D’Souza’s dishonesty

In his post this morning over at AOL News Bloggers, Dinesh D’Souza vows to take care of all outstanding family business in a forthcoming response to the conservative critics of his rotten new book. He promises to demonstrate the vast ignorance of conservative critics including New Criterion editor Roger Kimball (who reviewed D’Souza’s book in the March 5 issue of National Review), D’Souza’s Hoover Institution colleague Victor Davis Hanson (who wrote a critical column about D’Souza’s book), and me (in this essay).
D’Souza refers to “the lectures I am getting on Islamic theologiy and practice from people like Roger Kimball (editor of a literary magazine), Victor Hanson (an expert on ancient Greece) and Scott Johnson (a lawyer who blogs in his spare time).” Yet none of the named critics of his book takes up the subject of Islamic theology or practice. You can read Hanson’s column and my essay for yourself; the gist of Kimball’s review is that “the real issue is not religion, but politics.” D’Souza is apparently not inclined to provide an honest account of his critics’ disagreements with his book.
The dishonesty appears in ways large and small in his book. Here I will cite only one small example of his dishonesty that I noticed in his treatment of sources. D’Souza is extremely highhanded in his use of evidence, such as bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war, his 1998 declaration, and his 2002 letter. D’Souza devotes a chapter (chapter 8) to liberal foreign policy, criticizing the foreign policy of Jimmy Carter for delivering up Iran to Khomeni and the foreign policy of Bill Clinton for responding weakly to attacks against Americans during his administration. Consistent with his thesis that “the cultural left” is responsible for 9/11, D’Souza goes out of his way to absolve Ronald Reagan of any “responsibility” for conveying the perception of weakness that fostered Islamic radicalism:

It is important to recognize that bin Laden developed this theory of American weakness during the Clinton years. It was Clinton, after all, who ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Mogadishu. Islamic radicals had a very different view of the United States during the Reagan years. Although Reagan had ordered the pullout of American troops following the 1982 embassy bombing in Beirut, Muslim radicals recognized that Reagan was a strong leader.

D’Souza does not acknowledge evidence directly to the contrary, such as this statement from bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war:

Few days ago the news agencies had reported that the Defence Secretary of the Crusading Americans had said that “the explosion at Riyadh and Al-Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by coward terrorists”.
We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk can induce a grieving mother to laughter! and shows the fears that had enshrined you all. Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed.

Or this statement from the May 1998 interview with bin Laden by ABC’s John Miller:

“We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia.”

And the immediate cause of bin Laden’s rage in both his 1996 and 1998 manifestos is the American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia by, well, by the administration of George H.W. Bush. D’Souza asserts, however, that bin Laden’s demand for the removal of American troops “must be understood in a metaphorical sense.” Why?

This threat to Islam cannot be due to American troops in Mecca, since there are no American troops in Mecca. The American base in Saudi Arabia is more than 500 miles from Islam’s holy sites, and the troops there rarely venture off base and have nothing to do with Saudi society.

On the other hand, perhaps Osama bin Laden’s thought process differs from that of D’Souza. Perhaps he considers Arabia sacred ground. Perhaps a reader might benefit from taking into account the title of bin Laden’s declaration of war: “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” But D’Souza never does bother to cite the title of the declaration in his book. And anyone who reads the declaration for himself will find that its outrage over the American “occupation” of Saudi Arabia appears to be quite literal. D’Souza is simply not a trustworthy guide to the evidence.