STRANGE BEDFELLOWS…. It would be wildly inappropriate to suggest conservatives and Middle Eastern terrorists are somehow similar, or even to draw moral equivalencies. It is worth noting, though, that there are interesting rhetorical overlaps.
William Saletan highlights one of the more glaring examples.
In the years since 9/11, Osama Bin Laden has issued more than 20 audio and video statements to spread his view of the conflict between the United States and al-Qaida. According to his worldview, the U.S. represents Christianity, al-Qaida represents Muslims, Christians won’t protect Muslims, the West hates mosques, peaceful coexistence is a fraud, and the “war on terrorism” is really a war on Islam. By spreading this message, Bin Laden works to turn Muslims against the U.S. and rally them to al-Qaida.
Now Bin Laden has an ally in this propaganda campaign: Newt Gingrich.
Over the past two weeks, in a series of articles and speeches, Gingrich has declared a religious war that suits al-Qaida’s agenda almost perfectly. While denouncing “Islamists” rather than Islam, Gingrich has blurred the distinction by selecting as his initial target the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Everything Bin Laden says about the U.S., Gingrich validates. All you have to do is read their statements, side by side.
Saletan does just that. It’s worth taking a look.
This is part of a larger post–9/11 trend, but in recent years, it’s generally been limited to the right’s criticism of Americans.
Dinesh D’Souza, for example, wrote an entire book devoted to arguing that terrorists are right about the problems with American culture. Osama bin Laden and other dangerous Islamic radicals believe the U.S. is too secular, too permissive, too diverse, too free, and too tolerant — and D’Souza concluded that they’re absolutely correct. Indeed, D’Souza went so far as to argue that liberal Americans are at least partially to blame for 9/11 — the left invited the attacks by reinforcing the beliefs al Qaeda had about the United States.
In one particularly memorable episode of “The Colbert Report,” D’Souza conceded that he finds some of the critiques from radical, anti-American extremists persuasive.
Around the same time, Glenn Beck came to the same conclusion: “More and more Muslims now hate us all across the world, and it really has not a lot to do with anything other than our morals. The things that they were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We’re a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is off the charts. Now I don’t think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that’s the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They’re right.”
And a few months later, the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan also seemed to agree with our enemies about America: “We make it too easy for those who want to hate us to hate us. We make ourselves look bad in our media, which helps future jihadists think that they must, by hating us, be good.”
But some contingents within the right — Gingrich, Palin, Giuliani, Liz Cheney — are taking this further now, validating bin Laden’s entire approach to dividing the world, getting Muslims to see things his way. Why Republicans want to help him is a mystery.
Again, just to clarify, this isn’t intended as a question of their patriotism, only their sanity.