Monday, January 05, 2009

Digression: Michael Lerner on 9/11

Michael Lerner reveals his true colors in an e-mail to Oliver Kamm today (in response to Kamm's criticism of a recent Lerner op-ed). To read the whole thing (which mostly has to do with Gaza), see Oliver Kamm. I'm mostly interested in the first part of his e-mail.

Lerner writes:
Nothing in my current thinking is tied to agnosticism about 9/11. I do not doubt that the official story is possible, and so, after reading the evidence amassed by 9/11 doubters, is their alternative story. But in thinking about the Middle East, I assume the worst case scenario, namely that 9/11 was in fact a strike by anti-imperialist Muslims who had worked carefully for years to pull off an amazing venture requiring a group of suicide bombers who simultaneously hi-jacked airplanes and caused incredible suffering and murder.
The conclusion I draw from this paragraph is that:

A) he doubts that the 9/11 attacks were actually carried out by Al-Qaeda, a view that as Kamm puts it, "consigns him immediately to an extreme and irrationalist fringe."

B) if that claim turns out to be true, it was a strike by "anti-imperialist Muslims." That's a new one on me - Al-Qaeda as "anti-imperialists"! How about the truth - Al-Qaeda as anti-semitic, anti-western, mass murdering terrorists? Frankly, I think that Lerner has definitely gone off the deep end.


  1. I agree that using the term "anti-imperialst" from a leftist perspective tends to give cover of an action as more "understandable," and as something to be more sympathetic with than it otherwise would be.

    However, I don't think it's actually unfair to say that al Qaeda, among many other things, is clearly against American acts and behavior of empire. It's simply not all that al Qaeda is about. But their whole "get out of the Mideast and the Muslim world" stance is factually against American imperialism. I don't think it requires adoption of, or sympathy to, cant or al Qaeda or extreme leftism, to observe this. What would be important is not to limit one's description of al Qaeda to just this.

  2. I think that you're being awfully generous to Michael Lerner here, especially since he limited his description of Al Qaeda to "anti-imperialist Muslims." If this had been one in a long list of characteristics, I probably wouldn't have noticed it, but since "anti-imperialism" was the only thing listed, I think it's fair to focus on it.

  3. I wasn't actually talking about Lerner, since it's been umpty years since I've given a fig about his opinions; I was strictly speaking abstractly about applying the word "anti-imperialist" to a description of al Qaeda's goals/motivations.

    I don't disagree with criticising Lerner, or his usage.