March 9, 2018


God Wills it! The War on Terror as the Launching of an American Crusade (James Carroll, 3/09/18, Middle East Online)

A fever dream of a war "This is a new kind of evil." So said the president that September 16th, standing on the South Lawn of the White House. "And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while." In that way, only five days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush elevated a band of petty nihilists to the status of world-historic warriors. "And the American people must be patient," he continued. "I'm going to be patient."

He, of course, is long gone, but what he initiated that day is still unspooling. It could have been so different. September 11th was a tragic moment, but the initial reactions of most Americans to those collapsed towers and a damaged Pentagon were ones of empathy and patriotism. The selflessness of first responders that day had its echo in a broad and surprising manifestation of national altruism. The usual left-right divides of politics disappeared and the flag, for once, became a true symbol of national unity. The global reaction was similar. From across the world, including from erstwhile adversaries like Russia and China, came authentic expressions of support and sympathy, of grief-struck affection.

But in every phrase the president would speak in those weeks -- "this is war... with us or against us... dead or alive" -- he chose to take this country on quite a different path into the future.

Two days before invoking the Crusades, for instance, he presided over a religious service, which, though officially defined as "ecumenical," took place in the neo-Gothic National Cathedral. "Just three days removed from these events," he said from that church's pulpit, "Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil... This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing."

In a specifically Christian setting, that is, George W. Bush answered the criminal attacks of 9/11 not by calling on international law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice, but by a declaration of cosmic war aimed at nothing less than the elimination of Islamist evil. 

The difficulty, for Mr. Carroll, is that Donald, like he, is an isolationist/Realist, who would have been fine with just killing a few terrorists but leaving the Middle East stuck in genocidal dictatorship and authoritarian misery.  The truth that those who oppose the WoT elide is that their position is pro-Saddam, pro-Assad, pro-Qaddafi, pro-Mubarak, pro-Sa'ud, etc. It is literally no different than opposing the removal of Hitler and the USSR.

Posted by at March 9, 2018 4:24 AM