Progressive Writers Bloc

Why 911?

By Merrily Davies

After the 9/11 attacks, I was horrified when our president asked in all earnestness, "Why do they hate us? We're good." My thoughts were, "My God, you're president!!! Why don't you know????" Although the question is incredible for its ignorance on the part of a sitting president, it is critical that we understand that many people DO hate us and why they hate us. It is imperative that we ask the question seriously and not allow it to be brushed aside.

The answer we were given by our president, recently reaffirmed by Condoleezza Rice, is that they were "cowards" who "hate freedom" and hate us for "who we are". That kind of talk is both crazy and dangerous. Even terrorists don't "hate freedom." They may hate what we do, but they don't hate who we are. And anyone willing to die for their cause, no matter how misguided, is not a coward. These answers were designed to dehumanize the enemy for propaganda purposes. That the press and the media have accepted these answers uncritically is gross negligence.

The questions the Commission of 9/11 is asking are simply questions of timing and priorities: What did the president know, and when did he know it? Never the question,"Why did it happen?" These attackers were religious men pursuing what in their eyes was a holy cause. What could motivate them to give up their own lives and justify before God the taking of thousands of innocent lives?

Osama bin Laden, in his "Letter to America," November 2002, spelled out his reasons for fighting against the US. His statements have been ignored in the mainstream media, but it is critical to hear what he has to say if we are to understand him. To understand is not to justify, but NOT to understand because we refuse to listen is both arrogant and foolish. In his "Letter to America" he does not claim credit for 9/11 but he does spell out the issues causing him to fight against the U.S. The letter is lengthy, but here are some of the reasons he gives. "Hating Freedom" and "hating who we are" are not among them.

The first reason he gives is US and Israeli occupation of Palestine and suppression of the Palestinian people. The state of Israel was originally created by pushing Palestinians off their land, creating a nation of refugees. Whatever the merits of creating a homeland for the Jews, this action came at a terrible price. 780,000 Arabs were expelled from their towns and farms. This land had been in Palestinian families for generations. There are now 3.4 million Palestinians crowded into the West Bank and Gaza living under a military occupation designed to strangle their economy. One in ten Palestinian children are mentally deficient because of starvation. Current Israeli policy, if it were happening anywhere else in the world, would be condemned as "ethnic cleansing". The US is implicated because we not only tolerate Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians; we subsidize it. Israel is our largest recipient of foreign aid, by far. Wouldn't we Americans struggle for our land and our right to exist under this kind of tyranny?

Another reason he gives are the sanctions placed on Iraq after the First Gulf War, which blocked medicines and chemicals needed for water purification. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million innocent Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions. What actions would we Americans take if our own precious children were dying under similar circumstances? When then Secretary of State Madeline Albright was questioned about these figures she didn't deny them. Rather, she said, "It was worth it." One can almost hear the same words coming from the lips of the 9/11 hijackers.

Another reason is the ongoing American military presence on sacred Arabian soil. The US installed a corrupt government in Saudi Arabia which is kept in power, over the cries of the Saudi population, by US military aid. If we were being ruled by a totalitarian government installed and maintained by a foreign power, what would we do?

Is there any substance to Osama bin Laden's charges? Absolutely. These people don't "hate who we are," they hate what we do. Does this justify the violence of 9/11? In their eyes it does; in our eyes it doesn't, but that is not really the point. What is critical for us to understand is that for us to impose our will on the world through overwhelming military force is to invite violence in return. Since they can't compete with us, head on, with conventional warfare, they will come at us any way they can. Our moralizing about it won't stop them.

The question we need to ask is, "Is it worth it?"

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