Usually "public intellectuals" are supposed to add nuance to a discussion, but when it comes to al-Qaeda and 9/11, Christopher Hitchens has taken up a different motto: "Never, ever ignore the obvious," he writes for Slate. In this case, the obvious is this: Al-Qaeda is a "particularly odious group … sworn to a medieval cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, a religious frenzy against Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, and 'unbelievers,' and the restoration of a long-vanished and despotic empire."
This bears repeating after a decade of "half-baked obfuscations or distractions." We’ve seen "a perverse desire to say that the 9/11 atrocities were in some way deserved," a punishment for America’s foreign policy crimes—or, in Pat Robertson’s eyes, for its sins. Truther conspiracy theories abound, and not just on the fringe. Certainly, we shouldn't excuse US excesses like torture. But we also must remember a brutal truth, writes Hitchens: On Sept. 11, 2001, "there was a direct confrontation with the totalitarian idea, expressed in its most vicious and unvarnished form."