Of course, the ascetic bin Laden doesn't like American culture or values, including such far-left ideas as democracy or educating women, but he has a clear politico-religious agenda that's important to take seriously. You'd never know it from reading D'Souza, but bin Laden's February 1998 "Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders" -- the most considered summation of his casus belli -- laid out three main grievances for which al-Qaeda kills. First and foremost comes the post-Gulf crisis deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which are "occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories" and "using its bases in the peninsula as a spearhead to fight against the neighboring Islamic peoples." Second comes the supposed Crusader-Jewish alliance's "long blockade" of the Iraqis, designed "to destroy what remains of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors." Finally, America's anti-Muslim wars "also serve the petty state of the Jews, to divert attention from their occupation of Jerusalem and their killing of Muslims in it." See anything about Hollywood there?
D'Souza breezes past clearly articulated core al-Qaeda goals (such as toppling the "near enemy," as bin Ladenists call the impious regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt) to enlist bin Laden as an ally for D'Souza's side of the American culture wars. But the 1998 declaration bluntly states that "the purposes of the Americans" in their crusades against Islam "are religious and economic" -- not cultural. D'Souza is too busy projecting to really grapple with al-Qaeda's politics, strategy or ideological appeal; it's as if he read Mein Kampf and concluded that its author's main concern was not Aryan supremacy or genocidal anti-Semitism but distaste for Weimar theater.
For a Stanford fellow, D'Souza shows a surprising ignorance of the growing literature on jihadist ideology. One has to ask which is more likely: that such authors as Steve Coll, Lawrence Wright, Peter L. Bergen, Marc Sageman, Jessica Stern, Richard A. Posner and Bruce Hoffman could have scrutinized al-Qaeda ideology and somehow failed to notice that bin Laden's main beef was with America's corrupt cultural left, or that the grinding sound you hear off in the distance is D'Souza with an ax. Or consider the work of another heavyweight, Michael F. Scheuer, the tough-minded founding chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit, who advocates the massive use of the U.S. military as our principal tool for fighting al-Qaeda. (D'Souza, oddly, lumps him in with a bunch of lefties.) "Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us," Scheuer has written. "None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world." There's a feisty and interesting debate among terrorism specialists about whether Scheuer has the balances right, but "The Vagina Monologues" isn't high on any serious analyst's list of al-Qaeda grievances.
I saw D'Souza last night on The Colbert Report. He was just awful. In addition to the inanities about the cultural left, D'Souza tried to claim that all Republican Presidents have bravely and successfully tried to wage war against terrorism while Bill Clinton, naturally, failed. In addition to being utterly intellectually dishonest, such an assertion shows D'Souza's absolutely blind fealty to a Ronald Reagan who never was. There are lots of reasons and lots of justifications -- no one could have anticipated the rise of radical Islam, in the waning years of the Cold War there were bigger issues, and so forth -- but the reality is that no presidency set the table for the modern crisis than did Reagan's.
D'Souza is a fatuous hack whose jeremiads have pretty consistently been little more than ideological puff pieces for the right and hatchet jobs on the left. It appears that in this book, D'Souza has reached a nadir. Good for Bass for not flinching from rigorous criticism of such slipshod, dishonest work.