Whatever happened to John le Carré? Renowned as the author of spy novels with a literary sensibility, he has become a fire-and-brimstone preacher of that poisonous creed: anti-Americanism. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he has bitterly criticized the United States for what he sees as its belligerent response. In a blistering opinion piece that made waves around the world, he accused the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush of using Sept. 11 to launch an unnecessary war against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
There is nothing wrong with that. Many people opposed the war. Mr. le Carré, an intelligent man with a broad knowledge of world politics, has every right to question Washington’s conduct. “The war on Iraq was illegitimate,” says a character in his recent novel, Absolute Friends. “It was a criminal and moral conspiracy. . . . It was an old colonial war dressed up as a crusade for Western life and liberty, and it was launched by a clique of war-hungry Judeo-Christian geopolitical fantasists who hijacked the media and exploited America’s post-9/11 psychopathy.”
That clique of American Christian evangelists and Zionist zealots is every bit as dangerous as the Islamic extremists grouped around Osama bin Laden, le Carré told The Globe’s Alan Freeman in London recently. “So please don’t fall into the trap of believing this is a battle between the civilized and uncivilized world.”
But he falls into another kind of trap. Throughout the Cold War, the era that inspired his most successful novels, many Western intellectuals insisted there was little or no difference between the Communist Soviet Union and the democratic United States. Moscow may have had Joseph Stalin, but Washington had Joseph McCarthy. The Soviet Union may have prevented Jews from emigrating, but the United States hindered blacks from voting. And so on.
The same thing is going on today. Mr. le Carré is only one of a host of writers who claim that the oil-hungry, God-crazy, power-mad United States is the most dangerous force in the world today. That is the kind of nonsense that only an intellectual could believe. U.S. conduct since Sept. 11 has been far from perfect, but its response is motivated by a genuine fear of the very real danger posed by international terrorism, not by oil or power lust or religious zealotry. To suggest that George W. Bush, with all his faults, is in the same moral league as Osama bin Laden is to enter a Looking Glass world. If there was ever a “fantasist” in this world, it is John le Carré.