9/11 and American guilt

White House/Chuck Kennedy

An honor guard displays a flag, which flew over ground zero in 2001 following the attacks, during a commemoration ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, N.Y., on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11. As we consider the lives lost, not just on 9/11 but since in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, it’s time to lay waste to a special calumny that has gained prominence and entered the main stream from the fringes where it once resided: The notion of American guilt.

Ron Paul is the most prominent purveyor of this vile idea:

Just remember that immediately after 9/11, we removed the base in Saudi Arabia, our policies definitely had an influence [.] To argue the case they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous I think is a very dangerous notion, because it's not true.

Doubling down on the idea that somehow America and American leaders were to blame, Paul recently claimed that if he had been in charge, no one would have died on 9/11. Paul has also kept company with 9/11 truthers who adhere to the notion that the U.S. government is covering up something – likely its own involvement – in the attacks. But let’s set that bit of crazy aside and stick with the “mainstream” notion that American foreign policy invited the 9/11 attacks.

Rand Paul, who once shied away from his father’s brand of fruitcake, has joined the bandwagon on the “blowback” theory that America is to blame when terrorists target us. And he’s pushing it hard, insisting that the future of the GOP is secure as long as the Paul foreign policy is at its heart, because everyone else in the party apparently wants to “bomb everybody tomorrow”.

Lest I err in blaming only one side of the political spectrum, the blowback notion has plenty of adherents – possibly more – on the Left.  And not just on the embarrassing Chomskyite fringes.

But no matter where these self-loathing types sit, the reality remains the reality. Does American foreign policy shape how others view us? Of course. When we are weak, others seek to capitalize on that weakness. When we fight, others fight back. But an attack on the United States, like attacks in Europe, attacks in Iraq, attacks in Afghanistan, attacks in Indonesia, and attacks throughout Africa, are central to al Qaeda's ideology and the battle they perceive they are in with the West and western liberalism. This is not a game of chess for the group, in which we move and they counter move. The notion that U.S. foreign policy shapes “invitations” for terrorists to attack on our soil – and the concomitant idea that if we had no foreign policy, there would be no attacks – is entirely mindless.

It’s time to put Ron Paul, truthers, blowbackers, and all the adherents of such ideas back where they belong… on the fringes of American life, wearing tin foil hats, writing irate letters to the White House, exchanging newsletters, and building shelters in their moms’ basements.

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