Whither the enemy?

In his attack on the 'cultural Left,' Dinesh D'Souza perfects the art of scapegoating.

enemy book 88 298 (photo credit: )
enemy book 88 298
(photo credit: )
The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 By Dinesh D'Souza Doubleday 333 pages When wars lose popular support, the blame game begins. And so, in the United States, backers of President George W. Bush's occupation of Iraq now lambast "the Left" for undermining the war on terror - and giving aid and comfort to Islamic radicals. In The Enemy at Home, Dinesh D'Souza, the right-wing author of Illiberal Education and What's So Great About America, plumbs the depths of the art of scapegoating. The Left, according to D'Souza, "is responsible for causing 9/11." Al-Qaida zealots did not bomb the USS Cole, Khobar Towers and the World Trade Center because America supports Israel and anti-fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East. Since the United States "has virtually no history of colonial occupation" in the region, the focal point of Muslim anger is not American imperialism. Al-Qaida targets Americans because it believes "the Great Satan" is intoxicating Muslims with "the freedom of debauchery." And it's right, if not about America, then about the American Left. By "trying to eradicate every public trace of the religious and moral values that most of the world lives by," the Left has repulsed traditional Muslims, stoked anti-American sentiment and spread the conviction that the US deserves to be punished. The Left has also endangered homeland security by opposing the use of military force and exploiting civil liberties protections to thwart efforts to gather intelligence about potential terrorists. Through its control of mainstream media, the Left has "assiduously downplayed" the "remarkable progress" in Iraq - and made the US appear to be "a feeble giant, all tied up in knots and waiting to be struck." Because the "Left wants America to be a shining beacon of global depravity, a kind of Gomorrah on a hill," D'Souza concludes, it fears Bush, who has "existentially jeopardized" its social and cultural agenda, more than Osama bin Laden - and is willing to use the Iraqi insurgency to discredit and defeat the president. Despite his claims that "there has been no serious debate in America over the moral content of American popular culture," D'Souza recycles Reagan-era clich s, caricatures and canards about the Left as "guardians" of depravity. Champions of the morality of the "inner self," he writes, leftists seek to escape the constraints of all external moral authorities. They use free speech as a smoke screen to push their agenda. They're "active promoters and apologists" for pornography, defending Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, as a "delightful man." They think premarital sex is a "good that should be promoted," applaud confessions of immorality "as a hallmark of virtue" and adore abortion, feminism and gay marriage. They are internationalists, who want to use the American military as the "immorality police." To make his case, D'Souza takes an over-the-top quotation from someone - anyone - be it comedian Janeane Garofalo, blogger Ariana Huffington or British historian Eric Hobsbawn - and ascribes the content to a messianic, monolithic Left. He then makes some spectacular leaps more suitable to daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel. For tactical reasons, he insists, Hillary Clinton endorses a V-chip to enable parents to prevent their children from watching violent TV shows. But since she has never advocated an S-chip to help moms and dads monitor sexually explicit programming, D'Souza indicts her "indifference to the goal of protecting childhood sexual innocence," and asserts that "she's the person who horrifies Muslims the most." In the Alice in Wonderland logic of The Enemy at Home, feminism took hold in the United States because men discovered in it "a means to have sex with many women without having to support any of them"; Abu Ghraib was not about torture or prisoner abuse, tacitly encouraged at the top of the chain of command, but an isolated act of depravity by two soldiers, Charles Graner and Lynndie England, who were trying to experience the sexual fantasies of the cultural Left; and there can be no "moral objection to some other power stepping across the border and pushing out" a dictator like Saddam Hussein, who had no legitimate "right" to rule. Most importantly, D'Souza seems to believe that Islamic laws and traditions are superior to those of the secular, salacious, solipsistic societies of the West. He does not approve of honor killings and child marriages, though he does not explain why his views do not betray the same "ethnocentrism" he finds in leftist condemnations of Muslim practices. He deems censorship of all books and art work that portray immorality or explicit sexuality "too suffocating a standard." But he appears unperturbed by polygamy and the veiling of women, and almost ecstatic about the patriarchal family, in which single parenthood, divorce, working mothers, homosexuality, and abortion are discouraged or prohibited. Patriarchy, he claims, callously and incorrectly, "doesn't make women less powerful - it merely diverts their power to the domain of the household." Along with Bush and bin Laden, he's appalled that it's no longer the norm in the US. The Enemy at Home concludes with a flurry of recommendations, most of them improbable, impractical or downright dangerous. To defuse Islamic radicalism, D'Souza wants to realign the forces in the "clash of civilizations," with American conservatives allying with Muslim traditionalists against the cultural Left in the United States and Europe. And he urges the Bush administration to work with pro-democracy forces in Iran to overthrow the existing government. But D'Souza also supports self-rule for Muslims: "If they want sharia, let them have it." He does not, however, indicate how the will of the majority might be ascertained, or specify the circumstances, if any, under which the international community should intervene to protect human rights or the rights of minorities. A stranger to uncertainty, with a penchant for conflating the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq, D'Souza is convinced of one "sobering truth. In order to crush the Islamic radicals abroad, we must defeat the enemy at home." To identify that enemy, it's tempting to suggest he should not look left but straight ahead - into the mirror. The writer is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University.