President Bush has said that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were motivated by hatred of freedom, democracy, and Western values. However, so far the results of the investigation into the attacks do not support Bush’s thesis. The overwhelming weight of the evidence establishes that the attacks were instead motivated by the continual war that the U.S. government has waged against Iraq for the past 10 years, the permanent occupation of Islamic holy lands by U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. government’s 10-year embargo against the Iraqi people.
As the mainstream press is widely reporting, in two pronouncements issued in 1996 and 1998, Osama bin Laden himself stated that these were among the primary reasons for his open declaration of holy war against the United States.
Moreover, everyone agrees that the hijackers were Muslim religious fanatics. Under their religion — Islam — suicide and the murder of innocent people are mortal sins that condemn the transgressor to Hell. No matter how much a religious fanatic might hate another person’s lifestyle and values, how logical is it that he is going to commit an act that condemns him to Hell?
What then could have been going through the minds of the religious fanatics who killed innocent people by crashing the planes in which they themselves were traveling? They undoubtedly shared the same mindset as bin Laden: that they weren’t committing suicide or murder but instead engaging in self-defense in a holy war against aggression, that is, against the U.S. government’s continual 10-year war against the Iraqi people. Under Islam, dying in self-defense in a holy war guarantees the person immediate entry into Heaven.
Since the U.S. government’s bombs and embargo have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis (a point hardly anyone disputes), in the minds of bin Laden and his followers they have the “right” to come to the assistance of the Iraqis by counterattacking the United States.
Why didn’t the terrorists limit their targets to U.S. government installations? At first, they did, through attacks on such targets as U.S. troops overseas, the USS Cole, and U.S. embassies, which in turn motivated the U.S. government to target bin Laden for assassination a few years ago, as the New York Times recently reported.
For some unfortunate reason, the U.S. government failed to alert and warn the American people of how truly nasty this little war was becoming. Ultimately, Bin Laden raised the stakes by openly declaring that he was extending his holy war to American civilians. His “justification”? He openly said that since the U.S. government’s embargo was killing tens of thousands of Iraqi children (a point confirmed by the United Nations), those deaths gave his side the “right” to target American civilians as well.
There are those who argue that nothing justifies what the terrorists did in New York and Washington. Agreed, but that’s not really the point. The point is motivation, not whether the resulting actions are meritorious or valid.
There’s another reason that Washington policymakers might not want the issue of motivation addressed: Once it’s confronted directly, an obviously uncomfortable question arises: Were they worth it? Were the no-fly zone and the embargo worth the lives of 6,000 Americans? Indeed, are they worth the lives of potentially thousands of more Americans as well as a fundamental altering of our daily way of life?
There are those who undoubtedly would respond in the way they have responded for the past 10 years to suggestions that the continuous 10-year war against Iraq was ultimately going to result in terrorist retaliation against Americans: “Yes, of course they’re worth it because Saddam Hussein is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.” They are unable to explain, however, how keeping Iraqi planes out of parts of the Iraqi skies and how killing tens of thousands of Iraqi children with an economic embargo impedes Hussein from achieving such a goal.
There is an obvious way to pull the rug out from the terrorists’ own “justification” for more terrorist attacks against Americans: Immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and end the bombing and embargo against Iraq, even while striving to bring bin Laden and his cohorts to justice. That would leave the religious fanatics in the uncomfortable position of risking Hell through suicide or murder of innocents if they commit more terrorist attacks against Americans. Anything less, and anything more than bringing the malefactors to justice, will only continue putting the American people in harm’s way.