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The attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, lit up the global landscape. Not only in these two cities, but wherever the news and the pictures reached during the first hours after the planes struck-all over the planet, therefore-there were people quickly able to make out features of the contemporary world that they had not previously taken in, or taken the measure of fully, things that challenged their earlier expectations and existing frameworks of understanding. Not, however, in one quarter. With a section of the Western left, the response was as if everything remained just as it had always been. Leave aside the callousness in much of the left's response toward the human dimension of the tragedy; but in explaining the crime of 9/11 the same thin categories that had been deployed in one conflict after another during a decade and more were instantly pressed into service. Imperialism and blowback-that was pretty much all one needed to understand what had befallen the citizens of Manhattan, the passengers on the planes, and the workers at the Pentagon, and there were accordingly people content to describe the attack as a comeuppance. The crime that so brutally illuminated the contours of the international political landscape thus revealed at the same time a frozen structure of concepts and assumptions. With the aid of it, many on the left shielded themselves from realities they didn't want to see or to assign their proper weight. In what follows I comment on some aspects of this theoretical nexus.