The feigned outrage over Karl Rove’s criticism of the liberal response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country forced me to recall what liberals I encountered were saying in the days immediately after the savage attacks.
I was then in my first few weeks at Pace Law School with a front-row seat to the left’s post-September 11 reaction. September 11 challenged us as individuals, as law students, and as Americans. America must respond forcefully, I thought, and that response will be definitive as it reverberates throughout the world for decades to come.
The legal system was about to face a radical upheaval in the difficult days ahead. Our entire legal and military structure had failed to protect us from a few men armed only with hatred, nihilism and box-cutters. The laws must be changed, made stronger and more flexible. How should the perpetrators, their associates and their nations of origin be treated? What should be the U.S. military response? How should our chaotic immigration system be reformed? There were abundant grave questions facing a class of aspiring lawyers that day.
Yet my professor, the law school’s former dean, entered the classroom and framed the debate with this question: “The United States was attacked by terrorists on Tuesday. Can you think of a time when the United States acted as terrorists?” I was utterly speechless, as were many of my classmates.
Answering his own question, he mentioned the “My Lai massacre” in Vietnam, slavery and the treatment of American Indians as examples of American terrorism. Twenty-five miles from Ground Zero, where rescuers struggled in hopes of finding survivors still alive, this law professor chose to focus on the blemishes in our history as an introduction to our first post-September 11 class. I have to give him credit for being on the cutting edge of liberalism because at this point the now notorious International Freedom Center slated to occupy Ground Zero was just a twinkle in the left’s eye.
My professor set the stage for a round of America-bashing and a student from Ethiopia, as if on cue, unleashed a blistering condemnation of the United States for not doing more about the bloodshed in Rwanda in the early 1990s.
My professor nodded his head approvingly at the outlandish notion that America’s inability to stop Rwandans from killing each other was somehow equal to suicide hijackers flying planes into office buildings. My head spun. What possible correlation could exist between the two events?
This shocking scene became even more ridiculous when the Ethiopian student concluded his vitriolic, anti-American remarks. Another classmate, an Egyptian, rose to her feet and actually applauded this death-to-America venom, and began an impassioned “don’t hate me because I am a Muslim” soliloquy.
Later that day I caught up with my Ethiopian classmate and called him on his rant. We had a brief exchange before he labeled me a racist for suggesting the U.S was the greatest country on Earth and that he was, perhaps, lucky to be here.
At a memorial service, another law professor opined that if the inevitable war led to the death of a single civilian, the war could not be considered just. His colleague then expressed his fear some Arabs would be racially profiled. Amazingly, the antiwar movement had preceded the war.
In the weeks after, detention of Taliban terrorists captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan was roundly criticized. The military tribunals the government proposed to adjudicate the unlawful combatants were condemned as gross violations of the terrorists’ civil liberties.
A few months later, I left law school when my Marine Corps Reserve Unit was called to active service. We prepared for the war that had been brought to our shores on September 11 and resolved to defeat the enemy.
At school, some students and the bulk of the faculty seemed markedly unconcerned about U.S. victory or defeat. There was a reflexive, leftist preoccupation with trying to understand, defend, and excuse al Qaeda. The rhetorical energies of my teachers and some classmates were focused not upon responding or defending the country but on proving the U.S was somehow to blame.
Mr. Rove’s words are exactly correct. The liberal response to September 11, 2001, was pathetic.
KIERAN MICHAEL LALOR
Weteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
Founder of the Eternal Vigilance Society.Org