In December 2002, we coined the phrase vicarious terrorism to describe people–in that case it was George McGovern–who ascribe their own political views to al Qaeda and then argue that the Osama bin Laden & Co. would be appeased if only America adopted those views as policy.

It’s worth noting in passing that Buchanan/bin Laden’s first two complaints, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and the sanctions against Iraq, were both obviated by the Iraq war, which Buchanan (and presumably bin Laden) opposed.

But Buchanan’s calumny against Israel–which has a long history, going back at least to the days before the original Gulf War, in 1990–is worth dwelling on. Bin Laden, he claims, opposes “the Likud regime of Ariel Sharon.” Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel in 2001, three years after the fatwa that, according to Buchanan, condemned his “regime.”

True, Likud was in power (under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) in 1998, but Labor’s Ehud Barak won election in 1999, and that didn’t stop al Qaeda from attacking the USS Cole in October 2000, even as President Clinton was struggling to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Al Qaeda’s first attacks on American targets were in Yemen in 1992 and at the World Trade Center in 1993–at a time when Labor’s Yitzchak Rabin was Israel’s prime minister. Rabin later reached an accommodation with Arafat, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Bin Laden does not appear to have been appeased.

Attacks on Ariel Sharon and Likud often mask hostility toward Israel, or toward Jews in general. By falsely attributing his own “anti-Sharon” views to bin Laden, Buchanan seems to be suggesting that the al Qaeda leader is no more anti-Semitic than he himself is. Think about what that implies.~ James Taranto, OpinionJournal.com

James Taranto has long engaged in the filthiest of smears against the character of Mr. Buchanan, so the example cited above is par for the course, but the attribution of “vicarous terrorism” to Mr. Buchanan is as bad any accusation as any this horrible, little man has offered in public. It is, of course, a grievous lie that Messrs. Buchanan or McGovern have ever attributed their own beliefs to bin Laden (as if this would make their beliefs more popular!). It is important that awful, tendentious writers such as Mr. Taranto are repudiated whenever possible, even though such people and their claims are generally beneath contempt.

In the first place, anyone who believes the canard that Mr. Buchanan is anti-Semitic is either easily fooled or patently dishonest–Mr. Taranto is certainly the latter. Lopsided support of Israel is a fundamental cause for resentment of the United States in the Muslim world, regardless of which party in Israel is in government, and this may just have something to do with the basic injustices perpetrated by the State of Israel with our tacit support. I included Mr. Taranto’s lame arguments along these lines to show how sorry and weak his argument really is.

To find the war criminal Sharon as disgusting and immoral as the terrorist and fiend Arafat is somehow reprehensible in the disgusting view of Mr. Taranto, because no one could actually hold such a man in contempt without the ulterior motive of anti-Semitism! To believe that the interests of any Israeli government diverge greatly from the interests of the United States is to become, ipso facto, anti-Semitic. It is a standard line now that criticism of Israel or Sharon is just a mask for Jew-hatred, which is demonstrably false in probably 95% of all cases, when it is more typical to find that accusations of anti-Semitism from Mr. Taranto and his colleagues are a cover for their treacherous and debased allegiance to the interests of another country over the interests of their own.

The Iraq war has not obviated causes for al Qaeda and other Muslim resentment, but only shifted that resentment from the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and the strangulation of Iraq to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If the sanctions regime really did contribute to destroying hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, and this seems hard to refute, does anyone suppose that invading the same country and killing tens of thousands more makes amends? Who could imagine that this would alleviate the causes of conflict between bin Laden and the United States? If nothing else, it has made bin Laden’s extreme rhetoric seem that much more reasonable to Muslims who were already not very well-disposed to America. If occupying part of the territory containing Mecca and Medina so enraged these fanatics, when our soldiers never came anywhere near those places, what does Mr. Taranto think invading the land of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate and besieging the shrine of the (variously) fourth Caliph or first Imam Ali will accomplish other than giving these fanatics and even less extreme Muslims new grievances against us?

Does Mr. Taranto really believe, even as poorly as he reasons, that a fanatic such as bin Laden readily forgets past policies that he has publicly denounced, especially when the general strategy of the United States remains Middle Eastern hegemony (sorry, I mean liberation)? For that matter, do perfectly reasonable and especially pro-democratic Iranians not deeply resent the United States for our support of the destruction of their elected government in 1953? They certainly do. How much more would bin Laden’s resentments last, if many Iranians remain understandably embittered about something that happened fifty years ago? This is a man, after all, who at least engages in rhetoric of lamenting for the loss of Muslim territories from medieval times, and presumably believes it to some degree.

Will a minor policy shift of a few years change bin Laden’s view of the United States? Of course not. This is the sort of superficial criticism we have come to expect from people who know nothing of history and culture and would apparently prefer to know even less. Just consider how many years intervened between the last open hostilties between Britain and America and a final settlement of outstanding differences–nearly thirty years! And this was following a conflict between two peoples virtually identical in culture, mores, religion and political values.

If we think of interventionism as stabbing someone with a knife, is the injury any less when the knife is removed? Obviously not. Likewise, the necessary and vital retreat from interventionism is not a panacea for all ills (only neoconservatives seem to believe in such panaceas anymore), but the beginning of a cure of our relations with Near Eastern peoples. Simply packing up and going home would only be the beginning of any Buchananite or genuinely conservative solution. To inflict what these people regard as a wound, and then do nothing to aid in treating it, would only leave them as surly and embittered as many Afghans were after 1989. Instead of withdrawing the knife, though, Mr. Taranto and his colleagues will always opt for digging the knife in deeper, and perhaps inflicting a few gunshot wounds to the extremities at the same time.

No one (and I would assume that this especially includes Mr. Buchanan, who takes second place to no one in his advocacy for national defense and retaliation for attacks on this country)believes that bin Laden himself can, should or will be appeased now–he must be detained or killed, and his followers with him. The point is to understand why Islamists are so violently opposed to the United States, and to remove the causes whenever possible. This is a political problem, much like any other, and its solution lies in fundamentally changing the horribly misguided foreign policy of the United States. This is done principally to advance the interests of this country, and the removal of Islamist grievances against our country when possible is a means to that advancement. Blind refusal to admit that there are any real grievances, or the claim that any of them should or could be remedied only with unprincipled submission, is not a legitimate or serious alternative, but it is the only sort that Mr. Taranto and his fellows ever offer.

The Iraq war may have changed the particular problems that bin Laden and his sort would have with our policies, but it has not removed the central, overriding problem: American intervention in a region that is not vital to our national security or national interests, but which the Islamists regard as their proper dominion. Bin Laden regards interventionism as wicked oppression–patriotic Americans do not necessarily see it that way and need not believe it is oppression to nonetheless find it deeply immoral, offensive and harmful to America for other reasons. Mr. Taranto is either too dense, too dishonest or too fanatical to understand that.

Patriotic Americans oppose this interventionism because it drags our country into relentless conflict abroad without cause. Americans are thrust into conflict with peoples with whom we have no necessary conflict and against whom we generally have no complaint, all at great cost in life, treasure, reputation and national honour.
To accuse such Americans of “vicarious terrorism,” because Islamists such as bin Laden also happen to reject American interventionism for different reasons, is not much better than the old Soviet tactic of accusing its various political rivals of “objective fascism” when their views did not match official Comintern or Stalinist ideological purity.

The purpose is to taint dissent with the stigma of treachery, subversion and villainy, as if the patriot who wants the soldiers home is the same as the fanatic shooting them in the desert. On the contrary, it is the fanatical ideologue who sent the soldiers there who shares the most with the fanatic trying to kill Americans, and whether he intends to or not it is he who empowers the fanatic and gives his life direction and meaning. In truth, the ideologue at home and the fanatical enemy he encourages through his own militancy need each other to thrive and to provide meaning for their shallow, empty lives.

The fact that patriotic Americans can grasp that interventionism is both contrary to our national tradition and dangerous to our country, and that we can perceive that Islamists will respond in a predictable, violent way to our interventionism, somehow taints us with a sort of stigma in Mr. Taranto’s warped imagination. As far as I can see, it only underscores that Mr. Taranto is a reckless and loud ideologue spewing venom across the Internet, while patriotic Americans are able to see the consequences of flawed and failed policies with the sort of “moral clarity” that Mr. Taranto and his friends talk about so much yet never possess.

If the goal of the present United States government were really to reduce terrorist threats to Americans, it would pursue policies that do not guarantee ever greater conflicts with Islamic terrorist groups. Reducing such threats through wise policy are not in the interests of the hegemonists or the pundits who shill for them in the media, because wise policies would eliminate the need for constant interventionism, ever greater state power and the projection of power into areas for the sake of foreign governments. Armed neutrality, the vigorous defense of our legitimate interests and the defense of our own country are the positive prescriptions that we propose in contrast to the servile, pathetic toadying to militarism and Israel of Mr. Taranto.

Commissar Taranto trolls the Web looking for ideological deviancy from his interventionist, pro-Israel militarism, and never ceases to grossly distort the views of his adversaries to make his point. It is an insult to any reasonable, thinking person that James Taranto is regarded as some sort of serious contributor to the pages of The Wall Street Journal by the editors of that paper. Many of their columnists and contributors hold profoundly wrong and objectionable views on any number of subjects, but most retain some basic, minimal integrity of a kind that tends to prevent them from slipping into the intellectual mire where Mr. Taranto resides.