Friday, 11 September 2009
It goes without saying that today is the 8th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on the United States, and rightly there has been a lot of coverage of it in the media, the theme in most places being one of remembrance. What became instantly noticeable to me was that on the Guardian's comment page, there were two articles on the subject of 9-11, both disparaging the U.S.A in some way, and generally trying to draw the focus away from 9-11.
The first article is by Andy Worthington, who looks not at the tragedy of the 3,000+ people who died on 9-11, but on the 225 people detained at Gitmo. The article itself is standard fare for a liberal rag like the Guardian, nothing particularly extreme, moans about those oppressed by America in Gitmo, how the War on Terror was bad, all mixed in with a nice dollop of Anti-Americanism - its nothing unusual. Yet what is noteworthy is that it has appeared in the Guardian today of all days. Why on Earth, when today is the anniversary of the most horrific attack on American soil, would you completely ignore the people who died, and focus instead on a handful of prisoners? It's the equivalent of commemorating the anniversary of the death of Grandma by remembering that Mittens the cat wasn't fed the day she died. Of course the author painfully tries to present this article as what the victims 'would have wanted' by inserting into the middle of his rant about 'justice' the spine curling line, "The relatives of those who lost their lives on 9/11 deserve nothing less" but I don't think he convinces anyone. Guantanamo is Worthington's hobby horse, and he has written a lot on it so fair enough if he wants to write some more, but to put a U.S.A-bashing article like this out on 9-11 with only a minor nod of the head to the victims is the equivalent of standing at the back of a funeral during a eulogy and screaming, "WHY DON'T YOU MENTION HOW HE DRANK LIKE A FISH?"
The second article is very odd. Lila Nordstrom writes an article I was reading fairly casually until she somehow made a comparison between 9-11 and the healthcare debate. It starts off as a normal recollection of the fateful day. She recalls how she was working in a school when the planes hit, and states that they were let back into the building too early in October when it could have still been a toxic area, and that she is angry at this. Fair enough. But then out of nowhere she turns it around, blames Bush and Giuliani for creating an atmosphere of fear in which she was forced to think the 'absurd' idea that her school could be hit by a terrorist attack (proved apparently by the fact that her school was not hit by a terrorist attack), an atmosphere of fear which prevails to this day, and this is why healthcare is being opposed. Thats right, 9-11 fear is why Obamacare if failing. So, here, the second '9-11' themed article totally ignores the 3000+ killed, and instead declares the real evil to be the 'fear' created by Bush that also means we can't pass healthcare. Nordstrom fails to play with the idea that maybe the fear that her and many others (including myself, living miles and miles away in a small village outside of Manchester, England) felt wasn't because of evil, horrible Bush, but more due to the fact that 4 planes had been used in terrorist attacks on buildings, thousands of people had died, and we didn't know if/when/where another one was going to follow! So people were rightfully fearful!
So, when we look at these two articles in the context of left wing commentary on 9-11, what does it tell us? Why is it just unthinkable for lefty rags like the Guardian to produce some commentary that simply says "We will never forget the tragedy of 9-11"? It doesn't need to be "Yay Bush" or "More troops in Afghanistan", but just a statement of compassion and remembrance that doesn't have a "BUT" at the end of it.
I think the answer to this comes from the left-wing vision of history and its current world view. Some on the right have accused those on the far left of seeing 9-11 as something 'deserved' but I don't think this is fair. Granted, I've met a handful of leftists who have read a bit of Chomsky and Moore and sit back, skimmed latte in hand and 'make poverty history' on wrist and smugly inform me how they think that "it will do America good to get a taste of their own medicine" but I think this only is the view of either the stupid or the extremely hard left.
The real problem for the left, and the reason these two Guardian writers have ignored the elephant in the room, is because 9-11 was an example of how far from reality their world view is. In the world-view of the left, America is the big bad evil empire, and spends all its time crushing and oppressing innocent groups and countries. America is bad, and the small countries are good. If there is a war of any sort, it isn't a real war, it's just America bullying people for oil or land or power or money. It is also linked in with the liberal view of religion. Christianity is bad, evil, outdated and backward, Jesus was a nice man (like...Ghandi or John Lennon) who has had his legacy taken over by bigoted, racist, sexist, white homophobes who hate science and gay people. Yet every other type of religion is excellent and diverse and open and tolerant. They must be, as these are the religions of those lovely minorities that America keeps oppressing. Don't believe me on this one? Fine, go to a party full of liberals and declare that you are either a Seikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Zoroastrian or whatever. Instantly the liberals will gather and tell you how much they respect your faith, and how fascinating it is and how they have even flirted with it themselves (crossing legs and humming counts as Buddhism in many Western liberal's heads.) Now go to another party of liberals and declare that you are a Christian, preferably a Catholic. You will very quickly hear disapproving snorts, have your head bitten off, your faith disrespected, and your views on issues such as abortion attacked into the ground.
Yet this religion loving is tough for the liberal as these religions aren't always fuzzy love-fests, but serious faiths with strong principles, some principles that are difficult for us to agree with. Nowhere do liberals have to bend facts around quite so much as with Islam, and so they have to become the defenders and experts of their imaginary brand of Islam, with everyone else being branded as 'not real Muslims.' How many times have you heard a liberal tell you that Islam means peace, and just how peaceful and huggy and warm and great Islam is? Now, I'm not saying Islam is some evil religion in and of itself, but just as I don't get my facts on 'true' Christianity from an atheist, I don't get my facts of 'true' Islam from a Western liberal.
So, then 9-11 comes along, an unprovoked attack aimed not just at the military and the government, but at regular citizens. The attack is from radical fundamentalists, who while being on the extreme side of Islam, are no 'tiny minority' but have a lot of support in varying degrees from Muslims in the middle East and all over the world. The attack is not small, like some poor one man knife attack on an official, but a well-orchestrated, technological, heavily-funded attack on America that consisted of years of training, and demonstrated a huge, worldwide network of terror eager to strike big and to strike often. Their aim? Not the end of a war, or a demand, or freeing of a hostage, but the total destruction of Western society, not just America. Can't blame that one on Bush then!
The Shaw doctrine of the difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives see reality and develop an ideology from that experience of reality, while liberals go the other way round and try and see reality using the lens of their pre-formed ideology, meaning when a huge, undeniable dose of reality comes in the horrific form of 9-11, it contradicts everything about the way liberals see the world. It is for this reason that liberals are desperate to move away from the cold facts of 9-11 and so try to twist it into a morally relative issue about Guantanamo or healthcare or whatever. This is why almost a third of democrats, as well as the now infamous Van Jones, believe that 9-11 was an inside job of some sort, because the idea that Muslim radicals, supported by a large amount of Muslims, attacked innocent civilians, and therefore were the bad guys, doesn't compute. Therefore it must be Bush, or Cheney, or anyone, there must be some explanation other than the norm.
But there isn't. 9-11 is the inconvenient truth for liberals, and that is why, in the face of everyone else spending this day remembering what happened on that fateful day in 01, many liberals are desperately trying to make this day about something else. It is up to us to make sure they do not succeed.