By Gary Olson
In the wake of the despicable atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, I authored an opinion piece in which I argued that painful as it was to write or read, 9/11 was “blowback” for a long trail of abuses perpetrated by the United States in pursuit of a misguided notion of “national security.”
While people around the globe — including the Muslim world — grieved at our loss and condemned these crimes against humanity, the opportunity was there to reconsider our nation’s position and behavior in the world. That opportunity was quickly and shamelessly squandered in the rush to manufacture enemies.
Under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” the U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan. This despite the fact that the evidence, including Deepak Tripathi’s recent book Breeding Ground: Afghanistan and the Origins of Islamic Terrorism, the most authoritative and insightful study on the subject, traces the cause squarely to Soviet and U.S. invasion and occupation.
In 2003 Iraq was attacked, although it had no connection to the hijackers. Both U.S. wars are projected to cost a minimum of $1.42 trillion. And as national affairs writer Chris Harmon notes, because the $1.2 trillion annual expenditure on national security has been (purposely) misspent, they have engendered more hatred toward the United States, making us less rather than more safe and in the process contributing significantly to our budgetary shortfall.
Today, as the 10-year observation of the attacks approaches, most Americans are still unable or unwilling to face up to the motives behind 9/11. That truth, as two authors recently put it, is that the driving force, the overwhelming grievance uniting the conspirators was Palestine. The young Arab hijackers hoped the attack would awaken Americans to “the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel.”
Why then wasn’t this crucial finding mentioned in the official 9/11 report? According to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, key commissioners resisted because “linking U.S. support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qaida opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy.” For domestic (read Israeli lobby) and geopolitical foreign policy reasons that was impermissible.
Task force cites U.S. intervention
In 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield commissioned a task force to examine the causes of terrorism. Their study concluded that: Muslims do not “hate our freedom; but rather, they hate our policies,” and specifically, “American direct intervention in the Muslim world.” Examples included Washington’s “one-sided support in favor of Israel” and sustaining tyrannies in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” and foremost “the American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Political scientist Robert Pape’s exhaustive study, funded in part by the Defense Department, attributed suicide terrorism since 1980 to one common cause: foreign military occupation. When the foreign forces leave, “it takes away almost 100 percent of the terrorist campaigns.”
Seven years ago, CIA analyst Michael Scheuer wrote that Osama bin Laden was “… precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on the U.S. (He) is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world.” Given that U.S. actions have further radicalized Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan, Washington’s less than enthusiastic response to the Arab Spring and Libya’s oil fields soon to be under control of Western companies, bin Laden’s dreams are largely being fulfilled — even after his assassination on May 1, 2011.
We shouldn’t expect those with a moral blind spot when it comes to Israel or policymakers intent on maintaining control of the region’s fossil fuel to change their behavior. But the moral and material costs for the rest of us in letting them get away with it are intolerable. For me, working to change these policies would be a worthy living memorial to the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.
Gary L. Olson is chairman of the political science department at Moravian College in Bethlehem. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[A version of the article was also published in The Express-Times on September 9 2011.]