We were able to put an end to Bin Laden, but the ideology that inspired him lived on in Al-Qaeda and also in dozens of other Islamic terror groups spread out all over the world.
The media often describes 9/11 as the day that changed America. In one sense that’s true. America was changed in many ways. We went to war in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. Many young American soldiers were killed and a great many lost arms, or legs, or eyesight. On the home front, we learned to leave early for the airport, wait in long lines, and take off belts and shoes so as not to confuse the scanning machines.
There were many other significant changes that followed on the 9/11 attacks. But, as regards the most basic question, nothing changed at all. We had just suffered a sneak attack comparable in many ways to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Unlike Pearl Harbor, however, the primary target this time was not military, but civilian. Moreover, it was not in a faraway island, but much closer to home–in the two most iconic cities in America. Yet, despite the magnitude of the 9/11 attack, one crucial question was left unanswered.
What’s the most basic question to ask when your country has just been attacked? Well, everyone knows the answer to that. It’s “Who did it?” The next question is: “What was his motive?”
The first question was easy enough. The attack was carried out by al-Qaeda—an Islamist terrorist group led by a devout Muslim named Osama bin Laden. What was their motive? This was the question that stumped all the experts. Their best answer was that the terrorists were motivated by “violent extremism.” In other words, they were motivated by terrorism itself. It was an exceedingly strange explanation.
The terrorists, on the other hand, claimed that they were acting in the name of Allah to revenge insults against Islam. But why listen to them? At most, the experts conceded that the terrorists were motivated by an “extremist ideology.” But what that ideology was, was never spelled out. It seemed to have something to do with Islam, but the experts insisted it had nothing to do with Islam. According to President Bush and his advisors, Islam was a religion of peace and the vast majority of Muslims were moderate. Therefore, the terrorists must be a tiny, unrepresentative minority.
Since most Americans knew next to nothing about Islam, they shrugged and accepted the official narrative. There was never really much discussion about what motivated the terrorists, and—amazingly—there hasn’t been much discussion about it in the twenty years since.
Although 9/11 changed many things, that dubious narrative never changed. The vast majority of Americans acquiesced in the deception, and the foreign policy of four successive administrations was based on it. The initial war aim was to get bin Laden, rather than to get a grasp on the ideology that motivated him.
As it turned out, we were able to put an end to Bin Laden, but the ideology that inspired him lived on in Al-Qaeda and also in dozens of other Islamic terror groups spread out all over the world. And “all over the world” included multiple jihad attacks in Europe, Canada, Africa, and Australia, and occasional ones in America.
The fact that all these attacks were justified by the attackers in more or less the same terms that Bin Laden had used, and the fact that Allah’s name was regularly invoked during the attacks suggests that the terrorists were all motivated by the same unifying ideology.
Allah, they said, had commanded that the whole world submit to Islam, and they were merely following his orders. One might expect that the “vast majority” of moderate Muslims would have been able to set them straight on the matter. But when you listen to the moderates, you find that they seldom refer to the Koran or other Islamic sources, rather they tend to appeal to Western principles of peace, justice and equality as though these principles are shared by Islam.
By contrast, terrorist leaders are able to cite numerous passages from Islamic sources in support of their interpretation of Islam. One reason they are so successful in recruiting Muslims to their cause is that what they say is backed up by the Koran, the hadith, the law books, and the violent history of Islam.
For twenty years now, Western leaders have been handicapped by their assumption that Islam means peace and equality for all. What prevents them from making the necessary examination of Islamic sources and Islamic history to see if that assumption is valid?
The answer is that Westerners have an ideology of their own—one that prevents them from thinking objectively about many topics. Not too long ago that ideology was called “political correctness,” or “PC” for short. Nowadays, it is called “wokeness.”
Political correctness was a blend of relativism, multiculturalism, and therapeutic sensitivity to the feelings of others. PC claimed that all religions and cultures were essentially equal, and to say otherwise would offend the sensitivity of many. To suggest that 1.3 billion people adhered to a violent and discriminatory faith was therefore out of the question. Thus, the experts concluded that the ideology of the jihadist must be a complete perversion of the real thing. The PC people claimed that the jihadists were not following Islam, rather they were betraying it.
No evidence was offered for this other than anecdotal observations (“I know a Muslim family, and they’re very kind and friendly”). But in a PC society, feelings trump facts. So, a few feel-good stories outweighed a slew of data—such as the Pew global surveys which found that a surprising number of Muslims worldwide had no trouble with laws requiring stoning for adulterers, amputation for thieves, and the execution of apostates.
So, the doubtful notion that Islam is a religion of peace that was “hijacked” by a handful of radicals became, in the weeks after 9/11, the standard explanation of what had happened.
And that simplistic explanation of 9/11 has never changed. For example, consider this recent headline: “University of Florida students say teachers should ‘focus on America’s faults’ and ‘avoid placing blame’ for 9/11.” A meticulously planned sneak attack that left almost 3,000 innocent people crushed or burned to death? And no one should be blamed? This is the self-esteem approach to education that has dominated schools for decades. “Avoid placing blame” doesn’t mean that we can never determine who is to blame for 9/11; it means no one should ever be made to feel bad. And the avoid-blame policy is by no means a recent development. Those who paid attention to educators’ response to 9/11 know that the “no one is to blame” attitude was being pushed on students almost from the beginning.
9/11 was inaccurately diagnosed as an aberration—something that had nothing to do with the culture and religion of Islam. As a result, the “war on terror” was never really won. Indeed, judging by the debacle in Afghanistan and other recent developments, the terrorists now have the advantage. Our focus on defeating terrorist groups and killing their leaders without also defeating the ideology that inspired them, meant that there would always be a fresh supply of recruits to the jihad movement.
We didn’t make that mistake in fighting the Nazis or Imperial Japan. Nobody worried about hurting the feelings of Germans or Japanese by attacking the ideologies that had overtaken their nations. So how could our nation have so thoroughly deceived itself after 9/11? Why did we conclude that the problem we faced was only a handful of extremists with aberrant ideas, rather than a global religion whose beliefs and practices were widely shared?
The answer is that political correctness (aka “wokeism) is conducive to lying—not just lying to others, but lying to oneself. We’ve seen numerous cases in recent years of open lying by the media in the face of obvious facts. Bruce Jenner the former Olympic gold medalist, declared at a certain point in his life that he was a woman, and the media—both liberal and conservative—has been referring to him as “her” ever since. Likewise, the Wikipedia entry for Rachel Levine, the Assistant U.S. Secretary for Health, tells us that “she is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine.” Yet Levine was born “Richard” and didn’t “transition” until 2011. “She” is a biological male.
As Bruce Bawer observes in a recent FrontPage piece, “without any real society-wide debate whatsoever, almost everybody in the American mainstream media agreed to buy into the notion that a person belongs to whichever sex he or she professes to belong to…”
Likewise, without any real society-wide debate, the media along with other social authorities agreed to buy into the lie that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam.
The transgender lie has and will continue to have damaging effects on our society, but the 9/11 lie is an even more dangerous lie since it leads us to believe that the threat to our society is much more limited than it really is. We tell ourselves that as long as there is no large-scale attack against the homeland by rogue terrorist groups, then there is little to worry about.
Indeed, George W. Bush, the man who did more than any other to promulgate the original 9/11 lie, just reiterated it, and managed to add a new deceptive twist to the lie. In his speech at the Shanksville, Pennsylvania 9/11 Memorial this past Saturday, the former president repeated the myth that generic “violent extremists” were to blame for 9/11, and then equated these “violent extremists abroad” with “violent extremists at home”—an obvious reference to the January 6 incursion into the Capitol Building.
In doing so, he managed to deflect our attention even further away from Islam. In fact, at one point in his speech, when he commented on the admirable response of America to the attacks, he said “we saw American’s embrace people of the Muslim faith.” He seemed to be saying, in effect, “we know this had nothing to do with your faith.” But a large part of the trouble we are in today is due to the fact that twenty years ago, George Bush embraced the lies about Islam that were being fed to him by leaders of Muslim Brotherhood organizations. As Bush solemnly intoned in one of his early post-9/11 talks, after he had been briefed by the Brotherhood, “Islam means peace.”
But what’s the harm in telling a “noble lie” for the sake of a greater good? Aren’t some things better left unsaid? Why take the risk of alienating moderate Muslims (who, we are told, are the vast majority) by pointing out Islam’s violent streak? Or, as some have put the matter, “Do you want to go to war with 1.3 billion Muslims?”
The answer to that is twofold: no, I don’t want to go to war with 1.3 billion Muslims, but I would like to know more about a religion whose followers feel compelled to go to war whenever its peaceful nature is questioned.
By the way, 1.3 billion is the figure that was generally cited circa 2001. Nowadays it’s 1.7 billion—which is another reason why you might want to get the facts straight about this fast-spreading faith.
Granted, not everyone who says Islam is a religion of peace really believes what he says. Like the many who go along with the ruse that boys can become girls, one pretends that Islam means “peace” because it’s the expedient thing to say.
The major problem comes when you have people in charge who really believe it. When George Bush uttered the “Islam is peace” mantra 20 years ago, it looked very much like he was trying to convince himself. But to all appearances, Joe Biden is a true believer. On this year’s anniversary of 9/11, the White House released a pre-recorded video of Biden describing Muslim-Americans as “true and faithful followers of a peaceful religion.”
The thing is, if you really believe that, then it won’t matter how many hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees you admit into the U.S., or how carefully they are vetted. And if the Council on American-Islamic Relations recommends Muhammad X. Akbar for Secretary of Defense, you’ll deem it “Islamophobic” not to give him the nod. And if the Pentagon is forming a group to purge extremists from the military, you’ll be sure that at least a third of the purgers are Islamic activists (Oops! That’s already happened).
The debacle in Afghanistan was caused in no little part by the Biden administration’s ignorance of Islam. That ignorance led the administration to underestimate the power of the Taliban and to overestimate the resolve of the “moderates.” Many fear that we are now at an increased risk for another 9/11. But that increased risk should not be allowed to cause us to lose sight of another larger risk.
Now that the terminally naïve Biden administration is in charge of the country, the risk of internal subversion by cultural jihadists is much greater. One can imagine the heated discussions now going on in Islamist circles: the more level-headed cultural jihadist-types trying their best to convince their hot-headed brethren that another 9/11 is unnecessary and possibly counter-productive because it might wake up the Americans. Better to let them dream on about the “religion of peace.”
This article originally appeared in the September 13, 2021 edition of Catholic World Report.
Pictured above: 9/11 Firefighter
Photo credit: Pixabay