In his new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, Dinesh D’Souza attempts to invigorate and refocus the American reaction to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In The Enemy at Home, D’Souza argues that “the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.
As he was about to launch his book tour (The Enemy is released today), D’Souza took some questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Is the mess in Iraq the fault of Michael Moore?
Dinesh D’Souza: No, of course not. But if America loses the Iraq war we are less likely to lose it over there in Baghdad and more likely to lose it over here in the corridors of Congress. Michael Moore’s radical ideology — the insurgents are the Minutemen, they are the freedom fighters, and they will prevail! — has now come to center stage, where it is guiding the actions of the Democratic leadership. Look how the so-called centrist Democrats are caving in one by one to the Left. A huge enemy at home has emerged that seems determined to stop Bush’s war on terror, not because they like Bin Laden or Saddam, but because they hate and fear Bush more. It is Bush and his conservative allies, not Bin Laden and his radical allies, who threaten the Left’s most cherished values. And now suddenly the Democrats, as a group, find it in their interest to inflict a horrendous foreign-policy defeat on Bush and thus ensure that they walk into the White House in 2008.
Lopez: This weekend, a reviewer in the Washington Post summed up your new book as arguing “Falwell was onto something.” Is that a fair nutshell assessment?
D’Souza: Falwell’s point after 9/11 was that God was punishing America of its sins. My point is entirely secular: Why did the guys who did it, do it? Surely five years after 9/11, it’s reasonable to ask this question. And both the Right and the Left have been operating under illusions. The radical Muslims are against modernity and science and democracy. The radical Muslims are upset because of colonialism and the Crusades. It’s all nonsense. That’s not what the leading thinkers of radical Islam say. And Bin Laden’s own views are quite different. In his Letter to America, issued shortly after 9/11, he said that America is the fount of global atheism and it is imposing its morally depraved values on the world. So Muslims must rise up in defensive jihad against America because their religion and their values are under attack. This aspect of Bin Laden’s critique has been totally ignored, and it’s one that resonates with a lot of traditional Muslims and traditional people around the world. A second point is that unlike Falwell I don’t think “America” is to blame. Muslims in Indonesia and Egypt and Pakistan don’t see “America,” they see the face of American popular culture that is projected by our television and movies and music. They see the dimension of America that in their view corrupts the innocence of children, and undermines the family, and promotes homosexuality as a normal way of life. In fact, this is the America of the cultural Left. What the Left considers “liberating,” much of the world considers a scandalous assault on modesty and decency.
Lopez: Why shouldn’t I be offended by the suggestion that because I oppose abortion and gay marriage, I can easily ally myself with the mullahs in Iran? They would also kill a woman for fornication — I may be pro-abstinence but I stop way before sharia law!
D’Souza: Nobody’s asking you to ally with the radical mullahs in Iran. I’d like to see them all deposed. Our concern should be with the traditional Muslims, who are the majority in the Muslim world. These people are also religious and socially conservative, and they are our natural allies. In fact, since the cultural Left in America is de facto allied with the radical Muslims, we as conservatives have no choice but to ally with the traditional Muslims. We cannot win the war on terror without them. No matter how many Islamic radicals we kill, it’s no use if twice as many traditional Muslims join them. Now building bridges to this group doesn’t mean changing our way of life, and if we are conservative there is nothing that needs to be changed. Our values are quite similar to those of traditional Muslims. There’s no point chasing after “liberals” who believe in secularism and feminism and homosexual rights. Such people are quite rare and they have no constituency in any Muslim country. The traditional Muslims are our best bet. Besides, they’re not asking us to live like them. They’re asking us not to attack their religion, which conservatives do with depressing regularity. They’re asking us not to force secularism and separation of church and state on their society, another foolish cause to which some conservatives subscribe. And they would feel a lot better about America if they could see the “other” America, which is say, Red America, the America they don’t see on television, where people go to work and look after their families and subscribe to traditional values and go to church. Bush should project more of this America to the rest of the world, especially to the traditional cultures of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Lopez: What’s the “indignation gap”?
D’Souza: The indignation gap refers to the vastly different temperature with which leftists and their allies attack the Islamic radicals compared to their attacks on Bush. They usually say, “Granted Bin Laden is not a very nice guy” or “True, the man wishes us no good,” but then they proceed to attack Bush and the conservatives with unrestrained vitriol. Actually look at the Left’s uncontrolled fury toward my book. These people are going absolutely nuts. They have never said anything remotely this harsh about the Islamic radicals. That’s because I am attacking the Left’s values at home, and exposing a link between the Left and the Islamic radicals that is the great unspoken secret of American politics. Basically the Islamic radicals supply the terror and the Left uses the terror to demoralize the American people and urge them to pull American troops out of Iraq and the Middle East. So on the one hand the Left dislikes the values of the Islamic radicals, and on the other the Left needs the Islamic radicals to fulfill its core mission in America, which is to wipe out the Right and send us back to the margins of American politics.
Lopez: Could someone come away from your book think you’re more indignant toward Ted Kennedy than Osama bin Laden?
D’Souza: No. Certainly I prefer a tipsy incoherent Irishman to a Muslim mass murderer.
Lopez: You don’t like “war on terror” and “war on Islamic fascism” doesn’t sound right to your ear either. So what is it? Surely not a war against liberalism.
D’Souza: “War on terror” is a misnomer. It would be like calling America’s involvement in World War II a “war on kamikazism.” Terrorism, like kamikazism, is a tactic. And “Islamofascist” and “new Bolshevist” are misleading because those were Western ideologies with a largely atheist agenda. That’s why we used the term “godless Communism.” It’s understandable that we would take categories from the last war and project them onto our new enemy, but this is the classic error of ethnocentrism. What we face now is something very different, a war against Islamic radicalism. It’s a new kind of enemy with its own agenda and a critique of America that we certainly haven’t heard from the Nazis and the Communists.
Lopez: On Islam: It has been argued that the Koran itself is violent. That moderate Muslims, in fact, have to distance themselves from more than Osama bin Laden. Is it possible that you are part of the not-understanding-the-threat-we-face problem by suggesting that line of examination be shut down?
D’Souza: I’m not urging that any line of inquiry be “shut down.” I’m saying it’s foolish to blame Islam when Islam has been around for 1,300 years and Islamic terrorism has been a problem for the past 25 years. So is it even reasonable to blame Mohammad or the Koran? I realize that you can fish out this passage or that passage and make it sound like the Muslims want to convert or kill everybody. But that would be like taking passages out of the Old Testament to make Moses sound like Hitler. Besides, you have to look at what the Islamic empires actually did. There were Christians and Jews who lived under the various Muslim dynasties, from the Abbasid to the Ottoman. In fact, Jews were much safer in the Ottoman empire than in just about any of the Christian kingdoms, such as that of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain. The Mughals ruled northern India for 200 years. They could have forcibly converted the Hindus or killed all of them. But they did no such thing. So we have to be careful about simply describing a religion of one billion people as “violent.” This would be tactically imprudent even if it were true, but it is not true, so why repeat a canard that has the terrible effect of driving the traditional Muslims into the radical camp?
Lopez: Dinesh, you write that “American conservatives should join the Muslims and others in condemning the global moral degeneracy that is produced by liberal values.” Um, what would that coalition look like? Ahmadinejad and Pat Robertson? That’s not exactly a ticket anyone but David Duke will run to rally behind.
D’Souza: Already there have been working relationships between traditional Christians and traditional Muslims in the United Nations and some other international forums to block liberal efforts to declare abortion as a right under international law. In fact the U.N. Charter lists no such right, but this is part of the liberal campaign of cultural imperialism that is trying to force the values of the Western Left on the rest of the world. Planned Parenthood is distributing condoms to teenage girls on every continent. Leftist groups are suing to overturn restrictive abortion laws in South America. The Left is trying to force Turkey to liberalize its laws on homosexuality as a condition of joining the European Union. So here are opportunities for people who differ on theology but agree on morality to form an international coalition to block these bogus “rights” from being imposed on cultures that do not want them. I emphasize that I am not contesting any of the rights of classical liberalism. But this is a new liberalism that is trying to smuggle its own political preferences and call them “rights.” Come to think of it, hasn’t the Left been doing that here in this country for several decades now? Here are home we have to fight these bogus “rights” ourselves, but abroad we have the entire traditional world as an ally. Why wouldn’t we want that? This has nothing to do with putting Pat Robertson and Ahmadinejad together, and everything to do with forming coalitions among mainstream groups across international boundaries.
Lopez: Why would you write a book like this? Isn’t it bound to be incendiary? Do we really need more of that?
D’Souza: The debate over the war on terror has gotten predictable and tired. Same old stuff that isn’t producing any results, at least not for us. Consider this. Our best conservatives have been trying for several years now to convince the Left that the Islamic radicals are the most illiberal people in the world. Really, we say, Osama bin Laden doesn’t like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank. Having demonstrated this, we are then frustrated that the liberals don’t “get it” and climb aboard our bandwagon. But news flash: The liberals already know that the Islamic radicals don’t like them. They have made a tactical decision to ally with the radicals abroad to defeat the conservatives at home. No surprise that our great strategy has so far failed to produce a single convert. Isn’t it time to think freshly about all this?
Lopez: What’s the one constructive point you hope people can manage to take from your book?
D’Souza: Bush is fighting two wars, one against the enemy abroad and the other against the enemy at home. There is no way to win the second war without winning the first war. The book spells out why this is critical and how it can be done.
Lopez: What are the odds Bill Maher (who you, of course, have some post-9/11 history with) has you on about this book?
D’Souza: Hey, I’d love to go one-on-one with Bill, who is a very sick man but also witty and smart. I think he’s one of the few guys on the cultural Left who has the guts to actually debate these issues. That’s more than I can say about some of these academic reviewers who are very muscular when they are launching attacks from their offices, but they never want to debate you, and on the rare occasions when this does happen, it’s like one hand clapping.