Victor Davis Hanson

After 9/11, many leftists cited American faults that supposedly accounted for Osama bin Laden's savage attack.

The late Susan Sontag, for example, justified the terrorists' suicide bombing: "Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?"

But there were also those on the right who argued that the jihadists' furor was payback for our own sins.

Rev. Jerry Falwell pronounced that America the godless had gotten what it deserved: "Pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle . . . I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

Now there is another angle to the "blame America" game, this time from the secular right. In his book "The Enemy at Home," Dinesh D'Souza, of the Hoover Institution (where I work as well), charges that our decadent culture turns off traditional Muslims — otherwise the potential allies of American conservatives — and often renders them sympathetic to jihadist rhetoric.

He then goes further, arguing that the cultural permissiveness and obscenity of our leftists indirectly created a bin Laden. Now in a de facto alliance with the terrorists, the left, according to D'Souza, plots an end to traditional America.

D'Souza's solution is for conservatives here to embrace conservative Muslims, in a shared struggle against both the American left that misrepresented us and the jihadists who now misrepresent them.

But D'Souza's strained effort to fault millions of Americans for 9/11 proves no more convincing than was Susan Sontag's or Jerry Falwell's.

First, he libels a number of "domestic insurgents" who "want bin Laden to win." His list is nonsensical. Whatever one may think of the wisdom of Jimmy Carter or the late Molly Ivins, or of intellectuals like Tony Judt, Martha Nussbaum and Garry Wills, none of them wanted al-Qaida to defeat the United States — a victory that would have ended liberal tolerance here.

The novelist Salman Rushdie is also posted on D'Souza's proscription list. But why would the author of "The Satanic Verses" wish the jihadists to prevail when he himself was nearly killed as the object of an Iranian fatwa?

Second, D'Souza should reread al-Qaida's rambling complaints against the United States. They are just as often incoherent as they are angry at American decadence.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.