We will of course encounter numerous 9/11 comments and opinions for what are fairly obvious reasons. For me, personally, one of the simplest and clearest is the article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens. He nails it with two words … “Simply Evil” …
A decade after 9/11, it remains the best description and most essential fact about al-Qaida.
The proper task of the “public intellectual” might be conceived as the responsibility to introduce complexity into the argument: the reminder that things are very infrequently as simple as they can be made to seem. But what I learned in a highly indelible manner from the events and arguments of September 2001 was this: Never, ever ignore the obvious either. To the government and most of the people of the United States, it seemed that the country on 9/11 had been attacked in a particularly odious way (air piracy used to maximize civilian casualties) by a particularly odious group (a secretive and homicidal gang: part multinational corporation, part crime family) that was sworn to a medieval cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, a religious frenzy against Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, and “unbelievers,” and the restoration of a long-vanished and despotic empire.
To me, this remains the main point about al-Qaida and its surrogates. I do not believe, by stipulating it as the main point, that I try to oversimplify matters. I feel no need to show off or to think of something novel to say. Moreover, many of the attempts to introduce “complexity” into the picture strike me as half-baked obfuscations or distractions. These range from the irredeemably paranoid and contemptible efforts to pin responsibility for the attacks onto the Bush administration or the Jews, to the sometimes wearisome but not necessarily untrue insistence that Islamic peoples have suffered oppression. (Even when formally true, the latter must simply not be used as nonsequitur special pleading for the use of random violence by self-appointed Muslims.)
We can quite obviously put aside the insanity of the 9/11 truthers who claim it to have been an inside job and speculate it was created to justify the Bush invasion of Iraq. There is no evidence for this, all their silly claims have been well and truly debunked as outlined within Skeptic magazine, here in 2008 … (and to illustrate just how crazy these folks are, read the Huff Post 2008 article where the editor of Skeptic, Michael Shermer writes about the response to that article, “9/11 “Truthers” a Pack of Liars” ). So yes indeed, we can dismiss all that nonsense.
But why stop there, Hitchens is indeed right, why should we embrace the pointless complexity that many inflict upon us, claiming that it is simply the natural outcome of US foreign policy, or that it is the wrath of God or some similar silly supernatural claim. The simply truth is that what happened was indeed simply evil.
What is of course also true is that most people, regardless of belief or non-belief, are decent moral humans and are equally appalled by what happened, but what we cannot escape is the clear reality that it was indeed fanatical ‘belief’ that enabled the tragic events that unfolded ten years ago. Those who declare religion to be out-of-scope and demand respect should be ignored, for it is indeed vital that we throw a spotlight upon to root cause, embracing irrational beliefs leads to irrational actions.
- Link to Slate article, “Simply Evil” by Christopher Hitchens – 5th Sept
- Skeptic article in 2008 that debunks 9/11 truther claims – by Michael Shermer
- Huff Po article where Michael Shermer writes about just how crazy the 9/11 truthers are