I was talking to some friends today who were poking great fun at the disconnect between the Feds and New York officials over the possible terrorist threat to the Big Apple’s subways.
I told them I failed to see any humor in the situation. They failed to see my point: Just because George W. Bush highjacked the Islamo-fascist threat to justify the war in Iraq, doesn’t mean that threat isn’t real. And mortal.
Al Qaeda and similar armed religio-fascist groups are not just a bogeyman invented by neo-cons to stampede the public (as hard as they might try).
Nor are they simple inventions of the United States or its policies – an alarmingly common view among much of the American Left. In her most recent interview, Cindy Sheehan endorses this view that September 11th was of our own making:
"I think that US foreign policy is totally responsible for 9/11, as well as the recent bombings in London. Our policies of killing innocent Iraqis; Afghanis; supporting the occupation of Palestine; our permanent bases in Saudi Arabia; our presence in Lebanon; our support of the Shah; supporting Saddam and giving him the WMDs used on his own people. I think this sort of behavior drives hatred toward the US. This is just all my opinion, of course. I am not a politician or a military strategist. I am just a citizen voicing my opinions..."
We’ll give a Sheehan a moral pass precisely based on that disclaimer of her not really knowing what she’s talking about. Because she doesn’t. Belief in an extremist religious world view is what produced 9/11. And the London bombings were the work of similar, cold-blooded fanatics -- and not the handiwork of Bush and Blair (however much you might rightfully dislike them).
This mistaken – and extremely dangerous—notion was ably taken apart recently by leftist writer and journalist Sasha Abramsky in an essay on Opendemocracy.net An excerpt:
"British journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Tariq Ali, along with British MP George Galloway, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, commentators such as Naomi Klein have all essentially blamed Britain and the United States for bringing the attacks upon themselves. While being careful to denounce the bombers and their agenda, these advocates uttered variations on the same theme: get out of Iraq, bring home the troops from all points east, curtail support for Israel, develop a more sensible, non-oil-based energy policy, and our troubles would dissipate in the wind…
…Pilger, Fisk, Ali, Galloway, and Klein grasp the undeniable fact that shortsighted western policies and alliances of convenience over the past century have contributed to today’s mass alienation of young Muslims, to a climate in which millennial groups such as al-Qaida flourish…
…But theirs is also a truncated analysis. They assume that groups like al-Qaida are almost entirely reactive, responding to western policies and actions, rather than being pro-active creatures with a virulent homegrown agenda, one not just of defence but of conquest, destruction of rivals, and, ultimately and at its most megalomaniacal, absolute subjugation.
It misses the central point: that, unlike traditional “third-world” liberation movements looking for a bit of peace and quiet in which to nurture embryonic states, al-Qaida is classically imperialist, looking to subvert established social orders and to replace the cultural and institutional infrastructure of its enemies with a (divinely inspired) hierarchical autocracy of its own, looking to craft the next chapter of human history in its own image.
Simply blaming the never quite defined, yet implicitly all-powerful “west” for the ills of the world doesn’t explain why al-Qaida slaughtered thousands of Americans eighteen months before Saddam was overthrown. Nor does it explain the psychopathic joy this death cult takes in mass killings and in ritualistic, snuff-movie-style beheadings."
Please read Sasha’s entire essay before commenting.
He’s absolutely spot-on arguing that precisely because Bin-Ladenism is committed to combatting the very notion of an open, liberal society, too much of the activist left’s post-911 response has been “woefully, catasrophically inadequate.”
When ordinary Americans worry that their cities, ports or subways might be bombed by suicidal fanatics, it’s laughable and insulting to tell them that if they would just help put an end to U.S. imperialism the whole problem would go away.
Certainly, many aspects of U.S. foreign policy help foment widespread resentment in the Middle East and Muslim world. But the totalitarian and ultimately nihilist ideology of Al Qaeda possesses its own agency and is likely to act no matter what position this or that American White House takes.
When liberals and leftists just shrug their shoulders, when they write off all terrorist threats as mere fear-mongering (or worse as the chickens coming home to roost) they not only abdicate all moral responsibility, they also effectively take a progressive policy alternative off the table. Do that, and you kick the door wide open and unobstructed for the current disastrous policies of the Bush administration. I may think the Bush and his Department of Homeland Security are fools. But I take Al Qaeda and its allies dead seriously.