by Jay Nordlinger
Originally published October 25, 2004 in National Review
Politically speaking, it’s probably the most explosive suggestion you can make today: that the Left has joined hands with radical Islam. That it is fellow-traveling with it. Such a suggestion will get you branded a McCarthyite, immediately. But is it true (the suggestion, that is)? Afraid so. And this case is powerfully, sickeningly made in David Horowitz’s new book.
At first blush, it may seem an odd alliance: the leftists and the Islamists. After all, Islamists are premodern “conservatives.” Reflecting on a big anti-war rally in London, Mark Steyn pointed out that militant lesbians were marching alongside militant Muslims. Did the former care that the latter would have them dead? Not really.
What unites the Left and Islamism, above all, is a deep-seated hatred of the United States (and, secondarily, Israel). Also, an absolutist, totalist view of the world. Those are enough.
The anti-war movement has burgeoned greatly since early post-9/11 days. It’s prevalent in academia, of course, and in the press, and in Hollywood. Some foresaw this. In February 2002, Norman Podhoretz–the veteran intellectual–gave a major speech in Washington. He spoke of the “new patriotic mood” that had emerged after the terrorist attacks. But from the beginning, he “could not fully share the heady confidence of some of my political friends that this was a permanent and not an ephemeral change.”
He recalled the Vietnam period, in which “elite opinion trumped popular opinion.” Would such opinion work its will again? It would depend, said Podhoretz, on the progress of the war. “Of one thing we can be sure: As the war widens, opposition will widen along with it.” And conservatives, among others, should “mobilize” to “fight off . . . appeasement and defeatism.”
After Podhoretz’s speech, some conservatives rolled their eyes. He seemed to be stuck in the past, fighting the last war, not realizing that 9/11 had “changed everything.” One critique in particular had an air of, “Thanks for your service, Grandpa, but you’re just out of touch.” Well, the last two and a half years have shown that Grandpa was spot-on.
Opposition to the War on Terror shades with alarming ease into apologetics for Islamism. In June 2003, National Review published a signal essay by David Pryce-Jones, “The New Fellow-Traveling.” He wrote that, while there are differences between Islamist fellow-traveling and the old Soviet kind, “the cast of mind is the same.”
The common premise that Western society is responsible for the world’s ills generates . . . guilt for the present as well as fear for what is to come. The conviction then develops that whatever “we” do must be wrong, and whatever “they” do is justified. Fellow-travelers in both cases come to apologize for those hostile to Western society, even to identify with them. I suggest the following: One moment you’re calling terrorists “insurgents” or “rebels”; a moment later, you may be rationalizing their actions, and if you’re really far gone, thrilling to them.
More recently, Pryce-Jones delivered a paper–at Boston University–in which he listed a string of Western accommodations to Islamism. He then said, “To point out these things is to attract the accusation of Islamophobia as surely as realism about Communism was once McCarthyite.” Ah, but today we are both Islamophobic and McCarthyite!
In sad truth, many liberals are simply repulsed at the idea that America can accomplish some good in the world, particularly with military force. This is why they’re unable to take pleasure in the toppling of obscene dictatorships, even theocratic ones. An odd mixture of self-blame and misdirected sympathy kicks in. Thus a Democratic senator, Patty Murray of Washington, can ask, “Why is [Osama bin Laden] so popular around the world?” and answer, “He’s been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building daycare facilities [!], building health-care facilities–and the people are extremely grateful. We haven’t done that.”
The senator was wrong about bin Laden’s largesse, and wrong about America’s. Take merely Afghanistan: The United States was the largest donor to it even during the Taliban period. It contributed more to it than the rest of the world combined.
Last summer, I attended a conference, which featured another prominent liberal Democratic politician. During a panel discussion, someone mentioned the good that could flow from America’s liberation of Iraq, including greater opportunities for women. Our politician was aghast at the suggestion, and moved quickly to put it down. Women, she declared, had enjoyed full rights under Saddam Hussein, but now those rights were in question, thanks to this new, U.S.-imposed regime. Members of the audience burst into applause–almost a desperate, inordinately grateful applause. No good could come from a George W. Bush-led effort.
Excuse-making is widespread. You may have seen Ron Silver at the Republican convention. (He is the liberal actor who is supporting Bush, because of the War on Terror.) Referring to 9/11, he cried, “Never excuse!” He did not elaborate, but everyone knew what he meant.
David Horowitz certainly knows. An ex-radical himself–like Norman Podhoretz, as a matter of fact–he knows the mind of the Left, and he knows its web of groups. He is at pains to state, at the beginning of his book, that he is not critiquing honest critics of the war: but rather “the leaders of the organized anti-war movement,” who give “practical support” to “America’s enemies and their agendas.” A tough statement, but amply backed.
In this taut, well-paced book, Horowitz traces the arc of the Left, from World War II, through Vietnam, to now. He notes that a pivotal event took place only a few days before 9/11: the U.N.’s Durban conference. This saw the international Left feeling its oats, condemning the United States and Israel in the most brazen terms–as Nazi-style states, really. Before that, the broad, disparate Left had come together in such places as Seattle, to protest globalization. And they meet annually–usually in Brazil–for the World Social Forum.
The Ford Foundation funds this gathering; it funded parts of the Durban rabble; it will fund about anything, nefarious.
Here at home, the anti-war movement got going well before U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. “By the radicals’ own count,” writes Horowitz, “there were 247 ‘anti-war’ demonstrations in the United States and in countries overseas between September 11 and September 30, before a shot was fired in response to” the terrorist attacks. This was augmented by “150 ‘peace vigils’ and ‘teach-ins.’” The talk was of “root causes” and of America’s hopeless “racism”–race having replaced class as the Left’s fixation. Students and professors chanted, “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war.”
At the conclusion of a key paragraph, Horowitz writes that the “decision to oppose the war in Afghanistan was a defining moment for the American Left, analogous to its response to the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939.”
We read about a host of influential leftists, chief among them Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Conservatives, as a rule, ignore these men, or dismiss their importance, which is a mistake. (They once did this with Michael Moore, but no longer.) Chomsky is read, imbibed, followed, by countless people, many of them young. Zinn is merely the author of the top-selling, most widely assigned U.S.-history textbook. Who’s to say these men aren’t mainstream? They have more readers and admirers than David Horowitz–or I–ever will.
At first, outright Communists took the lead in the anti-war movement. Though the media greatly sanitized their rallies, Horowitz has the goods (always). But then the radicals got smarter. Out went the Palestinian flags and in came the American flags, by the thousands. Groups like International ANSWER and Not in Our Name gave way to Keep America Safe and United for Peace and Justice. Some factions are pro-bin Laden and pro-Saddam; some factions are merely anti-war; sometimes it’s hard to tell. All are pleased to embrace the name “progressive community.”
Radicals have accommodated “moderates,” “moderates” have accommodated radicals. Again, that question of mainstream is confused. Michael Moore’s movie has grossed how many millions? At the Democratic convention, Jimmy Carter invited him to sit in his box. Later, the ex-president declared Fahrenheit 9/11 his favorite movie, along with Casablanca.
As we know, the experience of McCarthyism has sunk deep into Americans. Even now–almost 50 years after the tailgunner’s death–it’s hard to say that someone is on the “other side,” even when he is screaming in your face that he is on the other side. What more does Harold Pinter, for example, have to do to convince you that he hopes you lose? And the language of the Islamists and that of the leftists can be indistinguishable.
Horowitz quotes a Hamas statement issued on September 11, an “Open Letter to America.” (Sample: “Have you asked yourself about your actions against your original inhabitants, the Indians, the Apaches? Your white feet crushed them and then used their name for a helicopter bearing death . . .”) Put it in any college syllabus, or the New York Times, and no one would blink.
The author of this book is known as a hothead, a “flamethrower”; indeed, when Horowitz plays at his keyboard, fireworks can result. But this is a coolly argued book. It is eloquent, unrelenting–devastating. It records what has occurred thus far, and explains why it has occurred. Horowitz may be as valuable to us today as his ex-radical forebears–many of them associated with this magazine–were in their own day. Horowitz utterly understands the War on Terror and its opponents, in all their flavors. Unholy Alliance is, in fact, a weapon in this war.