Political Hay

Out of Commission

What the 9/11 panel calls a "failure of imagination" amounts to blinding liberalism, which is on display in its own report.

By 7.23.04

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The 9/11 Commission's report blames America's inept defense on a "failure of imagination." But plenty of people imagined the threat Muslim jihadists posed to America. Long before 9/11, even Hollywood's imaginative minds had no problem conceiving of jihadists as airline hijackers. The problem wasn't so much a failure of imagination as an ACLU-driven culture that discouraged Americans from acting on their imagination. The Commission says the "terrorists have used our open society against us." Put more precisely, that would read, "terrorists have used our political correctness against us."

Political correctness only permits the imagination and intellect to operate within certain approved assumptions. Under it, a discriminating mind -- that is, a mind which discriminates between truth and error -- became a "discriminatory" mind, and woe to the American who exercised it. The terrorists were certainly aware of this see-no-evil culture. Why else would they have set up operations here without even bothering to change their names?

What the Commission calls a "failure of imagination" amounts to blinding liberalism, which is on display in its own report. Notice that the Commission, acting like self-appointed Imams at a special Synod on Islam, define it as a religion of peace, then say the Islamic world needs reform. If Islam is as moderate as the Commission insists, why would the Islamic world need to be moderated? And how does it protect America to define Islam as a religion of peace if Muslim authorities define it as a religion of jihad? Isn't their definition of their own religion a little more authoritative than Lee Hamilton's?
A Commission that fails to understand Islam as Muslims themselves understand it is engaging in nothing more than a fatuous PR exercise.

But again, even as the Commission relies on politically correct religious relativism -- "With so many divisive adherents, every major religion will spawn violent zealots" -- it implies that militant Islam is so mainstream that we need to send forth secularist missionaries to enlighten Muslim lands. Islam doesn't "teach terror," and the Commission says that "lives guided by religious faith, including literal beliefs in holy scriptures, are common to every religion, and represent no threat to us," then in the same breath proposes that the "U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund" to finance "primary and secondary schools." Liberals who would condemn Christian missionary activity in Muslim countries don't mind sending apostles of liberalism to them. "We must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity," the Commission says, and instructs Muslims "to reflect upon such basic issues as the concept of jihad, the position of women, and the place of non-Muslim minorities."

There is a great deal of outrage about the videotape showing a security guard at Dulles airport haplessly checking one of the terrorists. But what if the guard had profiled the terrorists? What if he had checked them more carefully and exhaustively because they were from countries that preached jihad against America? The very liberals now outraged at the videotape would have been outraged at the guard.

In 1999, a security firm at Dulles airport had had its knuckles rapped after it fired five Muslim women for refusing to remove their head scarves while working at security jobs. Argenbright Security ended up settling with them but not before David Bonior and company accused Dulles airport and other major airports of religious discrimination. "This incident raises a larger issue: that of wide-spread and systematic discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans in airports all across the country," Bonior, then the House Democratic whip, said. "If firms cannot even treat their Muslim employees fairly, how are we to believe they will treat Muslim passengers -- whom they do not even know -- in a fair and courteous manner?" He said, "This is not the first airport, and this is not the first incident, that lead me to believe that airport security is being contracted out to companies who do not have a commitment to treat all Americans with fairness and dignity."

Bonior used the incident to press his case against profiling to Jane Garvey, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. "I have been grateful for your efforts to listen to the concerns of the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States regarding the issue of passenger profiles in airports and the performance of private security firms in conducting this profiling…It is essential for the FAA to ensure that these private security companies respect and understand the culture and religious beliefs of all Americans."

Perhaps the security guard at Dulles on the videotape had an impoverished imagination, but whatever imagination he did have would have been drummed out of him by political correctness.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.