From the Left



Foul Spirit: George W. Bush Mourns 9/11 and Warns of Our Jihadis Within

Jeff Robbins on

The president whose fate it was to summon the best of America after al-Qaida's murderous attack on us 20 years ago delivered a powerful warning on Saturday about the menace posed by the worst of America. "We have seen growing evidence," former President George W. Bush noted at the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, memorial to the heroes of United Flight 93, "that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home, but in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to befoul national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them."

The marking of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was a painful, apt moment seized by Bush to speak pointedly about the peril in which some of our own countrymen have placed our country, a peril every bit as real as that which we face from enemies overseas. His remarks were especially resonant coming from a Republican president, the son of another Republican president, addressing the poisoned and the poisonous within the Republican Party, who threaten our future in ways as worrisome as Middle Eastern jihadis.

Indeed, many of them are themselves jihadis of a fashion: insurrectionists, white supremacists, ultra-right-wing fanatics and just plain nut cases. A tiny fraction of their number stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 bent on overthrowing a democratic election and keeping an American Mussolini in power. But hundreds of criminals do not represent the breadth or the depth of the problem: These individuals are supported or embraced by millions of our fellow citizens.

The leaders of both political parties readily agreed that the catastrophe of Sept. 11, 2001, required a bipartisan investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attack. Supported by Bush, Congress established the 9/11 Commission to answer these questions: Who organized the attacks and who carried them out? What security failures and what intelligence-gathering inadequacies contributed to the success of these attacks? What had to be done to guard against future attacks? The importance of ascertaining the facts was a no-brainer.

Either America has changed a great deal in the 20 years since both parties sought answers to questions about an assault on our homeland, or a massive rock has been lifted, revealing a whole lot of ugly underneath. It turns out that it isn't merely a fringe that is prepared to indulge a homegrown neo-fascist mob, but a substantial slice of the country. The rise of the same kind of domestic extremism that we have watched consume other countries threatens to consume ours. So it is that a bipartisan investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, every bit as much of a no-brainer as the 9/11 Commission, was blocked by an overwhelming majority of Congressional Republicans, who had themselves supported nullifying the election in order to keep then-President Donald Trump in office.


Just hours before we commemorated 9/11, the information requested by the House Committee appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate Jan. 6 began to arrive on Capitol Hill. The Committee seeks evidence from government agencies, certain individuals in Trump's inner orbit and social media companies in order to shed light on how the attack came about, who instigated it, who facilitated it and who failed to stop it. A political party that truly cared about American values would want the answers. The Republican Party, however, isn't and doesn't. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's threat to retaliate against those who provide the information sought by the Committee is a sober reminder that the GOP is more nearly the party of Don Corleone than of Lincoln.

Bush's speech in Shanksville will no doubt stoke the hatred of the American jihadis that he warned us about. But honoring the heroism of those who did America proud on Sept. 11 was just the moment to remind us that we face not only grave external threats, but also grave domestic ones.


Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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