If Only We’d Listened to Sirhan Sirhan

Sometimes left-wing commentary is just ignorant; other times it is deeply contemptible. This opinion piece by one Michael Fischbach, a professor at Randolph-Macon College, is in the latter category. It was originally written for–surprise–the Los Angeles Times, and was reprinted by the ever-clueless Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Fischbach’s thesis is that the United States missed an opportunity to learn from Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. “I can explain!” Sirhan had cried, but we failed to heed his “warning about the costs of [America’s] foreign policy.” Here is the issue as Fischbach sees it: “Did we miss an important, early opportunity to draw important conclusions about the political backlash we might experience as a result of U.S. policy in the Middle East?”
The fact that Fischbach himself is a professor of modern Middle Eastern history does not prevent him from engaging in the grossest factual distortions: “Kennedy was shot one year to the day after Israel launched the 1967 war.” Israel “launched” the 1967 war in the same sense that the United States “launched” World War II in the Pacific when we fired on a Japanese submarine that was steaming into Pearl Harbor.
Fischbach lumbers to the predictable, tedious conclusion about Sirhan and his fellow murdering Arabs: “I fear that once again the nation is missing an opportunity to address the hard questions posed by violent acts associated with its role in the Middle East. Who knows where we might be today if we had learned different lessons from the tragedy of June 1968? Have we already missed the lesson of September 2001 by invading Afghanistan and now Iraq?” How do you like that delicate locution? Terrorist crimes are “violent acts associated with [America’s] role in the Middle East.”
Here is what I really fail to understand: Why is it that these apologists for terrorism uniquely consider Arab crimes to be valuable lessons that we are too dull-witted to grasp? I mean, no one has ever said that John Wilkes Booth made a good point about Lincoln’s policies toward the South. No one has ever argued that Lee Oswald’s assassination of President Kennedy should cause us to re-evaluate our policy of containing Communism. When Leon Czolgosz murdered President McKinley, no one inferred that we should take a more positive view of anarchism. But somehow, with each new Arab atrocity, people like Professor Fischbach can be counted on to argue that what might superficially appear to be a vicious crime is, on a more sophisticated view, a valuable lesson in history and American foreign policy. I just don’t get it.

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