Commentary Magazine



Does anyone know what Christopher Hitchens is talking about?

George W. Bush always spoke as if the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, were an attack on the United States only and drew the corollary in his rhetoric that you are either “with” the United States or with the “terrists” (as he always seemed to think they were called). By underlining the losses suffered by other countries, not only did Obama redress this imbalance, he also gently but firmly reminded Europeans that this was and is their struggle, too.

I guess labeling this struggle the Global War on Terror wasn’t inclusive enough for Hitchens. And I suppose Bush was being too parochial when he declared on 9/11, “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended,” or when he said, “The United States and our allies are determined: we refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger.”

And, gosh, could the rhetorical “imbalance” be any clearer than in Bush’s declaration that “if we do not defeat the terrorists in Afghanistan, we will face them on our own soil. Innocent civilians in Europe and North America will pay the price”?

Still not convinced? Consider the American self-absorption on display in 2002:

President Bush called on Europe yesterday to face the truth about the threat from terrorism and join America in its war or face “certain blackmail” from terrorists.

“In this war we defend not just America or Europe,” he told the German parliament at the start of his European tour. “We are defending civilisation itself.”

[ . . .]

“Those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent . . . Those who seek terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe,” he said.

But Hitchens is vitally correct about one all-important detail, and we should always remember not to overlook this:  Bush pronounced the word terrorists with an accent.

UPDATE (courtesy of  David):

Not to mention that Bush explicitly named these nations, including enemy nations, when he had his biggest megaphone and all the world’s attention at the joint session of Congress on Sept. 21, 2001. Christopher Hitchens needs to get much better fact checkers:

“Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own. Dozens of Pakistanis, more than 130 Israelis, more than 250 citizens of India, men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan, and hundreds of British citizens.”