Just when you thought the nihilism of some Western pundits couldn’t get any worse, I came across this amazing “question” by ABC News’ John Miller. It’s buried in a PBS Frontline interview with Bin Laden from 1998. The salient question is for some reason not placed in bold in the transcript, like all the other questions, as if PBS and ABC are embarrassed by it, but it’s clear that the question is Miller’s. It follows a long diatribe by bin Laden which, with respect to the Jewish people, can only be described as indistinguishable from Hitler (see “BIN LADEN’S MEIN KAMPF” below). Now here’s the coup de grace: “MILLER: In America, we have a figure from history from 1897 named Teddy Roosevelt. He was a wealthy man, who grew up in a privileged situation and who fought on the front lines. He put together his own men – hand chose them – and went to battle. You are like the Middle East version of Teddy Roosevelt.” I guess we should be grateful Miller didn’t compare this twisted maniac with George Washington.

BIN LADEN’S MEIN KAMPF: One of the amazing things about the far left’s embrace of the anti-American ideology of some in the Middle East is their willful blindness about what these fanatics actually believe in. Susan Sontag, for example, is a Jew. Does she honestly believe that America is responsible for more evil than a bunch of Muslim fanatics who would gas her in a second if they could? Could any gay person seriously argue for appeasement of people who would execute them on the spot if they lived under their rule? Could any serious feminist not believe in opposing fanatics who would eviscerate the slightest shred of freedom for women? I just don’t get it. Liberals of all people should be the most serious about fighting this scourge. Is their hatred of America that deep? As to bin Laden’s vicious anti-Semitism, check the PBS interview out. Here are my choice excerpts from the Goebbels of Afghanistan: “The enmity between us and the Jews goes far back in time and is deep rooted. There is no question that war between the two of us is inevitable … The leaders in America and in other countries as well have fallen victim to Jewish Zionist blackmail … Once again, I have to stress the necessity of focusing on the Americans and the Jews for they represent the spearhead with which the members of our religion have been slaughtered. Any effort directed against America and the Jews yields positive and direct results – Allah willing … We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets, and this is what the fatwah says … We believe that this administration represents Israel inside America. Take the sensitive ministries such as the Ministry of Exterior and the Ministry of Defense and the CIA, you will find that the Jews have the upper hand in them.” This isn’t like Nazism. In its pathological, paranoid hatred of the Jews, it is Nazism. And these guys want to appease it again?

RETRACT WHAT?: Tim Noah of Slate asks me to retract the following sentences from my recent piece for the Sunday Times of London: “The middle part of the country–the great red zone that voted for Bush–is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead–and may well mount a fifth column.” Noah doesn’t elucidate why this should be retracted, presumably because he doesn’t really know, except that his left-wing friends find it abhorrent. Note what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that the vast majority of Gore voters aren’t patriots or that they don’t support this war as much as anyone else. Later in the piece, I pay particular tribute to New Yorkers, mostly Gore voters, who have shown the world their humanity and courage this past week. The sentence Noah slyly quotes continues: “But by striking at the heart of New York City, the terrorists ensured that at least one deep segment of the country ill-disposed toward a new president is now the most passionate in his defense. Anyone who has ever tried to get one over on a New Yorker knows what I mean. The demons who started this have no idea about the kind of people they have taken on.” I’m sorry but it’s completely clear I am not damning an entire section of the country because of the way they voted. Noah is deliberately distorting my argument. Elsewhere I say, “[Giuliani’s] combination of chutzpah, practicality and deep, deep compassion is the essence of New York City. His troops – the firefighters and cops and medics and volunteers of the city – would make the Londoners of 1940 proud. If New York alone were a nation – and it has almost twice the population of Israel – then this war would already be well under way, and its outcome in no doubt.” So much for damning the blue zone. What I was clearly saying is that some decadent leftists in “enclaves” – not regions – on the coasts are indeed more concerned with what they see as the evil of American power than the evil of terrorism, that their first response was to blame America, and that their second response was to disavow any serious military action. If this was their attitude in the days after 5,000 civilians were killed, what will they say and do when we have to take real risks and incur more civilian casualties weeks and months from now? These people have already openly said they do not support such a war, and will oppose it. Read Sontag and Chomsky and Moore and Alterman and on and on, and you’ll see that I’m not exaggerating. Go to any campus and you’ll find many, many academics saying the same thing. If anything, I’m minimizing their open hatred of the United States. So why should I retract? Noah’s quote is a deliberate smear to obscure my larger point. One of my heroes is George Orwell. I’ve been reading his war journalism these past couple of days as solace. And one thing he never stinted on was calling the purist, defeatist left on their lack of moral seriousness, and their inability to see what any decent person can see at a time like this. I’m no Orwell, but I can try and tell the truth as I see it. And part of that truth is that some are acting as if they would rather America lose this war than win it. So sue me for saying so.


A new low in hatred for America written by a woman called Charlotte Raven in the Guardian. I cite it not because it represents the people of Britain. Raven and her leftist, nihilist cohorts in London’s chattering classes, have no real connection to the people of Britain. But they are sustained by the same decadent beliefs that sustain many of our own chattering elites. For Raven, America in these last few days has been what America has always been: “deeply dumb.” For her, “Like so many of the ideas America is going to war to defend, free speech is a nice thought that hasn’t panned out in practice.” For her, delight at this horror is restricted to “three or four Palestinians.” There is no war; and no real enemy. Bin Laden’s network is just a handful of loons, and their cause, if not their method, is just: “If anti-Americanism has been seized, temporarily, by forces that have done dreadful things in its name, there is no reason for its adherents to retreat from its basic precepts. America is the same country it was before September 11. If you didn’t like it then, there’s no reason why you should have to pretend to now.” That this was written in the wake of this hideous event shows how blind some people’s hatred can be. I reprint it not because it is worth responding to. It is beneath response. But we might as well be aware of the enemy within the West itself – a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead.

BUSH’S FINEST HOUR: Tired of the predictable gripes about our president almost as soon as this crisis started – as if no new evidence were required to damn him? Tired of Rick Berke and Mary McGrory and Le Monde and Michael Moore? Dick Morris gets it right this morning. The comparison with Clinton is particularly sharp.

MOORE AND FALWELL BACKTRACK: I’m glad to see that Jerry Falwell has apologized for his remarks. I notice that Pat Robertson has not. I am appalled that Falwell was invited to the National Cathedral. It will be a mark of president Bush’s commitment to this country that neither Falwell nor Robertson are ever invited to a formal or informal White House function again. They are evil. They even sunk below Farrakhan in their response to this event, and they deserve to be consigned to the same small box of derision that Farrakhan languishes in among decent people. But at least Falwell has responded to the criticism. Not so Michael Moore, the man who wrote the following words on his website on September 11: “Many Families have been devastated tonight. This is just not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC and the planes’ destination of California – these where places that voted AGAINST Bush!” It appears he has now deleted that message from his site, An apology is beyond him. He’s now in Sontag territory.


“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error
Our only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
To be redeemed from fire by fire.”

– Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot, composed in 1941 and published in 1943.

APPEASEMENT WATCH: “Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.” – Susan Sontag, The New Yorker. Where does one begin with this pretentious buffoon? My favorite bit of claptrap is that weird little parenthesis: “courage (a morally neutral virtue)”. Says who? Real courage – not rashness or fanaticism – is anything but morally neutral. It is bravery in pursuit of what is good and noble. Read your Aristotle lately, Susan? Sontag clearly believes that the demons who just killed over 5,000 innocent civilians are more courageous than those American pilots who police northern Iraq in order to prevent another gas-attack by Saddam on his own population. She’s always been pretentious. Now she’s revealed herself as contemptible.

LETTERS: You respond to the war. Looking for God; a new mood in the military; bio-chemical data; why Wright is right; etc.

THE LIMITS OF INTELLIGENCE: Fellow me-ziner Mike Antonucci makes an interesting point about too easily talking about the failure of our intelligence. “Of course it was an intelligence failure,” Antonucci writes. “But we need to be very specific about what part of the system failed. Many experts have blamed this on an overdependence on electronic intelligence gathering at the expense of human intelligence gathering. While these two methods do seem to be out of balance, it is far from certain that spies would have prevented the attacks. Case in point: Two days before the World Trade Center crumbled, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famous leader of the mujahidin resistance during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was assassinated. Massoud was the primary military leader of the Northern Alliance, the ongoing rebel opposition to the Taliban, the fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan. It is fair to assume that Massoud had dozens, if not hundreds, of spies in Kabul to pass critical information to him and his forces. He knew his enemies’ mind, having fought with them for 10 years. He spoke the same language, knew their customs, and had the advantage of close proximity to his sources of information. How was he killed? Two men, posing as television journalists from Morocco and Tunisia, detonated a bomb hidden in a camera. Perhaps bin Laden himself had his agents perform this service for his Taliban benefactors.” Makes sense to me – and is both reassuring and chilling at the same time.

TOMBSTONES REVISITED: “…The objective historian realizes that the twentieth century is in transition to a remarkable new technology and a formidable new environment before we have learned how to handle the old ones. Who’s afraid of the big, bad buildings? Everyone, because there are so many things about gigantism that we just don’t know. The gamble of triumph or tragedy at this scale-and ultimately it is a gamble–demands an extraordinary payoff. The Trade Center towers could be the start of a new skyscraper age or the biggest tombstones in the world.” – Ada Louise Huxtable, “World Trade Center: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Buildings?” New York Times, May 29, 1966

WHOSE CENSORSHIP?: Who is protesting grotesque Palestinian censorship of Western photographers and journalists? Er, no-one but Jonah Goldberg. The journalists’ crime? Reporting on widespread Palestinian support for killing Jews and Americans. But shhhh. Don’t tell Susan Sontag. She doesn’t want to know.

THE ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND: Historians will surely go back to George W. Bush’s Inaugural Address when they deal with his actions as a war president. A reader pointed out the prophetic nature of his remarks – unwitting though they may have been: “Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it. After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: ‘We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?’ Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation’s grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity. We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.”


The solution to this conflict, Gary Kamiya of Salon suggests, is to hold Israel’s aid hostage until they agree to let the people who celebrated this atrocity march into Jerusalem to conduct their Jihad from a closer vantage point. How anyone can even take a passing look at the developments since the Oslo Accord and blame Israel for unwillingness to take a risk for peace is beyond me. Kamiya’s response to the invasion of Czechoslovakia would be to hand Hitler a nice chunk of Poland. After all, isn’t it the underlying grievances of the German people that need addressing first? They feel alienated and betrayed. We need to pressure its neighbors to make more concessions. Then the German people and their radical leaders will be satisfied. The sheer moral relativism of this article – and its complete ignorance of history – is so eloquent. After a naked act of war by a sub-culture that makes no bones about its unremitting hatred of anything Jewish or American, Salon encourages us all to Blame Israel First. The magazine even equates American suffering with Palestinian suffering in its photo-images. This isn’t just moral equivalence. It’s moral abdication.


Two new pieces on the war’s beginning appear opposite.

CIVIL DEFENSE: I guess official Washington isn’t talking about this so as to prevent panic. But one thing seems pretty obvious to me. Whatever military initiative we now mount, there will surely be a response. If the people behind this attack were smart enough to have come up with this first strike, it’s surely possible that they will have anticipated a response and have at least a game-plan after that for counter-attack. Last Tuesday was a warning: that they can do anything. That “anything” could surely include a devastating nuclear, chemical or biological attack on civilian centers in this country. So shouldn’t we take precautions as a matter of extreme urgency? We need to dust down air-shelters and build many, many new ones. We need gas-masks widely distributed. We need security at reservoirs and any place where chemical or biological agents could be swiftly disseminated. We need mass inoculations against any number of toxins or viruses. I’m not a security expert but there must be a list of civil defense procedures applicable to such a situation. It should surely be in place before our retaliation begins. Why is this not being done?

GRACIOUS OLD LADY: Good for the New York Times. Their lead editorial today acknowledges that this president has grown and will continue to grow during this war. The president should also notice: he’s good informally among ordinary people. Fewer stilted speeches behind a desk with a teleprompter; more impromptu hugs and chats and off-the cuff discussion, please.

APPEASEMENT WATCH I: I’ve resisted taking on the terrorist fellow-travelers too aggressively so far. It seemed inappropriate. Now it isn’t. Take a look at Edward Said’s tirade in the current Observer. He mocks the notion that this is a battle between freedom and terrorism: “Political rhetoric in the US has overridden these things by flinging about words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘freedom’ whereas, of course, such large abstractions have mostly hidden sordid material interests, the influence of the oil, defence and Zionist lobbies now consolidating their hold on the entire Middle East, and an age-old religious hostility to (and ignorance of) ‘Islam’ that takes new forms every day.” There you have it: the classic Marxist cant about freedom merely being an instrument for sordid materialism. With the WTC perpetrators and their backers, Said has long excused violence, even symbolically joining in by throwing rocks at Israel from the border. But with the Western democracies, he cautions restraint, education, and passivity in the face of barbarism. You don’t need to read this piece too closely to see which forces he wants to triumph. And he exploits the freedom his friends want to destroy in order to make his case.

APPEASEMENT WATCH II: Another breath-taking column in the British left-wing press, this time from veteran bigot, Richard Ingrams. Who do you think was responsible for this war? Israel of course! “Noticeable was the reluctance throughout the media to contemplate the Israeli factor – the undeniable and central fact behind the disaster,” Ingrams writes, “that Israel is now and has been for some time an American colony, sustained by billions of American dollars and armed with American missiles, helicopters and tanks.” And his point? He doesn’t need to spell it out. We should be grateful, I suppose, that those who seek the extinction of the Jewish state still feel somewhat hesitant to say so outright. But like all anti-Semites, Ingrams thinks he and the West are somehow victims of the Jewish people. “Who Will Dare Damn Israel?” is his headline. Damn? After an event like last week, Ingrams wants to “damn” a country that has long been the victim of such horror. Dare? Oh, the bravery of Ingrams’ prejudice! And then further in the piece, he casts the usual ugly slur of dual loyalty on Lord Lever, a British citizen of impeccable patriotism: “Mr. Blair’s adviser on the Middle East is an unelected, unknown Jewish businessman, Lord Levy, now installed in the Foreign Office; the fact that this same Lord Levy is the chief fundraiser for the Labour Party; unmentioned also would be the close business links with Israel of two of our most powerful press magnates, Rupert Murdoch and the newly ennobled owner of the Telegraph newspapers, Lord Conrad Black.” One phrase stands out: “unelected, unknown Jewish businessman.” These are the code words of the worst kind of anti-Semitism, and it says much about the decadence of the British left that it allows such claptrap to flourish in its midst. This is the kind of British upper-class anti-Semitism that tried to stop Churchill and will now try to stop Blair from doing his duty. He mustn’t listen. And it looks like he won’t.

MORAL EQUIVALENCE AGAIN: And of course, Ingrams’ statement that no-one has raised Israel so far is untrue. Everyone is acutely aware of the role Israel plays in this crisis. It’s just that no-one but Ingrams would have thought to blame the victim at a moment like this. Except, of course, Arab anti-Semites. Like the Nazis, the fundamentalist bigots of perverted Islam have relentlessly shored up their risible regimes by scape-goating the Jews. They look at Israel and see a country of dynamism and success, of freedom and faith, a society that has created more in fifty years than any of these other satrapies have managed combined. While Israel has rebuilt a civilization, the Taliban have been busy destroying one. We know that the murderers are a tiny minority, and that the overwhelming majority of Arabs have not engaged in such atrocities. But we also know that fundamentalist anti-semitism has widespread support in that part of the world, and it’s time to stop making excuses for it. The Arab hatred of the Jews, and their deranged, envious paranoia about them, is there for all to see. It is as clear as the words in Mein Kampf. It is evil and wrong, and it is not balanced by anything comparable on the other side or justified by anything the West has done. Yes, Israel is not perfect. Yes, it has been responsible for many violations of civilized norms in defending itself from terror. But there is no moral equivalence between a tiny democracy fighting for its existence while allowing countless Israeli Arabs citizenship and prosperity in its midst – and the Arab dictatorships in Syria and Libya and Iraq. We will be subtly and constantly assaulted by the slow drip of moral equivalence in the days and months ahead. Time to start resisting now.


Opposite are my two contributions to thinking about this epochal event. One is written for Americans; the other for Britons. Last night, I attended a bonfire on the farthest beach at the end of Cape Cod, within sight of where the pilgrims first landed. It was for a friend – a proud, brash, funny, gay Englishman who had become an American – and who was killed by the demons who took over the airplane he was on last Tuesday. On the beach, we attached two flags: the Star Spangled Banner and the Union Jack. In the dusk, they enfolded each other, their red, white and blue fusing in the red glare of the sunset. Yes, we must bring the rest of the world together. But it is no accident that the haters of the Middle East hate these two countries the most. As we have before, we must become almost one nation together again. The English speaking peoples who now span every race and color and creed are the indispensable force for the survival of freedom. I make no apology for thinking of Churchill and Roosevelt now. The torch they raised is now passed to us. What a privilege. What an opportunity – especially for my generation and those younger.


As he has before, president Bush is slowly growing into this crisis. His words at National Cathedral yesterday were his best yet. His radio speech today even better. Thank God someone in this administration knows what Churchill knew: words matter. They matter as much as any military might. I believe in my heart that our president will rise to this occasion – and that he is far, far more in touch with most Americans than many of the chattering classes. I read last week with growing dismay that some of my fellow journalists were actually making partisan points about this, glibly assessing president Bush’s performances, spinning and pirouetting as if the world were the same. Rick Berke’s performance on PBS’s Washington Week on Thursday told me all I need to know about this mindset. Mickey Kaus’s staggering comment that this story “will be off the evening news by Thanksgiving” reveals that one element of the chattering class still hasn’t begun to wrap its mind about what has really happened. These failures are not a result of what Mickey calls a faster news cycle among elites. They’re a function of the slower news cycle of elites. These journalists are simply behind the news, behind the curve, immune to what the people of this country already know in their hearts. But these are errors simply of judgment and they will pass. These commentators are decent people, just completely blindsided by events, and no-one should blame them. That doesn’t apply to the comments from the pathological right (Falwell and Robertson et al.) and the vile Left (Michael Moore, Eric Alterman), comments that reveal what many of us have suspected for years: that these elements in our culture are simply depraved. We shouldn’t harbor any illusions about these people and their ilk, and we need not make distinctions between right and left. Crises show you what people are really about. Falwell and Robertson and Moore and others harbor a hatred for many people of this great country and at some level blame America for this atrocity. That they could do so this week is beyond belief. We have a war on now and I’m not going to pursue these people in this space for their divisive, cowardly remarks. To start attacking other Americans now would be to descend to their level. We have far more important things to think about and to do. But let us remember what this moment showed us about these people. And if this war ends, let us ensure that they are cast to the margins of our culture and our society, and never treated with respect again.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2001

I haven’t written today because this is surely a time for prayer not argument. But let me share a report from a small gathering in a small town on the edge of America. Just before 7pm tonight, as people made their way to the center of town, the rain cleared and an enormous rainbow stretched across the bay. People came out of houses and stores and looked upward. And then as we gathered around Provincetown’s monument, and friends arrived from New York, their eyes and faces seared with fear, a welling low sound came from the crowd. With no instruction, we started singing the Star Spangled Banner. Candles were lit and placed around the base of the iron plaque at the base of the monument. And then I realized for the first time the symbolism of where we were. This was the Pilgrim Monument. This is where it all began, where the first pilgrims arrived before moving on to Plymouth. This deeply diverse place – with its fishermen and store-owners, contractors and poets, gays and lesbians and families and children – stood undemonstratively together in grief and resolve. We shall overcome, we sang, the lyrics of the civil rights movement blending with the stirring patriotism of the centuries before in a strangely integrating chorus. Yes, I thought to myself. We shall overcome.

COMING SOON: My two recent essays for the Times of London and the New York Times Magazine will be posted here simultaneously with their appearance on the web pages of those publications.