Anthony Lewis, who has opposed almost every conceivable measure to halt or impede terrorism for his entire professional life, is relieved that the Bush administration seems to be abandoning a fully-fledged effort to remove the bases for terrorism’s reach – in Baghdad, Damascus and Kandahar. He blathers on about a new “consensus” – which turns out to be his own vision of what we should do. He wants a multilateral coalition regardless of its ability to solve the real problem, he wants massive Keynesian reflation, he wants Clinton Treasury Secretary back in power, he wants John Ashcroft’s belated measures to stop terrorism watered down. None of this should be surprising. Then he lobs a couple of cruise missiles at me and Kristol. I’m not going to defend myself again here from the grotesque distortion of my obvious meaning in Lewis’s citation of two sentences from my piece for the Sunday Times (although I’ve written a brief letter to the Times). Anyone who reads it will see he’s deliberately distorting its meaning. But I will point out that the dubious loyalty of some on the fringe left does not amount to a “disgusting diatribe” but a mere statement of fact. A movement to oppose all and every Western response to terrorism is already afoot, and it is based on the notion, widely held in these quarters, that the United States is morally inferior to the hoodlums who killed thousands, or is so morally crippled that it has no right to a robust response. Similarly, Lewis’ attack on the alleged partisanship of those who have criticized Colin Powell’s war strategy is simply unfair. Powell is clearly attempting to neuter the fight against terrorism and restrict it as tightly as he restricted the Gulf War. What is partsian about opposing a repetition of an already failed policy? Many on both left and right sincerely hold this view; the editors in chief of both the Weekly Standard and the New Republic have signed on to such a statement. There is nothing partisan about it at all. All Lewis is trying to do, in his usual pompous fashion, is to write people out of a genuine debate on the meaning, context and conduct of this war. Apart from the New York Times op-ed page, where true dissent from liberal orthodoxy is forbidden, Lewis will mercifully fail to silence us.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “We’ve been treated to some astonishingly vile images over the last two weeks: office workers hurling themselves into a hundred-floor-high abyss. A gaping, smouldering hole in the financial center of our greatest city. George W. Bush passing himself off as a patriot, even as he disassembles the Constitution with the voracious glee of piranha skeletonizing a cow… [E]ven if it’s mainly the result of our pathetic desire to follow someone — anyone — in the aftermath of Sept. 11, there’s little opposition out in the cities and towns across our vast continent: Bush’s job-approval rating is hovering up there with puppies and sunny days. It may have seemed meaningless at the time, but now we know why 7,000 people sacrificed their lives — so that we’d all forget how Bush stole a presidential election.” –Ted Rall, cartoonist, September 27.