By John Stang
As the week progresses, the 9/11 tributes will grow in numbers. Most will take the theme of rememberance, relitigating the Bush administration reactionary policy decisions, or even try to decipher if we are safer than we were 10 years ago. By the end of the week, it will be pretty banal. One person who I can always count on for a fresh perspective is Christopher Hitchens. For his 9/11 tribute piece, Hitch decides to take on the public intellectual, or even professional academic, explanations for the tragic events almost a decade ago. Hitch finds the word “complexity” to be the facade we all hide behind in order to not acknowledge absolute evil. He notes:
To me, this remains the main point about al-Qaida and its surrogates. I do not believe, by stipulating it as the main point, that I try to oversimplify matters. I feel no need to show off or to think of something novel to say. Moreover, many of the attempts to introduce “complexity” into the picture strike me as half-baked obfuscations or distractions. These range from the irredeemably paranoid and contemptible efforts[MN1] to pin responsibility for the attacks onto the Bush administration or the Jews, to the sometimes wearisome but not necessarily untrue insistence that Islamic peoples have suffered oppression. (Even when formally true, the latter must simply not be used as nonsequitur special pleading for the use of random violence by self-appointed Muslims.)
Does complex academic, coffeehouse talk empower a discourse that makes excuses for a good old fashion black and white, evil perverts the good debate? My answer would be, that’s the purpose. A nuanced discussion of history allows for a chance to define trends that can predict the present (although that is difficult too). If we only talked about World War II through a prism of “The Nazi’s were evil and that’s why they invaded most of Europe” we won’t get very far. 9/11 happened for a multitude of reasons ranging from bad foreign policy decisions to complications in Islam. In fact, some of our policy afterthoughts might have been better served if we took a chance to analyze the situation in the Arab world a little better. Complexity is not an excuse, its an explanation.