in which only wiretapping could prevent another Sept. 11?

Or take the relationship between Islamic radicalism (including terrorism) and Islam itself. There is much evidence that extremist attitudes in Islam today are not limited to a fringe but represent a powerful strain in many Muslim societies. But when does recognition of the deep-rooted problems in contemporary Muslim culture turn into a bigotry as vile as the anti-Semitism spouted by much of the press in the Muslim world?

Young is looking for “clarity in a more complex world.” I’d suggest that she read Rudy’s op-ed in USA Today. and Hitchen's piece in the On-line Journal. They’ll help.