Dennis Roddy: Hysteria 101: History Of 9/11

Roundup: Talking About History

History is an asymmetrical mess. The past foretells the future; the future arrives and, often enough, exposes the past as an amiable fraud.

The history of Sept. 11, 2001, was explained, for instance, on Dec. 29, 1913 when William A. Dunning stood before the annual meeting of the American Historical Association and caught hold of a luminous ray of truth.

"If the lesson of the past is sought as a guide to any policy," Dunning said, "the lesson that is learned and acted upon is derived from the error that passes as history at the time, not from the truth that becomes known long after." In short: "The deeds of men have been affected more by the beliefs in what was false than by the knowledge of what was true."

Romans went to battle convinced that two boys, suckled by wolves, founded their city. Medieval kings justified their tyranny from biblical accounts written centuries after the fact. Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian prime minister, wanted to start a war so he carefully edited an account of a conversation between his king and a French ambassador so as to provoke the French into war. They bought it and, around the fresh corpses of the Franco-Prussian War grew the German empire that, the year after Dunning spoke, would help destroy Old Europe in World War I.

Now, with another old order scattered in bits from lower Manhattan to outer Shanksville, and American soldiers scraping through Iraqi cities where they were supposed to find weapons of mass destruction but now must deliver a package called Arabic democracy, error and misapprehension seem to have etched almost every border across which our people and others see each other.

It is no longer enough for us to be entitled to our own opinions. Now we're entitled to our own facts.

The men of 9/11, from Osama bin Laden to the 19 hijackers -- 15 of them fellow Saudis of Osama -- grew up in an educational system that teaches that the United States is in thrall to a world conspiracy of Jews. They studied textbooks that included class discussion questions such as, "With what types of weapons should Muslims arm themselves against the Jews?" and "Who will be victorious on the Day of Judgment?" One eighth- grade textbook explains that Jews and Christians, known as Kufar, were cursed by God and turned into apes and pigs.

An accompanying religious text used in the Saudi middle schools includes this advice: "It's allowed to demolish, burn or destroy the bastions of the Kufar and all what constitutes their shield from Muslims if that was for the sake of victory for the Muslims and the defeat of the Kufar." Their state-sanctioned newspapers include columns that say Jews use the blood of Gentiles for their Purim foods. Four months ago, Saudi television interviewed an Egyptian historian who explained that the World Trade Center was blown up by a controlled explosion orchestrated by the U.S. government at the behest of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches.

This is our trade ally, Saudi Arabia, which has financed this bizarre educational system since the 1970s. Even as it condemns bin Laden, it continues to fund the schools from which he drew young men who strap on bombs, walk into bustling subways and detonate themselves with the expectation they'll be in heaven in two minutes flat.raced.

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