If December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy, September 11, 2001 has become a day that will not.
Americans were angered after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They resolved to take the fight to the enemy that had attacked them. They declared war against Japan, and then against Germany and Italy.
Americans took the fight to their enemies, and inflicted an extremely high price for Pearl Harbor. The message was clear: Don’t tread on the USA.
Compare that response to what is planned for the commemoration of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
In yesterday’s New York Times Edward Rothstein captures what is gravely wrong with America’s new way of remembering. We have chosen the occasion to make a grandiose display of moral spinelessness. All the while claiming that we have attained a level of moral superiority.
Americans are going to use the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the only recent military attack on American soil to demonstrate to the world that they feel … penitent.
It appears that a large segment of Americans used 9/11 to initiate a bout of therapy. Those who did have come out of it with their anger diminished, but full of insight into what they did to provoke such hatred.
They are more concerned with advertising their squeamishness than their strength.
America seems to have decided to use 9/11/2011 as an occasion to demonstrate our newfound multicultural sensitivity, our guilt for having behaved provocatively, and our penitence for the sins that the attack was punishing us for.
Is it thinkable, Rothstein argues, that the anniversary of Pearl Harbor would be marked by this: “Would we have conjured up anything like the ‘9/11 Peace Story Quilt,’ now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with children’s drawings and words emphasizing the need for multicultural sensitivity? “
He continues: “The sheer quantity of cultural events is overwhelming; so is their scattered miscellany, a potpourri of sentiment and argument, memorialization and self-criticism, reflection and political polemic. It seems as if every cultural institution, television network and book publisher feels duty-bound to produce some sort of Sept. 11 commemoration. Is there a precedent for this almost compulsive variety show about an attack on a nation’s people?”
Our intellectual class, the one that proclaims its adherence to scientific principles, strode forth after the attacks to proclaim that we were suffering as God’s judgment on the error of our ways.
Not exactly in those words, but the moral sentiment was identical.
In Rothstein’s words: “So otherworldly did it seem when those planes were flown into their targets that their collapse came like a thunderclap of judgment. And that is how many immediately took it. ‘Why do they hate us?’ was asked again and again.
“And like theologians after the catastrophic 18th-century Lisbon earthquake, who saw the wages of sin in the disaster, many intellectuals didn’t wait long to assert that this blowback was payback. This is why this attack is often mischaracterized as tragedy, a drama that unfolds out of the flaws or failings of its victim.”
Like medieval flagellants, Americans confess their myriad sins, criticize themselves, and chastise themselves … as though this purification ritual will protect them from future attack.
They have learned their lessons well. The Islamic terrorists wanted to instill fear into America. They wanted to create a fear of Islam, properly called Islamophobia.
Intellectuals and politicians have learned the lesson. Cowering in their tents they refuse even to name radical Islam as the cause of terrorism. That- don’t you know—would be insensitive.
The White House, Rothstein reports, has chosen to call 9/11 a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.”
According to the White House, he writes: “It is certainly not about Islamist extremism or the jihadist proclamations by its aspirants. It isn’t even really about us. We are told: “We honor all victims of terrorism, in every nation of the world. We honor and celebrate the resilience of individuals, families and communities on every continent, whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” (Is it just an accident of alliteration that crucial cities torn by terror have been omitted, because that would have required acknowledging that Jerusalem or Tel Aviv faces something similar?)”
Is anyone still surprised to see that the Obama White House has failed to place Israeli cities on the list of those who have suffered from Islamic terrorist attacks? Could they be any more Islamophobic, any more fearful of offending delicate Muslim sensibilities?
If the Islamist attacks against modern civilization were no different from any other acts of terrorism then penitence is a more appropriate response than acts of war.
Those who seek to lead the nation toward penitence have necessarily downplayed American victories in the war against terror.
In Rothstein’s words: “Any victory [in the war on terror] is also ambiguously celebrated because it is seen as scarred by sin (though surely no victory is ever unmarred).”
White House talking points reflect the same mindset: “The memos don’t suggest any cheering for successes of the last decade; there is even a hesitation to attract much attention, as if the White House were feeling ambivalent about the whole business, haunted perhaps by guilt. The memos also minimize any suggestion that military force had something to do with Al Qaeda’s suffering severe setbacks.”
In the new liberal narrative of the years following the war, George Bush is blamed for having gone to war and wasted the nation’s resources on one or two futile enterprises.
While all liberals consider the Iraq war to have been a calamity, regardless of its outcome, some consider the Afghanistan war to have been the “good war.”
Amusingly, the same liberal mindset that despised the notion of going to war against Islamic terrorists and those who harbor them, trot out the example of World War II as the role model for how to get out of a severe economic contraction.
No doubt that Paul Krugman despised the profligacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At the same time, he has been trying to convince us all that government stimulus works… because it worked in World War II.