The garbled utterances of the left after 9/11 merely flattered the arguments of warmongersby Geoffrey Wheatcroft / September 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2003 issue of Prospect Magazine
When the hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Centre two years ago, more than just two buildings and 3,000 lives were lost: amid the rubble of ground zero, many illusions also smouldered. At the time, it seemed as though 11th September might prove to be a great event with small consequences, a horror without meaning or serious effects. Two years on, it looks more like a small event with great consequences. To say “small” is not to minimise the outrage and the suffering: every death is a sorrow, and grief is not quantifiable. All the same, buildings are destroyed by fire every day, and thousands are killed in accidents. Three thousand dead is no more than the losses in London on one of the worst nights of the Blitz, and that itself was trivial compared to the great burnings in Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo. Three thousand Americans are killed in road accidents every month, not to mention the scores of thousands of Americans killed annually by guns, in murder or suicide.
But 11th September truly was different. The historian Tony Judt may well have been right when he wrote that, from his New York office window that morning, he had seen the 21st century begin. The political and military consequences of 11th September have already been drastic; not so much the direct effect of the campaign in Afghanistan as the indirect but far more important war in Iraq, of which the consequences are as yet unforseeable but certainly huge.
More than all that, 11th September was a day when consciousness changed. To look back at the responses which the murder evoked from the literary and political intelligentsia is to see something more than many clever and famous people making fools of themselves (enjoyable though that is). Here was a turning point. The mass murder in New York came just over four years after the death of Princess Diana. Writing here about that event, I said that the beatification of Diana by some alleged radicals demonstrated more vividly then anything since the fall of the Berlin wall the final bankruptcy of a large part of the progressive tradition 200 years after 1789. What was said and written after “9/11” might have been the formal declaration of that bankruptcy.