Entry from July 11, 2005

A few days ago, the anti-war left and high-ranking members of the Democratic party — which increasingly speak with one voice on matters of national security — bitterly attacked President Bush for linking, once again, the war in Iraq to the terror attacks of four years ago in his speech at Ft. Bragg. “This war reached our shores on September 11th, 2001,” Bush told his audience. “The terrorists who attacked us — and the terrorists we face — murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom.” The enemy in Iraq, he said, “are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.” Harry Reid, the Minority Leader in the Senate, immediately took him up, saying that “numerous references to September 11th did not provide a way forward in Iraq” but only “served to remind the American people that our most dangerous enemy, namely Osama bin Laden, is still on the loose.” Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart in the House, said that Bush was “willing to exploit the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing that there is no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.” Like the editorialist for the New York Times, these Democrats had obviously hoped that Bush “would resist the temptation to raise the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks.” How angry it made them! Especially when he quoted no less an authority than Osama bin Laden himself to the effect that “This third world war is raging in Iraq”

No! No it isn’t! cry the Democrats. Don’t you understand, Osama? Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. How many times do we have to tell you? But of course Osama doesn’t listen to them any more than President Bush does. Both of them go on treating the war in Iraq as the long expected showdown between America and the bloody-minded America-hating jihadists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden and his Iraqi deputy, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and pay not a blind bit of notice to the peace-loving Democrats who insist that our quarrel can only be with Osama alone. They want badly to believe that this conflict is not inevitable, and they are only able to do so by keeping clearly in front of them, and in front of everyone they talk to, the now long-irrelevant fact that Saddam was not implicated in 9/11. At times it seemed that the insurgency might continue for another decade before ending in a victory for democracy and moderation and secularism in Iraq, and the Democrats would still be saying that these people shouldn’t be free, you know, because Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11!

But then came last Thursday’s terror bombs in the London Underground. Suddenly the links of this new outrage to Iraq were obvious. “People who insist that the London attacks have nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan are living in their own fantasy world,” wrote one Bilal Patel in a letter to the Times of London. “Tony Blair’s misguided support of George W. Bush’s illegal and immoral wars brought this tragedy upon us,” wrote Nick Megoran in another, “and we will never enjoy security until that policy is reversed,” There is no great surprise in the fact that no one seems hitherto to have noticed the contradiction between these two points of view. Nowadays, you can’t throw a bomb in London without killing a few dozen people who loathe and despise George W. Bush and his “illegal and immoral wars.” These people certainly have had no more connection with those wars than Saddam Hussein had with the 9/11 terrorists. And yet al-Qaeda, behaving for all the world as if they were as irresponsible as George W. Bush, blithely goes ahead and kills them anyway. I wonder if, in that better place to which we would all like to think the victims have now gone, they are looking down upon the unfortunate world they have left behind and saying: “Damn you, George Bush! You provoked my murderers into killing me”?

I seem to remember that the 9/11 hijackers were also said by many to have had their provocations in something or some things we in America were thought to have done to offend them. Why is it that connections to our own previous acts are visible all over the place when we are being attacked while connections to the enemy’s previous actions are thin to the point of vanishing when we are the ones doing the attacking? Bush is a madman or a criminal for attacking innocent Iraqis, and yet the attacks on innocent Londoners are said, in the words of Nick Megoran, to be “inexcusable but not inexplicable.” But as the French proverb reminds us, to explain is to excuse, and the eagerness with which the Left has seized upon the actions of George W. Bush as an explanation for all the evil in the world sometimes almost provokes the doubtless unjust suspicion that the terrorists are being excused for the sake of Bush’s being attacked. Yet if sometimes his detractors simply forget to mention, pro forma, that they well understand it is terrorists who are guilty of terrorism and not those responsible for the terrorists’ real or imagined grievances, there may be an explanation for that too.

I think it is because the most cherished of all the myths of the left is the myth of control. For those whose political starting point is the need to change the world, obviously the first article of faith must be that the world can be changed by the leaders they elect and the decisions those leaders take and the laws they pass. It is therefore fundamental to them to suppose that when bad things happen to Americans, or Britons, someone in political power in America or Briton must be to blame. “It is no accident, Comrade,” the Communists used to say, because in essence for Communists there were no accidents. And the habit of thought lives on even after the demise of doctrinaire Marxism. A less deterministic view of the world might allow the terrorists to be responsible for the acts of terrorism they commit against Americans or Britons and President Bush or Tony Blair to be responsible only for such more or less adequate responses to terrorism as their wit and martial might are between them able to come up with. But to the leftie habit of mind, Bush and Blair must be responsible for both, because Bush and Blair belong to the same polity as they do — which, they imagine, could be and should be reformed by their own ideal system so as to eliminate all such unhappy contingencies of life.

The conservative point of view is that misfortunes will come, like wars and the necessity for wars, and are not to be avoided by the best-designed, nor even by a hypothetically perfect political system. When we are attacked, we have to fight back, not look around for means of placating an enemy willing to kill Americans or Britons indiscriminately. The trouble with Bush’s War on Terrorism from the outset was that not very many of the terrorists could be found for us to go to war with them. Like many on the left, I thought at the time that there was no point in attacking Saddam Hussein for what someone else entirely had done. But Bush turned out to be right, and I turned out to be wrong. The Iraq War brought the terrorists out of the woodwork and made it possible for us to get at them like nothing else that we could have done. And we deposed a vicious, murdering tyrant and dictator for lagniappe, and gave his people their first chance in half a century to live under a free and democratic government. For such deeds I can well believe that, as The Times’s correspondent wrote, London was attacked. But that just shows us that Bush and Blair were on the right track all along, and spotted the link between Iraq and 9/11 before there was one.

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