Apologists of Totalitarianism: From Communism to Islam
Part IV: The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy, 9/11 And The Apologists Of Islamic Terrorism
by Ibn Warraq
From New English Review, March 2009.
“The cultural and political understanding of the assassination had become detached from the details of the event itself. It appeared that the liberal leadership of the country-The New York Times editorial board, James Reston, Earl Warren [chief justice of the Supreme Court], Mike Mansfield [Democrat Senator from Montana], President Johnson, religious leaders, the president of Columbia University, and even Mrs. [Jacqueline] Kennedy- had come together in a campaign to blame the assassination of the president on hatred and intolerance which (they said) had engulfed the country. It was but a short step from this to the conclusion that the nation itself had to bear the guilt for the president’s death.”
James Reston wrote in The New York Times that “America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young president, but for itself. The grief was general, for somehow the worst in the nation had prevailed over the best. The indictment extended beyond the assassin, for something in the nation itself, some strain of madness and violence, had destroyed the highest symbol of law and order”. While a pastor in Washington delivered a sermon implicating all Americans in the assassination, “We have been present at a new crucifixion. All of us had a part in the slaying of the President. It was the good people who crucified our Lord, not merely those who acted as executioners. By our silence; by our inaction; by our readiness to allow evil to be called good and good evil; by our toleration of ancient injustices, we have all had a part in the assassination”. Earl Warren, chief justice of the Supreme Court, observed in a written statement that, “A great and good President has suffered martyrdom as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots”. A little later, he said that such acts “are commonly stimulated by forces of hatred and violence such as today are eating their way into the bloodstream of American life”. The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Congressman from Harlem, wrote: “Weep not for Jack Kennedy, but weep for America…”. A New York Rabbi claimed that the murder was a result of an “insane hatred that poisoned the hearts of otherwise decent and respectable citizens.”
But, as Piereson justly remarks, “the decent and respectable had nothing to do with the assassination. Neither had the radical right, nor conservatives, nor bigots, nor anti-communists….”.
Here is Oswald in his own words, “I could not be happy living under capitalism…I affirm my allegiance to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I am a Marxist”. But Marxism was more than an abstract theory, it was, as Piereson says, “a weapon for attacking ideological foes. His powerful sense of resentment coupled with his devotion to communist ideology made for a highly charged political personality. Far from being a confused loner in search of meaning, Oswald was politicized to a lethal degree and certainly politically advanced for a man of his tender age.”
In the months before the assassination of the President, Oswald had worked on behalf of the Castro government in New Orleans, had gone to Mexico City to apply for a visa for Cuba, and had even tried to assassinate General Walker, anticommunist, and anti-Castro spokesman and head of the John Birch Society chapter in Dallas, Texas, with the same rifle that he later used to murder Kennedy.
It was clear as the noonday sun, that Oswald assassinated President Kennedy to put an end to his administration’s efforts to assassinate Castro and overthrow his communist government in Cuba. But the Warren Commission and a host of intellectuals refused to accept that Oswald was a committed ideologue, instead saw him as a confused loner, whose motives were not entirely clear. In reality, President Kennedy had been killed for his advocacy of liberty in the face of communist tyranny in Cuba and elsewhere.”Few suggested that there may have been a connection between the assassination and the tense confrontation the year before over nuclear missiles in Cuba. [Evidence suggested] that Kennedy’s assassination was more a consequence of the Cold War than of the civil rights crusade”.
Leftists ideologues and even the general public, having dismissed the idea that Oswald acted alone, and having refused to accept that he was a committed ideologue, or that political beliefs can lead to such violent behaviour, began searching for the “real cause”; just as after 9/11, intellectuals and other pundits began searching for the “root cause” of Islamic terrorism.
Once they began looking for the “real cause”, it did not take them long to come up with a conspiracy theory, a plot at the highest levels of government, involving an agency of the government such as the CIA or FBI. If James Reston and others were right, then it was the nation itself that was responsible for the assassination.” The intensifying anti-Americanism of the liberal left in the 1960s seemed to require an explanation of this kind. Charges of conspiracies and plots were shortly circulating in books and articles written by liberals and leftists.”
For the liberal intellectuals and media, not only was the nation itself guilty, it deserved punishment; Piereson calls this Punitive Liberalism. Punitive Liberalism assumed that the United States was responsible for terrible crimes, from genocide, slavery, imperialism to economic rapacity, and deserved everything it got. Piereson cites the playwright Arthur Miller who condemned the US for a climate of violence but who also said that acts of violence were deserved because the nation tolerated injustice and poverty.
Dennis Wrong [Commentary, November, 1970] pointed out that by the late 1960s many prominent intellectuals had begun to adopt in their writings “a tone of extravagant, querulous, self-righteous anti-Americanism”.
Denial of reality is very much a liberal trait, as James Burnham and, now, James Piereson, note. For liberals claimed that a communist could not have killed the president, just as earlier they had claimed that “the United States started the Cold War, Alger Hiss could not have been a Soviet spy, Whittaker Chambers lied in saying so, the Rosenbergs were innocent, and Castro was an idealistic reformer.” Of course, there would not have been any search for “real causes” if the suspect had been a Christian fundamentalist, just as there would not have been a search for the “root causes” of the attacks on the World Trade Center in September, 2001 had been Christians.
The murder of the President by a communist, one would have thought, should have led to some kind of revulsion against Marxism, Communism, and Third World dictators, just as the events of 9/11 should have led to a revulsion against Islam. But in both cases, the opposite happened. In the former case, left wing ideas enjoyed an unprecedented success, with Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Castro adulated as heroes, just as in the latter case, Islam came to seen as “a great world religion of peace and tolerance,” far superior to Christianity which was tainted with the genocide of Indians during the conquest of South and Central America, the Inquisition and the Crusades.
IV.2. ISLAMIC TERRORISM AND ITS APOLOGISTS
As Christopher Hitchens wrote:
The words terrorists, terrorism, and civilized world are in scare quotes, already an indication that she does not think “they” are terrorists or that “we” are civilized. The irony was that intellectuals like Mary Beard were precisely incapable of listening to what the terrorists were saying. It was clear from the writings of the Islamists that they were planning to replace liberal democracy, and impose a totalitarian ideology on the whole world. But the Left refused to accept reality, instead, one after another, descended into the “root cause fallacy”. It was an extraordinary failure of the Liberal imagination, which was unable to fathom the motives of death cult. As Francis Wheen put it, “Like generals who fight the last war instead of the present one, socialists and squishy progressives were so accustomed to regarding American imperialism as the only source of evil in the world that they couldn’t imagine any other enemy”.
Here is what Bin Laden did say about the WTC atrocity of 2001, had Ms Beard but listened: “The values of this Western civilization under the leadership of America have been destroyed. Those awesome symbolic towers that speak of liberty, human rights and humanity have been destroyed, They have gone up in smoke.” He did not say that the towers were a symbol of capitalism but of “liberty, human rights and humanity.” 
Most politicians, journalists and academics soon after 9/11 argued that the root cause of terrorism was poverty. For example, James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, claimed that the war on terrorism “will not be won until we have come to grips with the problem of poverty and thus the sources of discontent.” George W. Bush concurred, “We fight against poverty, because hope is an answer to terror. … We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize.” Al Gore, at the Council on Foreign Relations, put forward the argument that it was anger that fueled terrorism in the Islamic world, and it was due to “the continued failure to thrive, as rates of economic growth stagnate, while the cohort of unemployed young men under 20 continues to increase.”
Poverty is not the root cause of Islamic fundamentalism..  The research of sociologists like such as the Egyptian, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and the economist Galal A.Amin, the observations of journalists like the Palestinian Arab Kahild M.Amayreh, and the Algerian Berber political leader Saad Saadi all lead to the same conclusion that modern Islamists are made up of young men from the middle or lower middle class, highly motivated, upwardly mobile, and well-educated, often with science or engineering degrees
Equally, those who back militant Islamic organizations are also the well off. They are more often the urban rich rather than the poor from the countryside. Neither wealth nor a flourishing economy is a guarantee against the rise of militant Islam. Kuwaitis enjoy high incomes but Islamists usually win the largest bloc of seats in parliament. Many modern militant Islamic movements increased their influence in the 1970s, just as oil-exporting states enjoyed very strong growth rates.
In general, Westerners attribute too many of the Arab world’s problems, observes David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute, “to specific material issues” such as land and wealth. Islamists themselves rarely talk about poverty. As Ayatollah Khomeini put it, “We did not create a revolution to lower the price of melon.” Islamists need the money to buy weapons, and to fund propaganda. Wealth is merely a means, not an end.
Poverty as an explanation for all creeds has always been proferred by the liberals, as James Burnham noted in Suicide of the West, “Communism, dictatorship, Mau Mau and other political badnesses are explained as the results of hunger and poverty. Foreign aid plus democratic reforms … will bring a rise in the standard of living, which will in turn do away with the tendencies toward tyranny, aggression and war…. The yearly programs of Americans for Democratic Action are at pains to protest that our real “enemies” are not wicked people or nations or creeds, and certainly not the Soviet Union or communism, but hunger and racial discrimination; the real war is the “war against want.” ”  As Burnham also said, “Of course men do not act rationally, generally speaking. They don’t even consider food the matter of highest priority, whatever ideologues may imagine.” 
Nor is the existence of Israel the cause of Islamic terrorism. As Benjamin Netanyahu put it “The soldiers of militant Islam do not hate the West because of Israel, they hate Israel because of the West.”  As early as 1995, Netanyahu had warned, “[i]t is impossible to understand just how inimical-and how deadly – to the United States and to Europe this rising tide of militant Islam is without taking a look at the roots of Arab-Islamic hatred of the West. Because of the media’s fascination with Israel, many today are under the impression that the intense hostility prevalent in the Arab and Islamic world toward the United States is a contemporary phenomenon, the result of Western support for the Jewish state, and that such hostility would end if an Arab-Israeli peace deal was eventually reached. But nothing could be more removed from the truth. The enmity toward the West goes back many centuries, remaining to this day a driving force at the core of militant Arab-Islamic political culture. And this would be the case even if Israel had never been born.”
Or as Wagdi Ghuniem, a militant Islamic cleric from Egypt said “suppose the Jews said ‘Palestine – you [Muslims] can take it.’ Would it then be ok? What would we tell them? No! The problem is belief, it is not a problem of land.”Christopher Hitchens, wrote: “Does anyone suppose that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter in Manhattan? It would take a moral cretin to suggest anything of the sort; the cadres of the new jihad make it very apparent that their quarrel is with Judaism and secularism on principle, not with (or not just with) Zionism.”
More recently Bernard Lewis is reported to have said “the only real solution to defeating radical Islam is to bring freedom to the Middle East. Either ‘we free them or they destroy us’.“ But what of the born-free Muslims in the West who are Islamists, such as the four 7/7 bombers in London? Freedom did nothing for them.
Nor is American foreign policy the cause. United States foreign policy toward the Arab and the Muslim world has been one of accommodation rather than antagonism. During the Cold War, the US always supported Muslims against communists. Recent United States military action in the Middle East has been on behalf of Muslims, rather than against them. The US protected Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from Iraq, Afghanistan from the Soviets, Bosnia and Kosovo from Yugoslavia, and Somalia from warlord Muhammad Farah Aidid. United States foreign policy has nothing to do with the deaths of 150 000 Algerians at the hands of Islamist fanatics.
The root cause of Islamic fundamentalism is Islam. American foreign policy has nothing to do with the stoning to death of a woman for adultery in Nigeria. It has every thing to do with Islam, and Islamic Law. The theory and practice of Jihad – Bin Laden’s foreign policy -was not concocted in the Pentagon, it is directly derived from the Koran and Hadith, Islamic Tradition. But Western Liberals and Humanists find it hard to admit or accept or believe this. They simply lack the imagination to do so. Liberalism, with its good intentions, can too readily become dogmatic. The trouble with Western Liberals and all humanists is that they are nice; they are pathologically, terminally nice. They think everyone thinks like them, they think all people including the Islamic fundamentalists desire the same things, have the same goals in life. For liberals, the terrorists are but frustrated angels forever thwarted by the Great Anarch, the USA. Humanists are so nice that they even invite terrorists to their conferences. At the Mexico Humanist Conference, in 1996, several speakers represented the Iranian group called the Mujahaddin. Last year, this group was put on President Bush’s list of terrorists groups. In February, 2003 they offered themselves as the personal bodyguards of Saddam Hussein. At the humanist conference in Holland in July 2002, one of the keynote speakers, who had already been honoured with a humanist award, was a smooth talking charmer, Abdullah an Naim. His real goal could not be hidden for long: Sharia.
Western Liberals are used to searching for external explanations for behaviour that they cannot comprehend; Hitler’s behaviour cannot be explained as a reaction to the Treaty of Versailles or the economic situation in the twenties or thirties. Evil is its own excuse. The Islamic fundamentalists are utopic visionaries who wish to replace Western style -liberal democracies with an Islamic theocracy, a fascist system of thought that aims to control every act of every individual. Joseph Conrad described such people as: “Visionaries work everlasting evil on earth. Their Utopias inspire in the mass of mediocre minds a disgust of reality and a contempt for the secular logic of human development.”  French philosopher Christian Godin recently pointed out that Islamic totalitarianism is potentially far more dangerous than either the Nazi or Communist variety, since the latter, despite their exterminating follies, presupposed their own preservation. For the Nazi, the inferior race does not deserve to exist; for the Stalinist, the enemy of the people does not merit to continue living; for the Islamist, it is the world itself that does not deserve to exist.
It is instructive to note what the two groups of apologists of Islam I have singled out for discussion, the Christians and Western Leftists, have in common. Both have recourse to cultural relativism to justify their inaction, both share an unwillingness to confront reality or even to deny it, and a willingness to blame Western civilization, institutions and values.
As James Burnham wrote, “For Western civilization in the present condition of the world, the most important practical consequence of the guilt encysted in the liberal ideology and psyche is this: that the liberal, and the group, nation or civilization infected by liberal doctrines and values, are morally disarmed before those whom the liberal regards as less well off than himself”. 
On the world stage, this attitude leads to selective indignation. Burnham was talking about the period leading up to 1964, but little has changed. The Left refuses to criticize the murders committed by Islamists in Algeria where more than a hundred thousand Algerians have been killed by other Algerians, or the massacres of Christians and African Muslims by the Arab Muslim forces of the Islamic government of the Sudan, and of course, the never-ending killings in Iran.
“The guilt of the liberal is insatiable. He deserves, by his own judgement, to be kicked, slapped and spat on for his infinite crimes,” wrote Burnham in 1964. Instead of moral outrage at the atrocities of the Islamic terrorists in September, 2001, we have the attitude well-summed up by Nick Cohen as “Kill Us, We Deserve It”, the title of a chapter in his book, What’s Left. How Liberals Lost their Way, published in 2007.
—John Maynard Keynes, Letter to George Bernard Shaw, 2 December,1934.
Could these observations go some way towards explaining the otherwise bizarre spectacle of the European Left, the American Liberals, and Latin American Marxists and Communists, most of whom are atheists, forging an alliance with Islamic fundamentalism in general, and Islamist Iran in particular? Both the Western Left and Islamism share a hatred of America. But there are a number of other common features between the apologists of Communism of the 1930s and 1940s and the modern apologists of Islamic fundamentalism.
Anti-Americanism is inexorably linked to the theory of moral equivalence that is usually thought to have developed during the Cold War. But it could be argued that perhaps the theory of moral equivalence was there at the dawn of Western civilization when many Westerners found “the Other” the equal of, if not superior to, Occidentals. At any rate, in modern times, it has been traced to the period immediately after the First World War. Étienne Mantoux, in his posthumously published work, The Carthaginian Peace, or the The Economic Consequences of Mr Keynes argued that the Western democracies of the Thirties suffered from a ‘guilt-complex’. Georges Clemençeau had said, “We do not have to beg pardon for our victory,” but after Keynes that is exactly what the West felt it had to do. Keynes influenced Britain and France into thinking that the Treaty of Versailles, following the First World War defeat of Germany, to be a ‘breach of engagements and international morality’ that was equally as bad as Germany’s invasion of Belgium.
As Andrew Roberts explains further, “Mantoux also blamed Keynes for the way that Versailles was held to prove to Americans that Europeans were each as bad as one another, ‘that they were all equally revengeful, equally Machiavellian, equally imperialistic; that the entry of America in the last war had been a ghastly mistake; and that the issue of any new one would be to her a matter of indifference, for an Alled Victory would probably be no better than Versailles and a German victory could certainly be no worse’. “
During the Cold War, “it was argued that in fundamental moral respects the democracies and communist states were already much alike, a position that simultaneously denies the virtues of the democracies and the vices of the totalitarian systems of the East”.The Guardian, a London daily, wrote in October, 1983, “There are plenty around who are already prepared to see the U.S. as no better than the Soviet Union in the standards of its international behaviour. There are many more, however, who still expect superior standards of the U.S., who are shocked and bewildered at the spectacle of Americans engaging in an act of aggression quite as blatant as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was deplored in such fine-sounding words.” The same official of the U. S. Government who wrote the article “Doctrine of Moral Equivalence” also cites a British “political leader” as saying, “There is an almost miserable equity of threat.”
After 9/11, intellectuals, like Noam Chomsky, and buffoons, such as Michael Moore, and journalists such as Robert Fisk, and Liberal politicians, such as Edward Kennedy, again employed the “moral equivalence” argument. The sottisier of Western intellectuals on 9/11 is long. Here are some examples:
Norman Mailer noted, “The WTC was not just an architectural monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn’t work there, for it said to all those people: ‘If you can’t work up here, boy, you’re out of it.’ That’s why I’m sure that if those towers had been destroyed without loss of life a lot of people would have cheered. Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be destroyed….And then came the next shock. We had to realize that the people that did this were brilliant. It showed that the ego we could hold up until September 10 was inadequate….Americans can’t admit that you need courage to do such a thing. For that might be misunderstood. The key thing is that we in America are convinced that it was blind, mad fanatics who didn’t know what they were doing. But what if those perpetrators were right and we were not? We have long ago lost the capability to take a calm look at the enormity of our enemy’s position.”
Gore Vidal told Reuters : “I’ve listed in this little book about four hundred strikes that the government has made on other countries. War, undeclared. Generally with the excuse that they were harboring communists. You keep attacking people for such a long time, one of them is going to get you back.”
And here is Vidal on the possibility of a conspiracy: ‘We still don’t know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose…. The behaviour of President Bush on 11 September certainly gives rise to not unnatural suspicions…. But it is fairly plain to many civil libertarians that 9/11 put paid not only to much of our fragile Bill of Rights but also to our once-envied system of government which had taken a mortal blow the previous year when the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5/4 time and replaced a popularly elected President with the oil and gas Bush-Cheney junta.’
Here is Susan Sontag’s moral equivalence following 9/11, “The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.”
Senator Kennedy, commented on Abu Ghraib in the Senate, “Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management.” Saddam, who killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, and tortured thousands of others, is apparently the equivalent of a handful of soldiers humiliating a handful of Iraqi prisoners. Amnesty International described the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as “the gulag of our times.” As Brandon Crocker put it, “I wonder what that makes North Korea. At Amnesty International they still can’t resist comparing the United States to the Soviet Union and in ways as ludicrous as ever. Amnesty International would have us believe that there is no difference between Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and an al-Qaeda fighter; no difference between sleep deprivation in order to get information from terrorists and hard labor, exposure to the deadly Siberian winters, and malnutrition to “reeducate” political dissidents”.
The doctrine of Moral Equivalence extends to every aspect of Western civilization. Thus “Christianity is no better than Radical Islam”- note, already, that no one will write “Islam” tout court though the Meaculpists are quite happy to write Christianity as opposed to “Christian fundamentalism.” Then the familiar litany of the putative crimes of Christianity: the Crusades, though they were a belated response to several centuries of Islamic Jihad; the Spanish Inquisition, though historians such as Henry Kamen (The Spanish Inquisition (1965)) established that the Inquisition was not nearly as cruel or as powerful as commonly believed, and the number of heretics actually killed was comparatively low, and the equivalent Islamic Inquisition, the Minha is scarcely known let alone talked about. The fact is Christianity has absorbed many principles of the Enlightenment, and Islam has not. Then there are the crimes of Western imperialism – some undoubtedly true and a disgrace to Western ideals, but which must be seen in comparison to Islamic Imperialism to put it all in perspective. Islamic Imperialism virtually destroyed several cultures – Eastern Christianity and the culture of Pre-Islamic Iran.
The doctrine of Moral Equivalence comes easily to a culture already infected with moral and cultural relativism. Other common characteristics of the apologists of totalitarianism include, denial of the evidence, of reality: leading to search for “real causes,” or “root causes,” which is bound to lead to conspiracy theories; contempt for Western institutions, but a willingness to exploit them for their own use; being ideologues they are immune to criticism, and contrary evidence, which they are able to explain away; masochism, since they are lacerated with feelings of guilt, ready to blame everything automatically on the West, take blame for all the ills of the world, and as a consequence wish to see the West punished, humiliated, denigrated, vilified and calumniated, the West deserves to be punished, we deserve to be punished, I deserve to be punished; exaggerations of the virtues of the Other, and the crimes of the West, denial the Other could be racist, imperialist, or colonialist, in short, evil; arrogance of the intellectuals who cannot be bothered to learn the facts, do the hard research in archives, and primary sources.