Liberals are old hands at apologizing for despots and dictators, but they are curiously unable to recognize and take responsibility for their own peccadillos -- such as, say, their constant need to apologize for despots and dictators. These days, however, self-criticism is all the rage. Nick Cohen started off this round of soul-searching with his book What's Left? How the Left Lost its Way. Todd Gitlin followed up with The Intellectuals and the Flag. Now Dissent editor Mitchell Cohen is asking why so many of his comrades insist on apologizing for Islamic extremism.
Cohen, who achieved a sort of Warholian notoriety for his support of the Iraq invasion, recently told the German magazine Jungleworld that he is "struck at how parts of the extreme left apologize for Islamic extremism in ways reminiscent of how an earlier generation found ways to apologize for Stalinism. The objects excused are different, but the patterns of apologetics are sadly similar. It shows that there really is something I once called 'the left that doesn't learn.'"
If only the apologists were confined to the "extreme left" -- they at least would be easier to isolate, like some particularly whiny TB patient. Instead they are to be found across the spectrum, and easily identified by their persistence in blaming the U.S. for forcing al Qaeda to attack America in 2001, and Madrid in 2004, and London in 2005, etc., etc.
One of the great, perennial questions is why leftists so despise the free market -- a system that has created unprecedented levels of freedom and prosperity -- that they would see it destroyed rather than, like the rest of us, accept that all economic and political systems are imperfect. Indeed from the birth of "bourgeois society," that is, from the rise of the institution of private property, the bourgeoisie proved to be a problem for the chattering classes. How to eradicate the bourgeoisie and liberate the masses?
Cohen suggests that the left too often views Islamic extremists as part of a "liberating multitude" that opposes imperialism, refusing to see Islamofascism for what it really is: yet another totalitarian ideology. "Some folks in an earlier generation of leftists were quite able to be anti-imperialist and also to be against the Stalin-Hitler pact," Cohen says. The Stalin-Hitler pact is, of course, a red herring. Not even Stalin and Hitler supported the Stalin-Hitler pact. What is more, the generation of leftists Cohen refers to is not simply anti-imperialist (who would disagree with that?), but are anti-capitalist, anti-private property and anti-liberal democracy.
THERE WILL ALWAYS be a reliable number of intellectuals ready to support any extremist ideology whether it is communism, fascism, Nazism or Islamofascism, as long as that ideology is opposed to "imperialist capitalism," as represented by America or, on a civilizational level, the West. The left simply cannot imagine itself opposing any anti-American ideology no matter how depraved. And it is hard to imagine one more depraved than Islamofascism, which seeks to do Hitler one better as regards the Jews and, for good measure, enslave the rest of us. It is precisely the same type of intellectual who once apologized for the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, who is now able to apologize for the Bin Ladenists. Apparently being a leftist means always having to say to you're sorry.
Not even the most foolish of these useful idiots wants to see a return of the Caliphate, and few, if any, support forced conversions, forced marriages, genital mutilation, honoring killings and stonings (though the multiculturalists among them may consider these quaint relics part of traditional Arab culture and therefore beyond criticism). Anyway, few leftists are converting to Islam. In fact they remain at heart die-hard socialists. Their goal is simply to see "imperialist capitalist society" undermined, disgraced, and if possible, eradicated. Combine this desire with the puerile pleasure of anti-establishmentarianism, and you get remarks like those made by Prof. Richard A. Berthold to his University of New Mexico class on September 11: "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote."
The glory days of the Marxist-Leninists are mainly behind us, so if it takes a few hundred Islamofascists to undermine the imperial-capitalist system, fine. What are a few thousand lives in the big scheme? The 9/11 victims were just "little Eichmanns" anyway, guilty of working for greedy and probably Jewish capitalists. The left that found it so very easy to apologize for Stalin and Lenin's gulags, forced famines and mass murders can certainly empathize with bin Laden.
Islamofascism came along just in time to fill the void left by the collapse of the old totalitarian ideologies. And the left scarcely missed a beat. As in the good old days of Stalin, they will allow bin Laden and company to do the dirty work. All they have to do is eulogize the Islamists as freedom fighters and martyrs, then sit back and wait for bourgeois society to fall.
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