September 9, 2011

WaPo’s Dionne: ‘Time to Leave 9/11 Behind’ as ‘A Simple Day of Remembrance’

WTC-2Having read E.J. Dionne’s Wednesday column in the Washington Post (HT Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web), I am sooooo comforted — not. Dionne assures his readers that “Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.” Thus, the last 10 years of the “war on terrorism” (lowercase letters and quote marks are his) have apparently largely been a waste of time and treasure, which is why, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dionne asserts that “we need to leave the day behind,” and relegate it to “a simple day of remembrance.”

Dionne is of course entitled to his opinions but not his facts. In addition to dangerously underestimating global jihad’s devastating potential, Dionne overestimated what he must believe is a “lost decade” media meme, and completely misinterpreted the meaning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. What follows are excerptes from Dionne’s column (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.

Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.

This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.

But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies. [1]

Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”

Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too. [2]

Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious.

In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. [3]

… We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back. This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” [4] This is still our calling.

Explanations of the numbered tags follow.

[1] — The idea that the U.S. or the world were never threatened by Al Qaeda is sheer, obvious fantasy. It’s as if Dionne doesn’t believe what he’s been reading in his own newspaper during the past decade. In July 2009, Heritage listed in detail 23 terrorist plots against the United States which had been foiled since the 9/11 attacks. At least a half-dozen had direct Al Qaeda links, while others were more than likely inspired by Al Qaeda’s “successes.” Worldwide, ReligionOfPeace.com has details of 17,715 attacks carried out by Islamic terrorists since 9/11. Major attacks with high body counts I can recall off the top of my head include Spain, London, Bali, and Mumbai.

[2] — The disingenuous Dionne knows darned well that Kerry was talking about taking terrorists through our court system instead of treating them as enemy combatants. The WaPo writer’s argument about the relative resources devoted to law enforcement vs. military efforts is irrelevant. As to the “endless war,” well, September 11, 2001 is when we finally recognized the reality that we had been in an “endless war” for some time — something George Bush’s predecessor would not acknowledge, even after bombings at American embassies in Africa, Khobar Towers in Saudia Arabia, and the USS Cole.

[3] — I did three related searches on ["September 11" "lost decade"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) at about 6:30 p.m. Results: Google News (past 30 days, sorted by date): 12, including Dionne’s column; Google News Archive from January 1 through August 10, 2011 (sorted by date): 2; and Google Web from January 1 to September 9, 2011 (sorted by date): 349 (the first page says there are “about 20,100,” but it’s really 349). These are extremely sparse results, and certainly don’t support Dionne’s contention that the term “lost decade” is being used in “the flood of anniversary commentary.” Maybe at the WaPo water cooler, but that’s about it.

[4] — Dionne seems to have missed his calling. He should be in the meat processing business, given how he butchered the meaning of the Gettysburg address beyond recognition.

The complete text of the segment of the address Dionne cited reads as follows (words Dionne quoted are in bold to highlight his selectivity):

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Dionne wants readers to believe that Lincoln was only narrowly worried about “a new birth of freedom” in some abstract, undefined form. It’s clear in the full text above that Lincoln was saying that the North, to honor the soldiers who died, had to renew its resolve to prosecute and win the Civil War, reunite the country, and end slavery. That was the “new birth of freedom” he sough. Additionally, even then, with its relatively slight worldwide influence, it’s clear that Lincoln saw the United States as the best hope for freedom to prevail on earth. There’s nothing even resembling “let’s move on (and compartmentalize our memories)” in the address.

One wishing to properly apply Lincoln’s words today would have to conclude that he would have advocated a robust effort to win the War on Terror (my caps with no quotes, E.J.). It’s also clear that he would not want us to relegate 9/11 to “a simple remembrance,” and that he would never want us to forget the entirely of the horrors which happened that day.

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Pentagon-2Taranto at Best of the Web recommends that Dionne be considered an object of ridicule:

When we gave E.J. “Baghdad Bob” Dionne his nickname, we worried that we were perhaps being excessively cruel. After all, liberals have feelings, or so we’ve been told. But based on Dionne’s column yesterday, it looks as though he’s embracing the moniker.

Ridicule is fine to a point, but if there has even been a place to also include scorn, this would be it. Here we have a guy whose employer’s headquarters is a very short distance from a place where hundreds died in a terrorist attack dismissing those who carried it off as on the whole “dangerous” but not threatening. This is ignorant, derelict, horribly irresponsible — and, I’m afraid, all too typical of the establishment media elite who bring us our daily news.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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