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Same As It Ever Was
War fever now is like war fever then – but maybe not as bad
As (mostly) rightwingers scream that any question about Israel’s conduct of its U.S.-supported war against Hamas, with its appalling collateral damage among Palestinians, is clearly and merely antisemitism, I experience not only my usual lofty disdain for numbskulls but also something like PTSD. It got me looking at my old writings at alicublog, its parent site alicubi.com and my own homepage, from the post-9/11 days of what I used to call the War on Whatchamacallit.
From alicubi in 2002, for example, I recall conservatives seething at the rest of the civilized world (like now!) for insufficiently supporting the war plans of America and her allies:
“Europeans have shown a new type of amorality,” seconded [Jonah] Goldberg’s colleague Victor Davis Hanson in February, “in some ways every bit as pernicious but far more insidious than their past creed of imperialism and colonialism.” (“Let us remember,” Hanson later added, “that Germany, Austria, France, and England almost ruined Western culture between 1914-18.”)
At other sites Europe-bashing is occasionally supplemented by condemnations of other sub-standard states, such as Venezuela (“Never have I encountered a national character that is so feckless, and so indolent, as the Venezuelan one”— [Wall Street Journal’s] Opinion Journal).
Some warbloggers, ever adventuresome in the pursuit of new people and places to insult, have been talking smack about Canada. Sometimes the anti-Canucks express their feelings with funny pictures. Others complain that Canada has been soft on terrorists. There are even some Canadian warbloggers who might be called self-hating. As the Right’s big media outlets pick up on this trend (“Canada Turns Into Terrorist Haven” — Insight), it can only be expected to flourish.
There was also, around the same time, rightbloggers’ and conservatives’ pananoia that various unrelated violent incidents around the world — including the D.C. sniper shootings — were in fact the work of Al Qaeda. (Remind you of any similar, current Here Comes Hamas paranoiacs — from the lowliest to the loftiest?)
Then there were my many bits on Jim Lileks, the Minneapolis columnist who got balls deep into 9/11ism — like when he fantasized about Bin Laden killing his daughter and him avenging her death (“Give me a gun; show me the cave”), and predicted, in a classically inverted way of telling those New Yorkers who didn’t back the War on Terror how sorry they’d be for it someday, that Islamic terrorists would soon blow up New York with a nuclear bomb. Lileks even grumbled when The Simpsons made fun of British characters because Tony Blair was our Warren Terror ally!
OK, Lileks was a special case. But anyone who was sentient in that period knows the now-common claim that You’re Either With Us or Hamas is just a cheap knock-off of You’re Either With Us or Against Us (or, as Andrew Sullivan called us, Fifth Columnists).
There’s reason to hope, though, that the insanity of those days, and the manipulation of grief and rage by bad actors to spread war, may not be as perfervid in its current incarnation.
For one thing, I am seeing evidence that a lot of people publicly resist that insanity — in opposition to the stupid bad-faith claims that only Jew-haters would demur when Israel, for example, blows up a refugee camp, and in the face of attacks on those who oppose such violence (attacks that often come from people who are forever blubbering about cancel culture but don’t mind cancelation when it happens to their enemies).
Let me tell you, resisting was a lonelier job when Bush was driving us into Iraq. True, the prestige media brushes off the huge rallies against this war just as they brushed off the huge rallies and marches against that one. But even in its wretched current state, social media offers a window through which anyone can see people of good will — including Jewish Americans and Israelis — standing up and saying that Israel’s right to exist and defend itself and opposition to war crimes are not mutually exclusive propositions.
There are a lot of things that are as bad or even worse now – for example, genuine antisemites seizing the opportunity, and bogus news sources poisoning the information well. But whether it’s because America itself is not the principal player this time — or whether, as I’d like to think, the lessons of our horrific Afghanistan and Iraq debacles may finally be sinking in (no no, don’t thank me, just doing my job) — it does seem sanity has a fighting chance.
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