- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Blame the victim nothing is easier. The victim might be an unsuspecting tourist who gets off the train at the wrong subway stop and ends up being mugged, or a girl who, wearing a short skirt, is harassed or attacked. Some people will always find a way to say the victims brought it on themselves. Now, this is a bizarre and twisted way to look at the world, but perhaps it is easier than blaming the criminal. That is because assigning responsibility to the attacker means that punitive or preventive action must be taken. Blame the victim, on the other hand, and you are blaming someone who is already down. Victims sometimes do it to themselves, accepting that "I deserved this." To me, it's just awful that there are Americans who are willing to buy into this mindset in the wake of last week's deadly attacks on the United States.
It did not take long, either, for certain voices both here and abroad to blame Americans and their government for the barbarism of the terrorist hijackers. Monday, I had the extraordinary experience of debating (if that's the word to describe our shouting match) this very topic with economist Jude Wanniski. Mr. Wanniski's line was that U.S. foreign policy needs to be re-examined to discover why people hate us so much in the Muslim world. In fact, he offered, the family of nations is like a nuclear family "mommy" and "daddy" and all the kids, who will turn to terrorism if they feel neglected. Whether Muslims will be particularly flattered to be called unruly children is doubtful. Osama bin Laden, for one, believes he is engaged in a holy and epic battle with the U.S.-led West.
Or listen to this poisonous report, which ran in the Guardian a respectable, if fairly liberal British newspaper under the headline "They can't see why they are hated." It goes through a litany of supposed U.S. offenses against the world, including rewriting the world financial and trading system in the U.S. interest, "murderous" embargoes against recalcitrant regimes and the bombing of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sudan and Afghanistan without U.N. permission. "It is this record of unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world's population," writes the author, one Seamus Milne. "If it turns out that Tuesday's attacks were the work of Osama bin Laden's supporters, the sense that Americans are once again reaping a dragons' teeth harvest they themselves sowed will be overwhelming." What next? Three cheers for Osama bin Laden? It certainly sounds like Mr. Milne knows where his sympathies lie.
Still others have suggested that the U.S. failure to end the violence between Palestinians and Israelis brought this attack upon us. Despite the clear indications that this attack had to be years in the making, columnist Flora Lewis wrote that "the Bush administration's notion that it could save headaches by backing away from Middle East affairs … is sheer illusion." That planning must have started during the second Clinton term, when Middle East peace-making was almost obsessively on Mr. Clinton's mind, is a fact that does not find itself into the column.
Among Europeans, whose initial response was indeed as much sorrow, anger and shock as Americans have felt here, a few days of reflection brought on reflections about U.S.-Mideast policy and a focus not on terrorism but on fighting "the causes of terrorism." French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called for a "reasonable repose." Perhaps President Jacques Chirac, who is in Washington for consultations today, will clarify what that's supposed to mean when at least 5,000 of your fellow countrymen have been killed.
It was equally distressing to see religious conservatives like the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell jump on the "blame America first bandwagon," to borrow a phrase from Jeane Kirkpatrick's keynote speech to the Republican convention in 1992. Now, this week, Mr. Falwell reportedly apologized under pressure from the White House for his remarks made last week on Mr. Robertson's "700 Club," where he suggested that this was God's punishment for the sins and decadence of Americans. The initial impulse to blame the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way as well as assorted "pagans," "abortionists," "feminists," "gays" and "lesbians" for the acts of fanatical Kamikaze pilots is deplorable no matter how much you may dislike people's politics or lifestyle.
The fact is that in a very real sense we are all under attack. We are all in this together. The next wave of terrorists is not going to stop and ask for your views on American foreign policy anymore than the first one did. Nor will blaming ourselves stop them.

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