The Left and Terror

The Jihadis will return. We know this in the same way that we know about death and taxes. Thanks in large part to the weakening of our defensive efforts under the new administration, there will be further attacks against this country's population, perhaps even worse than those of 9/11. (This week's attack by Nidal Malik Hasan serves to underline the threat.)

When this attack occurs, we will see an end to all the nonsense. Our present drift regarding terror policy is occurring only because Americans have been encouraged to put unpleasant realities at a distance, to live in a dream world where all the bad stuff happens to other people. 9/11 has ceased to signify. Terrorism has become a matter of bad manners. As my grandfather might have put it, this country is in for a rude awakening.

When it comes (and sad to say, it will need to be even worse than the Hasan attack), people will want answers and action. They will get both. Few things move faster than a frightened politician, particularly a politician frightened by his own constituents. Fearful pols will see to it that current efforts to undermine American security will come to an abrupt halt. The law-enforcement paradigm will be overturned. The attempts to "Mirandize" Islamist terrorists -- to turn them into esoteric versions of American street criminals, protected by the same legal constraints -- will cease. Contingent efforts to criminalize American security officials doing their best to protect the country will be curtailed. All the deeply complex questions fabricated over the past few years will be abruptly simplified.

But there is one thing that will not be addressed: the role of the American left.

The American left is unparalleled at wriggling out of deadly cul-de-sacs of its own creation. Consider how many times since the Vietnam War this country's left has involved itself in activities that in saner epochs would have resulted in lengthy jail sentences. Consider their support for the Sandinistas and the Salvadoran FMLN, the Nuclear Freeze movement (a KGB operation from start to finish), cooperation with Palestinian and related terrorist groups. In each case, the left continued its involvement until the bitter end, and in each case they skipped off with no consequences. This offhand attitude toward sedition has its roots in the excesses of the witch-hunt era. The aura of martyrdom donned by the left since the early '50s has bought them a free pass for over half a century. 

The myth concerning the left and the terror conflict asserts that American leftists pulled together with the rest of the country until such Republican Saurons as Cheney, Rove, Ashcroft, and their puppet W. simply went too far: persecuting innocent citizens, impugning the Constitutional rights of the poor Jihadis, and shocking the world with their viciousness and brutality. As the sole exemplars of moral purity in the millennial world, the left had no choice but to begin "speaking truth to power."

My own experience suggests otherwise. In September 2001, I had a part-time position as copy-editor for a small but well-known national magazine. Within days of 9/11 -- and I mean days, not weeks or months -- while the smoke was still rising, I began receiving copy containing pieces suggesting that the terrorists -- Moussaoui in particular -- were poor, misunderstood victims in need of therapy. I received suggestions that there was far more to the event than appeared -- one short piece contained the first suggestion I saw of what was to become known as the "Truther" movement. But possibly the worst was a call for the assassination of John Ashcroft by one of the magazine's regular writers. Calling the editor's attention to this, I was told that it was not necessarily Ashcroft, since the writer did not mention his full name. (It was "John A.," or something of that sort.)

I simply exploded. I've seen a lot from lefties -- we all have. There's no limit to their nastiness, their vindictiveness, their callousness. It's this lack of everyday morality that truly distinguishes them from the rest of Americans. So I shouldn't have been shocked. But I was, and I was not willing to accept it. My main gig at the time was five blocks from the WTC, and hundreds of people I had known in passing were no longer of this earth. My patience for the kind of thing I was seeing was strictly limited.

I wrote a short memo outlining my objections. What I got in reply was a blast of vituperation accusing me of slander, McCarthyism, and promoting censorship. That last was quite true; that's exactly what I was doing. But wartime changes things -- certain activities that are perfectly acceptable in times of peace have to go by the board. Or did (editor's name here) really think that he'd breeze through airport security as usual on his next business trip?

In the midst of the exchange, I received further copy. It contained more of the same. I sent it back with an ultimatum. I got more abuse in reply, and so I walked. 

That's how it looked from my small corner. No lag time, no hesitation -- left-of-center writers knew what was required of them and produced it. There were similar signs on the wider public stage -- Michael Moore berating the Jihadis for their choice of targets. Some obtuse blurt from Susan Sontag. That nameless pol in San Francisco blaming America first. But much of the left decided the better part of valor lay in keeping their mouths shut -- courage is not a widely-displayed trait in that crowd either.

Of course, it didn't remain that way. First came the niggling over the Patriot Act, followed by Fahrenheit 911, the incisive foreign policy analyses of Ward Churchill, and Cindy Sheehan's assorted campouts. But it was Iraq that proved to be the crack through which the left wriggled back to its accustomed status. Abu Ghraib was the fulcrum by which leftists were able to turn public trust and support of the anti-terror campaign to nagging doubt. Justified shock and disgust at the Abu Ghraib photos was amplified by the media in their expert fashion. Within months, such doubts had expanded to include not only the war effort in Iraq, but the overall conduct of the war against terror. Rarely has the misbehavior of a few malcontent backwoodsmen had such heavy consequences.

Not a single aspect of the U.S. policy was left unaffected. The foreign wiretapping program ("listening in on U.S. citizens"), the bank surveillance effort, the terrorist rendition program, and of course Gitmo all received the Abu Ghraib treatment. Those images of tormented Iraqi prisoners had a deep and extended impact: if Abu Ghraib could happen, why couldn't all the rest happen too? That quivering sense of doubt was all the left needed to put themselves back in the sedition business big time.

We know where it led to. We have reached the point where successful programs are being abandoned, where national defense has taken a backseat, and where decent men out to protect their homes and fellow citizens are targeted for legal sanction. The left has gained a shoddy and partial triumph. Though they could not destroy the despised Bush administration or throw away Iraq, they have the consolation prize of shutting down all those evil programs and betraying the people of Afghanistan. No fall of Saigon or Watergate this time around, but they'll make do.

There is only one way this will end: people are going to die. Americans will be killed in large numbers and under the most horrifying circumstances in wholly preventable attacks. And when this occurs -- as it must -- what will the left do? The same as they did after 9/11. Grab a kid-size American flag from somebody else's hand and stand waving it frantically until the moment of potential retribution is safely past.

What motivates this kind of behavior? The answer lies in the leftist worldview, which is simplicity itself. (It has to be simple, designed as it is to be comprehended by workers, peasants, and college students.) The world is divided into oppressors and victims, with history a dialectical struggle between the two. The oppressor is anyone who holds power, the victim everyone else. By definition, the U.S., as the world's reigning power, is an oppressor-state. In fact, the U.S. is the greatest of all oppressor-states -- worse than Assyria, worse than Rome, worse than Hitler's Germany, because it has craftily convinced much of the world that it is no such thing.

As for the Jihadis, they are victims-in-arms -- revolutionaries acting against the imperial state, like the Viet Cong and the Sandinistas before them. Islam, reactionary politics, contempt for women -- none of that matters as long as they are active against the common enemy. And the role of the Western leftist is to support and assist these heroes, exactly as occurred with all the revolutionary movements in the past. They accomplish this by "speaking out," by "defying authority," and above all, by undercutting any efforts to combat the new revolutionary vanguard. But what of the real victims, you ask, all the innocents left scattered like broken, burnt dolls in New York, and Bali, and London, and Madrid? They are but "Little Eichmanns," in the immortal words of renowned plagiarist Ward Churchill. Or perhaps you prefer the ancient leftist slogan: "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

Clearly, American leftists cannot act otherwise. They can never be truly patriotic in the real sense, in the sense of sacrifice and overcoming doubts, of valuing their country as a larger expression of family and neighborhood. To ask that of them is to ask them to give up their higher allegiance, to demand that they stop being leftists, stop being progressives, stop being the world's holy fools. And that is to ask too much.

This is a historically unique situation, a product of the modern temperament. Never before would effective treason by a large minority have been tolerated, particularly involving such crucial sectors as media, academia, and education. This is not a stable condition, and it cannot be maintained for long. There is no reason why it should be.

So how do we respond? We'll pause here to allow the loud cry of "Hang 'em all!" to roll over us and commend everyone involved for the enthusiasm, if not the prescription. But what we need, though perhaps not as final, is something effective and workable within contemporary social norms. 

The first step is not to buy the left's story. There is nothing wrong with the fact that we believed the left the first time around -- it involved an unprecedented event. They assured us that the response to 9/11 was different, a good war, a war against reaction that they could support in good conscience. We were obliged to listen -- they were fellow citizens, after all, and those who had died screaming in flames were their friends and acquaintances as well. But now we know it as a lie that they will inevitably repeat. So we must turn away. And that can be a problem. Understanding the limitations of human nature, conservatives have a tendency to hand out second chances, whether deserved or not. This is commendable under most circumstances, but not in these ones -- not when lives are at stake. We yank drunk drivers out of cars; we must also yank leftists out of the public sphere.

The second step is to identify them. Call them out by name, relentlessly and repeatedly. Note how scarcely a day goes by without some (often dozens) of disparaging references to Gov. Palin. The left knows how this is done, how to assure that the public overlooks nothing and forgets nothing. Turnabout is fair play. Again, conservatives tend to be squeamish, to hesitate before pointing fingers. There is no excuse for that here. As the old saying goes: don't bring a knife to a gun fight.

The third step is to target them, isolate them, and render them harmless. The question here is how we go about it. The left itself may well have put the weapon in our hands. The attacks against Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, among many others, have been so noxious and vicious as to change the way such tactics are currently received. The public has become hardened to such attacks. Much is accepted now that would not have been accepted even a few years ago. We need to take advantage of this. Ask questions, poke around, find out where the bones are buried and use the shovel. The left threw out the rulebook: now they need to pay the consequences. (This is not unprecedented. In fact, it's historically commonplace. Few are aware that Joe McCarthy was supported by the Communist Party in his Senate run -- the CPUSA loathed his opponent, Robert LaFollette, Jr., as the son of one of their deadliest enemies during the Progressive era. The Tailgunner is supposed to have studied their tactics of bullying and humiliation with interest.)

Van Jones should act as our model. A few years ago, it wouldn't have mattered that Jones was associated with a nut cult like the Truthers. Now everything matters, and everything goes under the microscope. Jones was a critical figure to the administration, one for whom they were willing to put their reputations on the line. It made no difference. Once exposed and hammered and spotlighted, Jones was shown the door and wished good luck with his further endeavors. For this outcome, he has no one to thank but his own comrades on the left.

Need we ask if all of them have something hidden, something they'd truly rather not see in the light of day? They all do. Consider Barney Frank. Consider Bill Ayers. Consider Ward Churchill. Under the old dispensation, he might well have been given a pass for his more vicious remarks under "freedom of expression" as understood in this fallen age. But that wasn't all -- far from it. Ward turned out to be a plagiarist, hustler, cheat, and poser of master status. When it all poured out, even as left-wing a campus as Boulder had to cut him loose.

Nobody on the planet quite equals the left for simple worldly corruption. The Renaissance princes might have been able to teach them a thing or two, but nobody else. Dig, and you will find. While digging, we might wish that things were different, that we could operate in as civil a manner as many of us would prefer. But we no longer live in a civil epoch. No one reading these words ever has. We know of such a world -- where decency is honored and nobility is a way of life -- only because we have read about it. We live in a different period now, a period in which our opponents feel completely at home. We cannot allow thugs such as these to back us down. To paraphrase Boccaccio: any tactic against such would-be tyrants is legitimate.

There is a difference between dissent and desertion, criticism and undermining. That difference has been lost amid a fog of relativism in the past few decades. But behind that fog, the hard stone of reality remains. It's no longer a game. People are going to die because of the actions taken by this country's leftists. Recognizing the differences lost in the relativistic fog has become a matter of life and death.   

The terror conflict is a two-front war. It always has been, as reluctant as we are to admit it. The time to open the second front is coming.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.
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