Weinstein is ignoring the evidence

One would have thought that reiterating the consensus view of every expert would have been enough to override Jamie Weinstein’s neoconservative ideological intransigence. But in a rebuttal to my column correcting him on al Qaeda’s motivations for 9/11, he declines the opportunity to succumb to the evidence.

But he says he is willing to learn.

Eager to discover the roots of al Qaeda’s grievances with U.S. foreign policy, Weinstein asks, “Which Muslim country was America forcibly occupying before 9/11?” A simple answer: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

But it doesn’t end there. If we use the broader definition favored by the University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, occupation can also arise as a grievance when the United States props up an unwanted dictatorship in these Middle Eastern countries. I mentioned this in my last piece, citing none other than the Department of Defense: “The United States finds itself in the … potentially dangerous situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the U.S. these regimes could not survive.”

Finally, Israel has been occupying Palestinian land since 1967. This is made possible by lavish U.S. support. Think of this as occupation by proxy.

Pape has his academic focus in suicide terrorism. As he wrote in 2003, “Suicide terrorist attacks have recently been employed by Palestinian groups in attempts to force Israel to abandon the West Bank and Gaza … and by Al Qaeda to pressure the United States to withdraw from the Saudi Arabian Peninsula.” Occupation is the motivating factor.

Weinstein makes the claim that propping up brutal dictatorships isn’t a bad thing when al Qaeda calls us out on it. Okay, is it fair game when overwhelming majorities of ordinary people in the Middle East also cite such policies as contemptible?

Weinstein then dodges the facts about U.S. policy towards Iraq before 9/11. He fails to respond to the fact that the U.S.-led sanctions regime imposed on Iraq directly led to the death of over a half a million children, and many more total. If he can’t admit this policy, which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously said was “worth it,” was a grievance of al Qaeda and Arab Muslims generally, I’m not sure what will convince him.

Osama bin Laden himself has mocked Weinstein’s view that al Qaeda wasn’t motivated by aggressive U.S. foreign policy. In a 2004 speech, he said “contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom … No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression … it had never occurred to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind.

If al Qaeda was motivated by a hatred for freedom, bin Laden said, “then let him explain to us why we don’t strike, for example, Sweden?”

And what did Abu al-Jaraah al-Ghamidi, one of the 9/11 hijackers, say before flying a plane into the World Trade Center? “What is happening in Muslim countries today? Blatant occupation about which there is no doubt … There is no duty more obligatory after faith than to repel him.”

And Hamza al-Ghamdi, another hijacker? “And I say to America: If it wants its armies and people to be safe, then it must withdraw all of its forces from the Muslim lands and depart from all our countries. If not, then let it await the men, prepare its coffins and dig graves for its citizens.”