September 10, 2011
by Ronald Radosh
As we approach Sunday's tenth anniversary of 9/11, we are being inundated with every newspaper and magazine's take on what we are supposed to think about its meaning. Some serious journals of opinion, of course, have essays by authors who have something to say. Hence, in evaluating the mainstream media's take, I do not include a magazine like The New Republic, whose issue dated September 15th includes essays by contributors like Fouad Ajami, Martin Peretz, Peter Bergen, Pete Hamill, Lawrence F. Kaplan, Sam Tanenhaus, and especially Paul Berman, whose writings have perhaps more than anyone else alerted many to the threat from radical Islam.
But let us instead consider the 9/11 issue of both Time and Newsweek. Time begins with the photos taken on that day by James Nachtwey, and a chilling personal essay by the photographer himself about how he came to be there and what he experienced. Here is one paragraph that gives you the flavor of his reporting:
It was so completely black I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. It's what I would imagine it's like to be blind. I thought I was buried alive under the rubble. I was gagging and could hardly breathe but knew I had to move. I called out to determine if anyone else was there who might be injured and need help, but there was no answer. I continued to inch my way forward. Eventually I saw tiny pinpoints of light in the blackness and realized they were the lights of vehicles on the street. At that point I knew I was outside, that I wasn't buried, and I oriented myself northward and kept moving. When I saw light emanating through the blackness I understood I was coming out of the deadly cloud.
One of the reasons we have photos of the tragic day is because of dedicated press people like Nachtwey, who, on his own, grabbed a camera and ran to the site, as everyone else was going in the other direction.
The heart of the magazine is its section titled "Beyond 9/11," which presents a montage of photos and the words of those who played a role, beginning with President George W. Bush, and including firefighter Bob Beckwith; widows of those who perished like Lyzbeth Glick Best, whose husband perished on Flight 93; "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani; Dick Cheney; antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; war vets; and many others. One can quibble with the selection, but by and large, the issue is worthwhile. They have some short essays by contributors, but of course, nothing equivalent to those like that by Berman in TNR. It is what you would expect from a mass magazine.
Newsweek, however, is another story. It is obvious, if one compares what once was a case of similar magazines that left most people to choose one or the other to look at for their summary of the previous week, the magazine has seen better days.
Clearly, without the kind of budget Time still has, editor Tina Brown tries to do as best as she can. Their substitute for the likes of Paul Berman, however, is Andrew Sullivan, whom she stole away from The Atlantic, and who is now their star "intellectual." But as we know, unlike Berman, Sullivan is most well known for having started as a supporter of the Iraq war and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, only to switch into a fierce proponent of the antiwar left, and a man who is constantly apologizing for the mistake he made a decade ago.
Now, in this issue, Sullivan writes that after first seeing 9/11 as "the end of American innocence," America "took the bait" and fell into al-Qaeda's trap. He writes:
The bait was meant to entice the United States into ruinous, polarizing religious warfare against the Muslim world, so that the Islamist fringe could seize power in failing Muslim and Arab dictatorships. The 9/11 attacks were conceived as a way to radicalize a young Muslim population through a ginned-up war of civilization against the Great Satan on the Islamist home turf of Afghanistan and, then, Iraq. It looks obvious now. It wasn't then. We were seized with righteous rage, every ounce of which was justified. But the victim of a rape is not the best person to initiate the strategy to bring the rapist to justice. And we, alas, were all we had. Our president, meaning well, did his best, and it was more than good, at the beginning. But in retrospect, he never mastered the fear or the moment either. Instead of calming the populace over the coming months, he further terrified us with drastic measures that only seemed to confirm the unprecedented gravity of the threat.
And thus he cuts to the chase, writing that he now is sorry that he too was fooled: "I am ashamed my own panic overwhelmed my own judgment." How could he trust the government, he asks? The war, he argues, was not worth it. Instead of a deterrent effect, the war, as Sullivan sees it, destroyed our military strength in Iraq, "as the U.S. struggled to control a country it could never fully commit to." The CIA was shown to be both incompetent and evil. He writes:
As mysterious envelopes containing anthrax began to appear in mailboxes, as our airports shut down and reopened as police states, as terror-advisory color codes were produced, as the vast new bureaucratic behemoth of the Department of Homeland Security was set up, as a system of torture prisons (beginning with Guantánamo Bay) was constructed … many concluded the threat must be grave enough to justify shredding some of the Constitution's noblest principles and precedents. This handful of fanatics was supposedly a greater threat than the Nazis and the Soviets. And so much of our inherited moral wisdom—such as the absolute stricture against torture and the ideal of habeas corpus—were tossed aside. Dick Cheney, the man elected vice president as a calming father figure, became the most terrified of them all. And so we joined him in fearing that Al Qaeda was on the cusp of arming itself with WMDs that could be used to end our civilization.
Now that is Sullivan's argument, and he is welcome to make it, and of course, Newsweek has a right to present it. But unlike other publications, there is no attempt at balance — no essay from someone like Paul Wolfowitz, or Dick Cheney himself, or anyone in the Bush administration.
Further in the issue, the publication has an article written by Bruce Riedel titled "How we Enabled Qaeda." Like Sullivan, Riedel agrees that America's biggest mistake "was to ignore Al Qaeda in Pakistan to invade Iraq, which, at that point, posed no serious threat." Really? Does Riedel not remember that Democrats as well as Republicans all argued that Saddam did pose a major threat, and that he might unleash WMDs, which everyone thought he had, on his enemies?
Riedel ends his article arguing that now, the U.S. has "an opportunity to right its wrongs." How? As you might expect, Riedel provides rather meaningless advice that in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia the U.S. "must help citizens build accountable governments, not new police states." We read nothing from him about any threats from the Islamists, from the Muslim Brotherhood, and from our other enemies. And yes, like everyone else, he wants a new "peace process" in the Middle East, and a new vision, "not just to veto Palestinian dreams." He gives us not one word about the unrelenting Palestinian dream of destroying both Israel and killing the Jews. And Riedel seems to think, contrary to all evidence, that the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" has something to do with al-Qaeda's terrorism. Finally, making it clear that he comes at the issue from the precincts of the left, he attacks Obama's use of drones, which he says "alienate civilians, creating the next generation of militants." Riedel gives no account of what the U.S. should do, except the fantasy of resuming Israeli-Palestinian talks, stopping the use of drones, and saying "this time we have to get it right." This is evidently profound thinking for Newsweek.
The most egregious and truly inexcusable piece in the entire issue, however, is the two-page rave review by Newsweek staff writer Tony Dokoupil of the fanatic leftist Michael Moore's new memoir, Here Comes the Trouble: Stories From My Life. He starts by noting that even the Motion Picture Academy booed Moore when he received his Oscar right after the start of the Iraq war, and goes on to note Moore's pride that he started the "backlash against President Bush" before nationwide criticism of the Bush administration "became "a national fusillade."
Dokupil points out that now Moore is pointing his anger at President Obama, whom he accuses of betraying America's working people. Moore tells the author that he now wants "to appease Republicans." Yet he tells us that Moore is "showing signs of mellowing," something for which he gives no evidence, aside from Dokupil's assertion. Moore thinks he has already changed people's minds and has been successful, since more and more liberals agree with him and he is no longer out on the limb. If this is true — and it might well be — it reflects only on the collapse of real liberalism, and its move to the precincts of the Looney Left.
Dokupil does say that while Moore has a "now-growing base of antiwar activists," who view anything he does as "another stone tablet brought down from Mount Sinai," to "most Americans," his films are "seen as an unpatriotic assault, a traitorous work in a time of war." And he notes that many pundits "were particularly savage." How do we make up our minds which side is right? Dokupil seems to not give readers evidence of the kind of things Moore actually said and believes, which are most likely not to be found in his memoir.
Moore, as Jacob Laskin reported, said the following:
I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe—just maybe—God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end. The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow—and they will win.
Had Newsweek let its audience know the truth about Moore's beliefs, and provided examples, they could judge which version of Moore is correct, that of the left or that of most Americans. Readers are supposed to feel sorry for Moore, since according to Dukopil, he hasn't ended capitalism, prevented a second term for George W. Bush, or achieved socialized medicine, like that in his beloved Cuba. Perhaps, just perhaps, Michael Moore doesn't deserve the great attention liberal media outlets like Newsweekhave given him. Indeed, the author suggests that the next years and the presidential election "may also center on Michael Moore."
I would say only if publications like Newsweek and the other major media pay such attention to him. That a blowhard like Michael Moore is taken seriously by a mass magazine that seeks to hold to its once noble reputation again reflects the decline of the mainstream media and its blatant move towards left-liberalism.
As for me, the only reason I will go on looking at the publication is because they made one wise move, hiring the top intelligence journalist Eli Lake and giving him a wider audience than he had writing for The Washington Times. I feel sorry for Lake to have to be in the pages of such bad company. Whether or not his presence makes up for the rest of the magazine's sad contents and contributors is for you readers to judge.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
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