Two articles that appeared yesterday reveal an astonishing lack of historical perspective. Both of them were written by people for whom I have a great deal of respect, Jonathan Tobin and Andrew McCarthy.
Tobin and McCarthy point to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 as “The Day the War on America Began”– to use the title of Tobin’s article. According to Tobin,
Exactly 20 years ago on this date, a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center took the lives of six people and injured more than a thousand others. The tragedy shocked the nation but, as with other al-Qaeda attacks in the years that followed, the WTC bombing did not alter the country’s basic approach to Islamist terrorism. For the next eight and a half years, the United States carried on with a business-as-usual attitude toward the subject. The lack of urgency applied to the subject, as well as the disorganized and sometimes slap-dash nature of the security establishment’s counter-terrorist operations, led to the far greater tragedy of September 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda managed to accomplish what it failed to do in 1993: knock down the towers and slaughter thousands.
McCarthy had this to say:
The World Trade Center bombing was Islamic supremacism’s declaration of war on the United States. It was a blunt statement by the savage shock troops of a worldwide movement that America – “the head of the snake,” as the Blind Sheikh called us – could be struck at home, right in the beating heart of economic liberty.
As you can see, both of the writers were inspired by the 20th anniversary of the WTC bombing. I don’t have a problem with that because it was a big deal, but if they want to pinpoint the date on which the war on America began, they need to look further back in time.
For instance, in 1972, Palestinians kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics? What were they communicating to the world? That they hate Jewish people and Israel. In 1969, Palestinians were hijacking planes and blowing them up. What were they so upset about? Jewish people and Israel.
Due to their success in those and other atrocities and the fact that the murderers who concocted the schemes and those who carried them out became notorious celebrities who motivated anti-Semitic legions the world over to dig deep in their pockets, more recently Palestinians have broadened their appeal by focusing their hatred on Jewish people, Israel, and anyone who supports either of them.
Islamists saw the Palestinians’ success and decided to launch a similar campaign. That decision was made long before 1993. The major difference between Islamists and Palestinians is that Islamists include nations and individuals that insult Islam as their targets. They didn’t drop Jewish people, Israel, and those who support them from their most hated list. They simply added another group. For all practical purposes, today Islamists are at war with anyone on the planet who doesn’t buy their rambling rants hook, line, and sinker and with each other if their versions of Islam differ.
But their war on America goes back even further — to a least World War II. Islamists sided with Hitler during the war because he had a plan for dealing with Jewish people. There was no Israel at the time, so Israel wasn’t an issue. They were at war with Jewish people and those who supported them, including the Allied nations. For Islamists, the war never ended, and even today Arabs, particularly Islamist Arabs, say that it’s too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job he started.
This is not a minor semantic problem. It’s important because we now have president who is about as American as Satay, one of Indonesia’s most popular dishes, a secretary of defense who believes that Jews run the State Department, and a secretary of state who until just recently tried to assure the world that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is generous. To say that they have a warped perspective and no real understanding of history and America’s role in it is a gross understatement. We don’t need to contribute to their confusion and delusion.
But there’s more. Iran turned Islamist in 1979, and its current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made it clear that Israel should be wiped off the map. Iran is also on the verge of having nuclear weapons and missiles with which to deliver them. Turkey turned Islamist in 2003, and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done everything that is humanly possible to isolate Israel. And since 2011, one Arab nation after another has been taken over by Islamists who take advantage of every opportunity to vilify Israel and Jewish people.
At the root, the war is not “on America.” The common denominator in everything is Jewish people and Israel. They are the primary targets. Secondarily, the war is on any nation and anyone that isn’t Islamist, and by that I mean to include Islamic countries that aren’t Islamist–i.e., Syria and Jordan, for example. It’s crucial that we know these things because we can’t win the war that they have declared on us if we don’t know what they are fighting for.
Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.