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.”
As Michael Scheuer, former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, wrote, “These attacks are meant to advance bin Laden’s clear, focused, limited and widely popular foreign policy goals,” namely ending U.S. aid to Israel, ending support of Arab dictators and withdrawing troops from their lands.
Nothing about killing infidels or orchestrating a global caliphate. Just a response to U.S. foreign policy.
In order to maintain his nationalist adoration of America, Weinstein bypasses all of this evidence and more. It pains conservatives to think for a second that America has implemented harsh, violent and misguided foreign policies that may have angered some people.
I set out to disprove the baseless notion that al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 for any reason other than in response to aggressive foreign policy toward the Muslim world. But the broader point is much more important than that. That is, we are sowing the seeds for more terrorism in our post-9/11 actions.
Since then, the U.S. has invaded Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, deposed its dictator (who we used to support) and set up a client state that is sliding towards dictatorship, ruining civil society and torturing its prisoners.
The Iraqi government has just re-opened the stalled court case investigating an incident in 2006 in which U.S. troops summarily executed an Iraqi family, shooting in the head one man, four women, two children and three infants. This incident occurred the same year the National Intelligence Estimate found that the Iraq war was “breeding deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”
Ninety-two percent of Afghans have never even heard of 9/11. For them these are unprovoked abuses. For Washington, they are necessary parts of the war on terror. For Americans, they are embryonic terrorist threats.
Meanwhile, we continue to support Israel’s illegal activities in the occupied territories and continue to pay and weaponize some of the worst dictators in the region. The empire of bases only grows, provoking further resentment.
If Weinstein’s mythical view of terrorism remains as widespread as it is, U.S. foreign policy will continue to breed more of what it ostensibly fights against. And Americans will continue to be critically endangered for it.
John Glaser is the assistant editor of Antiwar.com.