Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush and other U.S. officials immediately proclaimed that the terrorists were motivated by their hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”
Let’s examine that position in light of two important events that took place in 1993, some eight years before the 9/11 attacks.
In 1993, the United States was hit with two terrorist attacks, right here on American soil.
Let’s examine those two terrorist attacks and determine whether they were motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values.” Let’s also examine the actions that U.S. officials took in the wake of those two terrorist attacks on American soil.
The first terrorist attack took place right outside the national headquarters of the CIA in Langley, Virginia. A Pakistani man named Mir Aimal Kasi went on a shooting rampage along the road that adjoins the CIA, killing and wounding CIA agents who were turning their cars into the CIA facilities.
The other terrorist attack occurred at the World Trade Center, the same place that one of the 9/11 attacks would take place eight years later. One of the people complicit in the attacks was a man named Ramzi Yousef, a man born in Kuwait whose parents were Pakistani.
What motivated Kasi and Yousef to commit these acts of terrorism? Was it hatred for America’s “freedom and values”?
No. Both Kasi and Yousef clearly communicated their motives to U.S. officials, and their motives had nothing to do with America’s “freedom and values.”
In a prison interview with CNN, Kasi stated, “I was real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people.”
At his sentencing hearing in U.S. district court, Yousef angrily said to the federal judge: “Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it as long as it is against the U.S. government and against Israel, because you are more than terrorists; you are the one who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars, and hypocrites.”
Do you see anything in those statements about America’s “freedom and values”?
Interestingly, neither Kasi nor Yousef was treated as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism.” Kasi was indicted, prosecuted, and convicted for murder by the state of Virginia, given the death penalty, and executed. Yousef was indicted, prosecuted, and convicted for terrorism in federal district court and is now serving a life sentence.
So, as early as 1993 — eight years before the 9/11 attacks — the U.S. government was put on notice of the deep anger and hatred that was welling up in people in the Middle East, owing to the U.S. government’s policies in that part of the world.
What were the things that were angering people to such a deep extent? There were several: (1) the Persian Gulf intervention, where the U.S. government killed countless Iraqis; (2) The U.S. government’s intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants after determining in a formal study that this would spread infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people; (3) The deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi children from the sanctions; (4) Financial and military support of the Israeli government; and (5) Financial and military support for brutal Middle East dictatorships.
So, what did the U.S. government do in the wake of this knowledge — that its policies were engendering deep anger and hatred for the United States? Did it reevaluate and change direction?
Nope. On the contrary, U.S. officials became more determined than ever to continue and even expand the very policies that had motivated the 1993 terrorist attacks. From 1993 to 9/11, there were, in addition to the actions cited above: (1) U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement that reverberated all over the Middle East that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it”; (2) The stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands, knowing full well what effect that would have on Muslim sensitivities; (3) and the no-fly zones over Iraq, which had been approved neither by Congress or the UN, which regularly killed more Iraqis, including children.
Not surprisingly the retaliatory terrorist attacks continued between 1993 and 9/11. For example, there was the terrorist attack on the USS Cole and the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa.
So, why didn’t the U.S. government change direction? Once U.S. officials realized, as far back as 1993 and continuously thereafter, that its policies in the Middle East were producing a cauldron of boiling anger and hatred for the United States and retaliatory terrorist attacks, why didn’t it simply put a stop to such policies?
In January 2001, nine months before 9/11, Chalmers Johnson’s book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire was published. U.S. officials had to be aware of Johnson’s book, given that Johnson was a renowned scholar who had served as a consultant to the CIA from 1967 to 1973.
In Blowback, Johnson predicted that unless the U.S. government changed its Middle East policies, there would be a major terrorist attack on American soil.
Unfortunately, none of this was sufficient to cause U.S. officials to change the direction of U.S. foreign policy. Knowing full well what the risks were and acting in conscious disregard of them, U.S. officials just continued the same deadly and brutal policies that had engendered the anger and hatred that had produced the pre-9/11 terrorist attacks.
Thus, when the 9/11 attacks occurred, people like Chalmers Johnson were not surprised.
But U.S. officials couldn’t have been surprised either. For years, they had been placed on notice — orally, in writing, and through actual terrorist retaliation — of the consequences of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
So, why weren’t President Bush and U.S. officials forthright with the American people immediately after the 9/11 attacks? Why didn’t they just admit that the 9/11 terrorists were motivated by hatred for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East? Why did they come up with the false notion that the terrorists just hated America for its freedom and values?
The last thing that Bush and other U.S. officials wanted Americans to do is focus on what U.S. officials had been doing in the Middle East in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, when the Cold War came to an end. They wanted Americans to believe that the U.S. Empire had simply been minding its own business after the end of the Cold War and that the 9/11 attacks had come out of the blue.
In that way, U.S. officials could continue doing what they were doing in the Middle East and even expand it. The 9/11 attacks, for example, were seen as an opportunity to do what 11 years of deadly sanctions (and a massive death toll among Iraqi children) had failed to accomplish — regime change in Iraq involving a military invasion. President Bush and other U.S. officials knew full well that most Americans would be too frightened to challenge or question them on the WMD threat supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein.
Not surprisingly, given that it was much the same thing as before, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the U.S. government’s torture and prison camp in Cuba, would engender a continual river of rage that would make the U.S. Empire’s new “war on terrorism” a permanent and perpetual war, one that would assure ever-increasing revenues for the military-industrial complex and the CIA.
Now that the U.S. Empire has ended its occupation of Iraq and now that Americans are demanding an end to the Empire’s occupation of Afghanistan, it’s time for Americans to begin reflecting upon and reevaluating the much bigger picture — that is, U.S. foreign policy in general and specifically in the Middle East, the U.S. government’s massive empire of foreign military bases, all foreign aid, foreign interventionism, the war on terrorism, and the drug war, along with the ever-growing death, destruction, financial and economic chaos, and infringements on privacy and liberty that have come with them.