In attempting to understand 9/11, the first question asked by the world's elites — as exemplified by leading media and academics — was, "What did America do to provoke such hatred?"
Ten years later, the same people are still asking the same question. And it is as morally repulsive now as it was then. It was always on par with "What did the Jews do to antagonize the Germans?" or "What did blacks do to enrage lynch mobs?"
As long as people keep asking what America did to incite such hate, nothing will have been learned from 9/11.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred because of a law of human life that has been true since Cain killed Abel: The worst hate the best (and the second best and the third best and so on). Evil hates good.
The United States of America is a flawed society. As it comprises human beings, it must be flawed. But in terms of the goodness achieved inside its borders and spread elsewhere in the world, it has been the finest country that ever existed. If you were to measure the moral gulf between America and those who despise it, the divide would have to be calculated in light-years.
If the academic and opinion elites of the world had moral courage, they would have asked the most obvious question provoked by 9/11: Were the mass murderers who flew those airplanes into American buildings an aberration or a product of their culture?
As far as those elites are concerned, only the first explanation exists. The 19 monsters of 9/11 were, for all intents and purposes, freaks. They were exceptions, no more representative of the Arab or Islamic worlds than serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was of America. According to the elites, the hijackers happened to be Muslim — only in name, we have been constantly reassured — but were not produced by anything within Arab or Islamic society. Even to ask whether anything in those worlds produced the 9/11 terrorists — or Britain's 7/7 terrorists, or Madrid's March 2004 terrorists, or Palestinian terrorists, or the Taliban, or Hamas — is to be a bigot, or an "Islamophobe," the ingenious post-9/11 label to describe anyone who merely asks such questions.
It can be said, therefore, that not only has the world learned nothing from 9/11; it has been prohibited from learning anything.
The Muslim regime of Iran violently represses its people and (along with the Muslims of Hamas and of Hezbollah) vows to exterminate the nation of Israel. Muslim mobs murdered innocent people because of cartoons in Denmark. The Muslims of the Taliban throw acid in the faces of girls who attend school. Muslim mobs kill Christians and burn churches in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria and elsewhere. And we are told that the mere mention of these facts is an act of bigotry.
After 9/11, the normal and decent question that normal and decent people — people who fully and happily recognize the existence of vast numbers of normal and decent Muslims in the world — would have posed is this: What has happened in the Arab world and parts of the Muslim world?
But as this, the most obvious question that 9/11 prompted, has not been allowed to be asked, what lessons can possibly be learned?
The answer is, of course, none.
But that has not stopped our media and academic elites from drawing lessons.
And what are those lessons? One is that America — not the Islamic world — must engage in moral introspection. The other is that we must oppose all expressions of religious extremism — Jewish and Christian as well as Muslim, since, according to the Left, America's conservative Christians are as much a threat to humanity as are extremist Muslims.
Perhaps the best-known exponent of these non-lessons has been Karen Armstrong, the widely read religious thinker and former nun. She was invited to give a presentation on compassion at the nation's religious memorial service this past Sunday. And what was her message?
"9/11 was a revelation of the dangerous polarization of our world; it revealed the deep suspicion, frustration and rage that existed in some quarters of the Muslim world and also the ignorance and prejudice about Islam and Middle Eastern affairs that existed in some quarters of the West …"
There you have it: Muslims have rage and deep suspicion; the West has ignorance and prejudice.
If that's what the world learns from 9/11, those who died that day died in vain.