On Sept. 11, 2001, radical Islamic terrorists committed the most deadly and destructive foreign attack on U.S. soil. Nine years later, the American people are being told that the country overreacted to the whole thing. President Obama last year declared that Sept. 11 is to be a “national day of service.” Others in the administration seem to think that means it is a day upon which Americans should rise up to protect the Koran.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Tuesday drew a moral equivalence between the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people with the Dove World Outreach Center’s likely canceled plan to burn a few copies of the Koran originally scheduled for tomorrow. “We hope that between now and Saturday, there’ll be a range of voices across America that make clear to this community that [burning Korans] is not the way for us to commemorate 9/11,” he said. “In fact, it is consistent with the radicals and bigot - with those bigots who attacked us on 9/11.”
Mr. Crowley also spoke of “the religious bigotry that that event [Sept. 11] represents.” Referring to Islamic terrorists simply as “bigots” is a rather obtuse way of describing their motivation, akin to saying that the attack on Pearl Harbor was an expression of Japanese exceptionalism. On the other hand, at least someone in the administration is finally willing to admit that the al Qaeda terrorists were motivated by religion. They were not simply 19 “miscreants” victimized by political, economic and social forces, as Mr. Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, infamously asserted.
Mr. Crowley also went out of his way to call Islam one of the world’s “great” or “greatest” religions several times, correcting himself when he strayed slightly from that specific phrasing. While he had no problem calling Koran burning un-American, he ducked the question, when pressed, to give his opinion on the propriety of burning an American flag. Apparently to the State Department, Americanism has more to do with showing respect to the Muslim faith than to our country’s most important symbol. Times are strange indeed when the government believes in speaking up for the Koran, but not Old Glory.
Meanwhile, in a Sept. 4 essay in Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria asserted that it is “clear we overreacted to 9/11” in augmenting U.S. counterterrorism capabilities. He minimizes the al Qaeda threat, saying that since Sept. 11, 2001, “Osama bin Laden’s terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe.” This requires overlooking the March 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 and is widely credited with bringing a government to power that took Spain out of the Iraq War. He also has seemingly forgotten the July 7, 2005, subway bombings in London, and the Oct. 12, 2002, Bali bombings that killed 202, the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and a long list of lesser attacks and attempts. These were not on the scale of the Sept. 11 tragedy, but how many Fort Hood massacres are necessary to signify that the war is still on?
Those who minimize the threat we face confuse cause and effect. The failure to respond forcefully to terrorist provocations in the 1990s emboldened al Qaeda to the point where the Sept. 11 attacks made sense to them. It is our “overreaction” to the incident that has thwarted subsequent large-scale attacks on our shores. Had President Bush decided to fight terrorism the same way President Clinton did, Mr. Zakaria might well be writing an essay about Caliph Osama bin Laden’s growing power in the Middle East, and the Obama administration’s latest outreach effort to al Qaeda. That is the lesson we must remember on the ninth anniversary of that tragic day.