Reflections on 9/11, Then and Now

Terrorism is now what it always was: political theater, a bid to capture attention through the creation of dramatic events.  No indigenous (non-colonial) government has ever fallen to terrorism. Only two regimes in modern history have even fallen to the more effective guerrilla warfare, Somoza in Nicaragua and Batista in Cuba.

Terrorists talk of regime change, but what they usually end up doing is causing people to demand order, and the people are usually willing to yield freedom to obtain it. Governments, even democratic governments, end up with strong, often draconian, powers that they use to stamp out terrorism and sometimes basic liberties as collateral damage. The precedent for the Patriot Act was long set by the British experience with the Irish Republican Army and the European experience with nihilistic terror violence of the 1970s and '80s.

Terrorists seek to lacerate public sensibilities and to gain access to the media, especially the electronic media, which is why terrorists attempt to generate compelling visuals.

The laceration of public sensibilities in modern democratic society causes civilized people to ask: why? Civilized society does not want to comprehend that there are people who would show no more concern for slaughtering thousands of people than they would show for slaughtering thousands of chickens.

Consequently, there are not only “root causes” of terrorism peeled off as a leftist catechism -- poverty, despair, hopelessness -- but there are also the people who are the “real causes” of terrorism, us. Seldom has so much blame been placed on the victims of mass murder or their government as there was after 9/11

After all, the terrorists must have a reason for doing what they did, the leftist mindset advances. “It’s our foreign policy,” was the hackneyed refrain I heard from Berkeley progressives.“It’s our support of Israel,” said some of my graduate students who never heard a leftist cliché they were not likely to repeat. And, of course, there are conspiracy theories of an inside job.

I wonder: If nineteen orthodox Jews turned airplanes into bombs and blew up the World Trade Center, would the left have said, “It’s our support of the Arabs” that caused 9/11? I think I’d be pondering the answer to that question from a Quonset hut at Manzanar.

Of course, the perpetrators of 9/11 were anything but poor. And if Osama bin Laden ever had a coherent reason, forget justification, for his actions, it was lost in his tirades that seemed, by comparison, to make a  philosopher out of German nihilist Andreas Baader, the man who said, “It is better to burn a department store than to own one.”

After the initial impact of 9/11 wore off, the multicultural elite turned their attention to the “real” victims of 9/11, ordinary Muslims. On the 2005 anniversary of 9/11, the Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett paper, profiled the difficulty the local Muslim community was confronting in the face of alleged Islamophobia. This concern stood in sharp contrast to unasked questions about how the families of the victims of 9/11 were doing on that anniversary. Was the inconvenience and humiliation of an extra TSA screening at the airport equivalent to losing a loved one?