On blaming America for terrorism

Anne Applebaum says ‘stop it’. Via the UK Telegraph:

‘Poised as I am, halfway between the two cultures, it was a little strange watching British reactions to events in America last week. It was a little strange even being in Britain last week. On Tuesday after hijacked planes had hit targets in Washington, where my family live, and New York, where most of my friends live, I was standing in Bond Street, dialling and redialling their numbers on my mobile telephone, unable to get through.”

No, that wasn’t plagiarism: it was the opening paragraph of an article I wrote five years ago in The Sunday Telegraph, describing British and American reactions to the events of September 11, 2001. Yes, I realise that it’s bad taste to quote oneself. But in truth, I can no longer remember the events clearly.

I see them now through the haze of everything that happened afterwards: Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Madrid, London. Inevitably, I also see them through the haze of cliché. The image of the Twin Towers burning and collapsing no longer feels shocking.

Nevertheless, I think it’s worth looking back at what people really felt on September 11, 2001, because not everyone felt the same, then or later. Certainly it’s true that, five years ago, Tony Blair spoke of standing “shoulder to shoulder” with America, that Iain Duncan Smith (remember him?) echoed him, and that Jacques Chirac was on his way to Washington to say the same.

But it’s also true that this initial wave of goodwill hardly outlasted the news cycle. Within a couple of days a Guardian columnist wrote of the “unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world’s population”. A Daily Mail columnist denounced the “self-sought imperial role” of the United States, which he said had “made it enemies of every sort across the globe”.

Read it all. Applebaum lays out the case that the ‘goodwill towards America’ from the rest of the world didn’t last much beyond the immediate aftermath of 9-11. To be sure, the administration’s attempts at diplomacy with other nations hasn’t always been perfect, bu it’s faulty to suggest that the US ‘squandered’ the goodwill other countries extended to us immediately after 9-11 because we didn’t have the time to ‘squander’ it before the usual suspects started complaining about how US ‘imperialism’ ’caused’ 9-11, etc. And we’re still being blamed for creating/causing terrorism today.

From the looks of things, Applebaum has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with this piece. Make sure to check the comments that are posted below the article.

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