Hit & Run

Amis on 9/11


Over at the London Times, Martin Amis, son of Lucky Jim author Kingsley, offers a discursive take on 9/11, religion and Islamism, with a brief digression on the American penchant for abbreviation. Sample:

The rolling creed we call Islamism is also an embrace of illusion, as indeed is religion itself – a massive and multiform rearguard action, so to speak, against the fact of human mortality. Our own performance, in what we may limply but accurately call the struggle against those who use terror, has also shown signs of mass somnambulism and self-hypnosis. This is true at the executive level, insofar as the Iraq misadventure (and much else) is a corollary of the neoconservative "dogma"; and it is true on the level of individual response. Six years later, we are all still learning how to think and feel about September 11.

Amis, an old hand at The New Statesman, holds no brief for the Iraq War, despite his close friendship with Christopher Hitchens, but neither does he have patience for those blinded by "moral equivalence":

The answer I gave was, I thought, almost tediously centrist. I said that the West should have spent the past five years in the construction of a democratic and pluralistic model in Afghanistan, while in the meantime merely containing Iraq… At this point I started looking from face to face in the audience, and what I saw were the gapes and frowns, not of disagreement, but of disbelief. Then a young woman spoke up, in a voice near-tearful with passionate self-righteousness, saying that it was the Americans who had armed the Islamists in Afghanistan, and that therefore the US, in its response to September 11, "should be dropping bombs on themselves"! I had time to imagine the F16s yowling in over Chicago, and the USS Abraham Lincoln pumping shells the size of Volkswagens into downtown Miami – in bold atonement for the World Trade Center, for the Pentagon, for United 93, United 175, American 11, and American 77. But then my thoughts were scattered by the sound of unanimous applause.

Whole piece.

NEXT: The Heart of Pinkness

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  1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Abe Lincoln is an aircraft carrier and doesn't put shells into anything except incoming missiles via her 20mm CIWS.

  2. I hate it when I come in second in the pedantry race... but I'll console myself by pointing out that the biggest current naval gun fires shells that weigh about 1/20th a Volkswagen. (The guns on the DDX, when it finally comes into service, will up that to about 1/8th.)

  3. It would have helped if that article had been readable.

  4. NeonCat,

    The guy is obviously confused; those "shells" were probably Tomcats from VF-213 - or as we called them, "the Sea-Lions" (they tended to crash into the sea a lot). :@

    BTW, one of the aircrew from that fine squadron who cratered while showing off in front of family members ~1996 lived in the stateroom next-door to mine.

  5. Hopefully that ernest young woman was hit by a bus and killed after the meeting.

  6. Authors from the UK usually get into trouble when they start referencing weaponry. A few years back Clive James (yes, I know, originally an Aussie) came to speak at a local university and decried US foreign policy as "like a belt-fed, automatic penis."

    Across the audience, you could hear many people wondering aloud just what could be so wrong about a belt-fed, automatic penis.

  7. After the overlong abbreviation rant comes a hypersimplistic rant by a centrist swiping at hypersimplistic anti-American lefty dingbats, and done with a typical militant atheist with-Islam-so-hated-I-can-score-semi-ignorant-antireligion -points style. And he does so by spouting barely informed mideast and modern Islamic or Islamist history (Islamism owes inspiration to Bolshevism and Nazism?? What ignorance, despite general similarities among oppressive systems, or bin-Laden's latest Chomsky kick.)

    Give home-grown religious ideological thugs the credit of their own totalitarian roots with their own local root ingredients. There's bit of good stuff too in Amis' thing (so as not to be hypersimplistically overcritical.) Just not much there to see, and poorly well-written.

  8. Pieces like Amis's always give me the impression that the writer wants to convey his eminent seriousness more than to actually make an argument of any kind. Yeah, that woman's point was stupid and offensive, but how many people in the Western world really think American forces are just as bad or comparable to violent Islamic fundamentalists? Not very many. Even Noam Chomsky doesn't think that.

    Iraqis, on the other hand, seem to be a lot more receptive to that idea.

  9. But the emotionally shaping event, one is forced to deduce, was the establishment of the Jewish Homeland. In the war fought to bring that about, Israel, occupying 0.6 per cent of Arab lands and with a proportional population, defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Trans-Jordan, together with the supplementary forces of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

    In the other 99.4 per cent of Arab lands, this event is known as al-nakba: the catastrophe. And that epithet hardly overstates the case. The "godless" Soviet Union, after a comparable reverse, might have fallen into troubled self-scrutiny; but what does it mean for peoples who sincerely believe that an omnipotent deity is minutely attentive to their desires and deserts?


  10. A point I'd like to toss in regarding the "moral equivalence" argument: if the West is more civilized and less opressive and violent than the Muslim word, it's not because Jesus is better than Mohammed (sorry, David Limbaugh, et al); it's because the former is less tainted by fundamentalism. In other words, the West is better because it's more secularized.

    Just wanted to get that out there...

  11. I like his fiction better.

    ...except for that "Yellow Dog". Ugh!

  12. We're supposed to say "FWD" instead of "Four-wheel drive"? Why didn't anyone tell me?

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