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The Best and Worst of 9/11/02

Some of the anniversary writings provoked thought and stiffened spines and others pointed to a burgeoning anti-Americanism.

12:00 AM, Sep 12, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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IN YESTERDAY'S Washington Times, Jennifer Harper reported that, since December 7, 1941, 200 books have been written about Pearl Harbor. And since September 11, 2001, 400 books have been written about the attacks on that terrible day. I don't know of any study that's been done on media coverage of the two events, but it seems safe to guess that the ratio of news and opinion stories written so far is even more out of balance.

The torrent continued yesterday, and, surprisingly, some of the pieces written were quite thoughtful and bracing:

-In the New York Post, Bob McManus offered the most spine-stiffening lede on this anniversary: "Let there be no buts about today. . . . Such as: 'The attack on America was horrid, but Islam is a religion of peace.'"

-James Lileks crafted a fine letter to his 9/11/01 self, pointing out that, all things considered, we're much, much better off today than we thought we'd be a year ago.

-In Slate, Rebecca Liss told the story of Dave Karnes, a Marine veteran who found and saved two men from the rubble at Ground Zero. On September 11, Karnes was at work in Wilton, Connecticut when he saw the news. He told his co-workers, "We're at war." Then he hopped in his car, got a quick standard-issue buzz cut, put on an old uniform, and drove to New York at 120 mph in his new Porsche. There, he and another volunteer, Charles Sereika, combed the site, even as official rescue workers were being moved off of the dangerous, shifting ruins.

-With friends like we have in Europe, we need the Toronto Sun. Their lead editorial opened: "Today is the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on America and, more significantly, of the day America said 'enough' and decided to fight back. . . . This is not a time for neutrality or fence-sitting--something the Canadian government prefers to action. We at the Sun are with the United States against terrorism. As all Canadians should be."

They close by saying, "America is not perfect--what country is?--but thank God it is our neighbor, and thank God it has the courage to lead and fight back."

-Two extremely intelligent pieces broke through the white noise of grief--John Keegan in the New York Post and Francis Fukuyama in the Washington Post. Expanding on a Charles Krauthammer essay in Time, Keegan explained that Saddam must be stopped now before he has nuclear weapons, because once he has them, we will no longer have the option of intervening in the region with conventional forces. Fukuyama looked into how anti-Americanism is becoming the foreign policy doctrine of choice in much of the world and examined its roots.

IT IS THIS anti-Americanism that informs the worst of the anniversary coverage. Note, please, that by "anti-Americanism," I'm not suggesting that all of these writers are unpatriotic (although, by any objective measure, some of them are). What I mean is that, confronted with a moment when America is under attack from a sinister, outside force, whom they surely detest, rather than turning their attention to this evil, these writers prefer to focus on perceived (and often exaggerated or imagined) American flaws.

-Salon continued its Ahab-like obsession with John Ashcroft, devoting its feature space to a piece by Bruce Shapiro. Instead of being outraged or saddened or troubled by the jihad which Islamofascists have declared against America, Shapiro is outraged, saddened, and troubled by the attorney general. "A year after the Sept. 11 attacks, can anyone say with confidence whether Ashcroft was speaking of a serious threat [with his Sept. 10 warnings], or exploiting the anniversary to restore his credibility?" Almost 2,000 words later, Shapiro repeats a bit of lazy--and now discredited--reporting from the New York Times, saying that "religious conservatives, once Ashcroft's effective claque, now bridle at his plans to let the FBI spy on religious communities and follow their financial trails." "Ashcroft is," Shapiro proclaims, "a man without a country."