Immediately after 9/11, Bush administration officials declared the motivation of the terrorists: that the terrorists hated America for its “freedom and values.”
In other words, the 9/11 attacks, according to President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and other U.S. officials, had absolutely nothing to do with the boiling rage in the Middle East over U.S. foreign policy.
Sure, the U.S. government had supported Saddam Hussein, even delivering to him those infamous WMDS , and had supported other corrupt, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, such as Iran, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
Sure, the U.S. government had killed countless Iraqis during the Persian Gulf War and intentionally destroyed Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants during the war after a Pentagon study determined that such action would help to spread infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people. (See: http://www.progressive.org/mag/nagy0901.html.)
Sure, the U.S. government enforced one of the most brutal and deadly systems of sanctions in history against Iraq for more than ten years, which succeeded in contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
Sure, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright had declared to the world on “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children had been “worth it.”
Sure, the U.S. government had stationed troops near Islamic holy lands knowing that such would antagonize people of Muslim faith in the Middle East.
Sure, the U.S. government continually provided unconditional financial and military aid to the Israeli government.
But no, according to Bush, Cheney, and their cohorts, none of this had anything to do with why people in the Middle East were boiling over with rage prior to 9/11. According to them, people in the Middle East were apparently either indifferent to all this death, destruction, and humiliation at the hands of the U.S. Empire or maybe even favored it.
You see, the mindset among the neocon community has always been: The U.S. Empire is incapable of doing anything morally or legally wrong to foreigners, especially to those living in the Middle East. The Empire is good per se. And anyone who suggests that the Empire’s actions motivated the terrorists is crazy, irrational, or just plain unpatriotic. Every normal-thinking American is expected to know that the Empire is all-good, all-caring, all-compassionate, all saintly, and all-godly.
One of the best examples of this mindset in the political arena took place in the first Republican Party debate in the 2008 presidential race — the debate that launched the presidential campaign of Ron Paul. When Paul declared in the debate that the terrorists are over here because the U.S. government is over there, he was met with absolute shock by his statist opponents. In their minds, suggesting that the U.S. Empire’s actions over there had motivated the terrorists was akin to heresy.
Now, let’s look at the case of Najubullah Zazi , who pled guilty yesterday to terrorism-related charges in U.S. District Court in New York.
Let’s examine what Zazi told the judge as to why he was motivated to commit terrorist acts against the United States: “I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan.”
Now, do you see anything about hating America’s freedom and values in that statement?
Well, actually a neocon would say “Yes!” because, you see, neocons consider imperialism and interventionism to be an integral part of America’s “freedom and values.”
But neocons are wrong. America’s heritage of freedom and values is based on the concept of individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic, not an interventionist empire that glories in support of brutal regimes, sanctions and embargoes, and invasions, undeclared wars of aggression, and occupations.
Zazi’s statement about what motivated him to commit terrorism against America was really no different in principle than what Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist bomber of the World Trade Center in 1993, said at his sentencing hearing two years later in U.S. federal court. He cited U.S. foreign policy, including the deadly sanctions against Iraq, not America’s freedom and values, as the motivating factor behind his actions.
When neocons claim that 9/11 changed everything, they are wrong. It didn’t change U.S. foreign policy at all. The invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with all the death and destruction they have wrought, were nothing more than a continuation of an imperialist and interventionist foreign policy, one that continues to motivate people to commit terrorist attacks against our country.