The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The front cover of The Enemy at Home
Great and terrible
Icon books.svg
On our shelf:
Writer's block

The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11 (ISBN 9780385510127) is a 2007 book by Dinesh D'Souza in which he argues the attacks of 9/11 were primarily the results of social liberalism causing radical Muslims to hate the United States. Although the book offers some good criticisms of the Islamophobia that was common on the right at the time, it essentially replaces that with arguments that the U.S. needs to engage in more social conservatism in order to appease Muslims who are equally as far-right as D'Souza and his buddies.

Unlike most of D'Souza's other books, this one not only got large amounts of criticism from liberals, but it also received a large amounts of particularly vicious criticism from conservatives, many of whom felt as though D'Souza was blaming 9/11 on the United States, a long standing taboo in right-wing circles. ("America the Blameworthy Dinesh D’Souza Takes Place among the Serial Blame Artists," ran the headline of Victor Davis Hanson's review of the book.[1])

What is "The Cultural Left"?[edit]

Given D'Souza feels "the cultural left" are to blame for 9/11, even writing "if you presume that they want bin Laden to win and Bush to lose the war, then their statements and actions make perfect sense,"[2]:289 it's important that one defines exactly who that includes.

On the first page of the book, D'Souza says they are "the left wing of the Democratic Party", but that "The cultural left also includes a few Republicans, notably those who take a left-wing stance on foreign policy and social issues," before giving a list of names which that includes. Of particular interest is that one of the people listed is Hillary Clinton,[2]:1 despite her voting in favor of the war in Iraq[3] and not supporting same-sex marriage at the time of the book's release.[4] (Although Clinton did come out in favor of it in 2013.[5])

Later in the book, D'Souza makes a much more detailed list of those on the left that he is criticizing,[2]:289-290 but looking at the list shows little coherence. Cornel West is included, in spite of him supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein despite disliking the Bush Administration's dishonesty and imperialist ambitions.[6]:58, 101 Salman Rushdie is listed, but it is hard to imagine a man who had a fatwa put out against by Ayatollah Khomeini[7](a man who D'Souza calls "highly regarded for his modest demeanor, frugal lifestyle, and soft-spoken manner"[2]:99) being a fan of radical Islam.

The Big Picture[edit]

D'Souza's thesis can be summed up like this: In order to deradicalize militant Muslims, those on the right should attempt to find common ground with them and fight alongside them where their interests align. Although deradicalization is a worthwhile goal, and one can applaud D'Souza for even considering the possibility while most on the right were still freaking out about a Muslim Congressman "working with our enemies,”[8] one must ask an important question: When does a radical Muslim stop being — well, radical? D'Souza consistently calls non-violent Muslims "moderate," by default, but if they hold the same views as Osama bin Laden (something which D'Souza seriously considers a possibility), then how non-radical can they really be? What D'Souza is basically asking for is that Muslims who would otherwise be terrorists join non-violent political movements he's a part of, because at the end of the day they share the exact same goals. In the end, it's still the same brand of authoritarianism being advocated for, it's just that now they're not going to implement it as violently.

D'Souza does not understand Muslims[edit]

For a book that argues that those on his side should attempt to find common ground with Muslims, D'Souza shows little understanding of what Muslims actually think. Early on in the book, he attacks the Carter Administration for failing to provide support for the Shah of Iran, blaming it for the rise of Khomeini and, with that, radical Islam.[2]:21 However, for somebody who thinks hostility towards Islamic values is causing terrorism, D'Souza shows massive support for a leader who was hated by the Muslims of his own country and was primarily viewed as nothing more than a U.S.-backed shill. In fact, radical Muslims from Iran engaged in terrorist attacks against the United States for exactly that reason.[9]

Regarding Israel and Palestine, D'Souza downplays the role that the conflict plays in the radicalization of Muslims across the world, writing "Surely — many will insist — bin Laden is enraged by Israeli occupation and supports the idea of Palestinian self-determination and a Palestinian state. Yet as of this writing Al Qaeda has not launched a single attack against Israel."[2]:101-102 This is in spite of him writing in a defense of his book that "The charge of our enemy is… that we refuse to allow the Islamic world to freely determine its own destiny,"[10] and that Osama bin Laden specifically listed support for Israel as one of his reasons for attacking the United States in his 2002 "Letter to America." [11] ("Why not rely on bin Laden’s own statements," asked D'Souza while defending his book in National Review.)[10]