by Victor Davis Hanson
Words Not Spoken
I listened carefully to the president’s commemorative speech and many of the other public statements from our elected officials. This year’s anniversary marked a somewhat new tone, tentative, near apologetic — as if the Ground Zero and Pentagon attacks were wholly tragic rather than solely due to the premeditated murdering of radical Islamic zealots.
We’ve come away from the resolute pact with the departed that resonated from Ground Zero, when George Bush, in his finest moment, put his arm around retired firefighter Bob Beckwith, and announced to the world, “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” As the national hysteria of 2008 wears off, I think some Americans will miss that, and come to see that the reductionist “fighting them over there rather than here,” “playing offense rather than defense” had something to it.
In contrast, even today December 7 brings up more Day of Infamy resoluteness than a sense of equivocation, as something inevitable or a lesson about America’s tolerance. Even Howard Zinn did not succeed in convincing America that we needed to pause and renew our allegiance to tolerance to avoid another 12/7.
No doubt this year’s hesitancy and gloom were brought on by the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, and the combined lunatic statements from the book-burning Pastor Jones, and the now veiled warnings about Islamic payback for our supposed illiberality from the omnipresent Imam Rauf (as he finagles to get his $100 million Islamic headquarters built at the only place he can continue to bask in the limelight of controversy).
Nine years after the mass murders, where do we stand?
On the plus side, the protocols put in place — Guantanamo, tribunals, renditions, Predators, wiretapping, intercepts, the Patriot Act, the offensive operations in Afghanistan and (yes) in Iraq — have decimated al Qaeda and prevented another 9/11 at home … so far. Iraqis worry about us leaving rather than staying. So do most Afghans.
I know all that because the left is suddenly quiet about the previously supposed Constitution shredding — a trope to destroy George Bush, rather than worry about forgetting the Founders. Obama has adopted or expanded all these measures. Iraq is now dubbed by the vice president as one of the administration’s “greatest achievements” and by the president himself as “a remarkable chapter” in our history. The surge is as appreciated and taken for granted as its reference is taboo. The MoveOn.org discounted New York Timesad — “General Betray Us” — never existed.
Some will come to remember that the U.S. went into the heart of the ancient caliphate and did not destroy Iraq, but liberated it, and in the end was helped by the Sunni Arabs of Anbar province. The al-Qaeda videos, the beheadings, the Abu Ghraib propaganda, the war is “lost” defeatism at home, and the snuff Bush novels and films did not prevail over the U.S. military.
Yes, we forget, and yet were not reminded this year, how far we have come. Bin Laden is an outcast, his polls low, his followers in caves. Thousands of murderous jihadists have been killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no more WMD in Libya. Dr. Khan is in retirement. Syria is out of Lebanon; we are out of Saudi Arabia.
I could go on, but none of this was sure after 9/11. I am surprised that our leaders do not, at least briefly, evoke it — at least to balance the constant refrain that we are tolerant, not at war with Islam, and all the understandable outreach that we heard this week. How odd that the most liberal people in the world are worried that they are not liberal enough to the most intolerant on the planet.
A people at war needs to hear at times Churchill’s or Clemenceau’s defiance as much as tolerance. Both are necessary, but if we are continually reminded that Pastor Jones and his supposedly extremist al-Qaeda doppelgangers cannot turn us from the path of our accustomed liberality, we equally need to hear that the United States has brought defeat to its enemies and will continue to do so at home and abroad.
The Minus Side
So on the minus side, we still are a conflicted people, especially now in the age of Obama. We worry whether a nut and his 49 other nuts in a nation of 300 million will offend fanatical Muslims, who were quite willing to kill a novelist, a cartoonist, an opera producer, a pope, and anyone else they deemed not properly deferential or tolerant enough — this from the most intolerant of all on the planet. We apologize for “Infinite Justice,” and talk of “overseas contingency operations” and “man-made disasters.” Cannot the president just say, “The price for free speech is tragically bad taste and worse among a small minority.”?
(Has anyone noticed that a pathetic and repulsive broke Pastor Jones is merely a cruder media version of the money-mongering, slick Imam Rauf? Each in his own way is otherwise not newsworthy, each trying to con his way into attention, each cashing in on 9/11 in differing ways. The chief divide between the two is that the mellifluous Rauf has mastered the veneer of the snarky educated elite, the twangy Jones has reinforced the stereotype of the yokel lower middle-class clinger. Note the clueless media fell for one faker, but not the other. Note further: cannot the president keep out of these “teachable moments”? Even a book-burning creep has the constitutional right to be a creep without the president of the United States, the secretary of Defense, and a 4-star general trying to silence his crude expression. Are we so afraid of radical Islam that one Florida holy-roller endangers the security of the United States? Surely there are enough of us around to make it clear Jones does not speak for America without DOD, Coalition Forces-Afghanistan, and POTUS. This is getting very tiresome: Skip Gates, the Arizona victims in danger of being snatched while having ice cream, the ad nauseam sermons on the Ground Zero mosque, now Pastor Jones: enough, Mr. Obama, you have enough to worry about without being sermonizer in chief.)
America needs a Lincoln to give about a 10-minute speech — nothing more — about whom the Muslim world should really fear: perhaps the Russians who destroyed Muslim Chechnya, or the Chinese who curb Islamic expression, or the Arab tyrannies that slay their own, but not the U.S., not us who have welcomed in millions from the Middle East and saved Muslims from Bosnia to Indonesia. The people have heard enough lectures that “sometimes we have let ourselves down.” Or “sometimes we haven’t always been…” Blah, blah, blah.
A Final Word on 9/11
Our president is not connecting with the people on the matters of radical Islamic terror. Yes, we do not wish to be hard on Muslims and yes we are not prejudicial. But at some point, Mr. Obama should think deeply and ask why a Major Hasan murdered his own army comrades, evoking Allah as he butchered innocents (do we know even their names?). If there is a torched Times Square or another jet imploding, it will most likely be due to a proverbial “home-grown” — the euphemism for the American-born or American-residing terrorist who, after enjoying all the benefits of American liberality, affluence, and leisure, hates his benefactors for their liberality and their appetites that grow within him.
Or what exactly drove a Mr. Mutallab to want to blow up a jet, or other Muslims to wish to torch Times Square?
Was it really the Jews, or Iraq, or cartoons, or something we did? Or rather a warped radical religious ideology that is allowed to spread too often without censure?
If the Imam Raufs of America would spend three times as much time condemning madrassas, Wahabbism, anti-Muslim oppression by others abroad, and the silence of so many in the Muslim community about the radicalism that spreads among them as they do warning us to be more liberal — or else — then there would be far fewer Major Hasans and his fellow zealots who on over 30 occasions have tried to trump the mass murder of 9/11.
What a weird society — each time a radical Islamist is stopped before killing the innocent, we keep going back to the single Timothy McVeigh murdering of 15 years past, and mouth some banality like “there are all sorts of terrorists.”
So maybe just a tiny bit of George Patton and a bit less of Tony Robbins.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson