why they hate us
September 13, 2001 4:00 PM   Subscribe

why they hate us Attack on freedom? On liberty? How about retaliation against the biggest bully on the planet? It's our turn to learn how the other half lives. excuse this if it is a double post; I didn't find it in search and it's an important article thanks meg
posted by christina (81 comments total)
i think looking at this sort of reasoning is going to be a big part of our healing. Simply saying these people did this because they hate us isn't enough. We need to understand why they hate us.

I know lots of people are going to say this is the wussy way out, and we have to show our might...america can't back down...blah, blah, blah.

But this might actually make people look at the class struggle around the world. This could really be the beginning of the struggle of the workers of the world uniting against the country that keeps them in poverty so we can have $80 sneakers.
posted by themikeb at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2001

This certainly is a very fashionable stance at the moment (at least in forums like these). How apalling that those in love with the "sophistication" of their own thought never imagine that they might be full of shit.

The notion that America is responsible for every evil of the Third World is coterminous with the thought that poor nations are like children. That Pakistan spawned the Taleban while America supported Pakistan does not make America responsible for the Taleban -- or do we deny the autonomy of every country except the U.S.?

Believe me, I have many times lamented the blunted errors the U.S. has made in foreign policy. But just look at how much authority, blame, hope and rage the rest of the world grants to the U.S.

This European-style condescension towards the U.S. should be flushed with your berets and every other totem of sophomoric pretension.
posted by argybarg at 4:17 PM on September 13, 2001

I'm having a hard time responding positively to the idea that, now that "they" have attacked us, we are obligated to listen to what they have to say. Why do you allow the actions of despicable pieces of garbage to convince you to lend them an ear?

As far as I'm concerned, they spit in our face. Conversation over.
posted by dr_emory at 4:19 PM on September 13, 2001

The fact that the American government has announced that the war on terrorism will be a sustained effort by all the countries of the world means it is aware of the need for international discourse.

Or are you too eager to point the finger on a nation whose military and economic might are so great anything it does greatly affects world events -- for good or bad?

The United States has many foreign policies. Will you accuse it of being an imperial power, given in its history what it has accomplished for humanitarian effort? No, let's just point at all the bad it has done, shall we?

This is a world struggle, and it is recognized thus. That the American public will want military retaliation will probably be appeased in some way, but not without international support.

That article is inflammatory and as always, narrows its scope to the point where only the ugly parts show.

Cast the first stone.
posted by linux at 4:22 PM on September 13, 2001

The reason we have to listen is, if we don't, our reaction will just be the fuel for more terrorism.
posted by benbrown at 4:23 PM on September 13, 2001

I don't get it. How is this important? And what justifies the hate?
posted by tomplus2 at 4:24 PM on September 13, 2001

i thought this kind of explained stuff:

We used the Third World (and I do mean we -- even if you didn't support it, we all payed taxes to support it whether you wanted to or not) as chess pieces in the Cold War. This geopolitical game of chess destroyed nations and killed millions of lives. It has tragically disrupted the lives of several billion people, and turned once self-reliant cultures into those begging children you see in those Save the Children commercials. Now we are all paying the price. The game is over, but the pieces haven't finished. Russia has to deal with Islamic fundamentalists who want to splinter the Russian Federation and just plain get revenge on them for Afghanistan. We have to deal with Saddam Hussein, the theocracy of Iran and the Afghani "freedom fighters" like Bin Laden. All cases of blowback.
posted by kliuless at 4:27 PM on September 13, 2001

I'm having a hard time responding positively to the idea that, now that "they" have attacked us, we are obligated to listen to what they have to say.

We are obligated to listen because we can use all our might to destroy their bodies, their homes, and weapons, but no bomb is going to change a person's mind.

It will only increase their rage and resolve. And unless we want this to become a never ending cycle of violence, we have to examine this side of the problem of terrorism.
posted by themikeb at 4:29 PM on September 13, 2001

This article says we bombed Iraq without consulting the UN. Bullshit.

As argybarg said, its become very fashionable to blame this atrocity on America's past "transgressions". Don't buy the hype.

We are at war. It's only a little while before our weapons have a target to lock on.
posted by owillis at 4:29 PM on September 13, 2001

benbrown, I think in order for that to be the case there would have to be something that we could do to appease those who hate us. I think the hatred of America in that region of the world goes beyond something that could be changed by any realistic shift in American foreign policy.

Let us not forget that quite a few of those who hate us (esp. in Afghanistan) are illiterate and impoverished. They don't read Newsweek. They have no educated, impatrial opinion because their governments supress freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and in effect, freedom of thought. A big part of why they hate us because their leaders (religious and otherwise) tell them to.
posted by dr_emory at 4:30 PM on September 13, 2001

It's a good presentation of the "other side." Mandatory reading, so long as you understand that this is a presentation of a particular point of view rather than an attempt at objective analysis.

The West, and the U.S. specifically, has had to make a large number of tough choices over time. And while reasonable people can disagree over which policies were wiser than others, I reject the idea that we should have done nothing regarding Israel, Soviet expansion, Kuwait, etc.

In the analysis of the currenbt situation, an action intended directly to kill thousands of innocents is inexcusable.

struggle of the workers of the world uniting against the country that keeps them in poverty so we can have $80 sneakers

This is just silly. The U.S. does not act to impoverish anyone. We pour tons of money into aid and relief efforts, from the Marshall plan onward. People who understand real (i.e. non-Marxist) economics know that other people's enrichment enriches everyone.
posted by marknau at 4:30 PM on September 13, 2001

It may be oversimplistic, but here's the analogy I see:

Uncle Sam - big, rich, strong, a bit oblivious - strolls down the street, the same one he's strolled down for years. In those years, he's made friends, had fights, and tried to break up some fights. On one particular day, Mr. X, a smaller, weaker man who feels he was wronged by Sam in the past runs out from behind a bagel stand and stabs him in the side - then runs away.

Why in the world would Sam stop at that moment, bleeding in the street, to take Mr. X's motives into consideration? What difference could it possibly make?

Maybe, someday after Mr. X is held accountable, he'll take some time to reflect on how he's seen in the neighborhood, what he's done in the past.

I'm no global fan of US policy, but there is NO possible way you can convince me that "we had this coming". Nobody deserves this sort of action, not us, not Afghanistan, nobody.
posted by kokogiak at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2001

Yep, kliuless. There couldn't be a trouble in the world or a lunatic with a weapon that isn't our fault. We must be the only real nation on earth.
posted by argybarg at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2001

while we're all too well aware of all the evils we americans are sooo dangerously guilty of, this kind of rhetoric really gets my goat at times like these... the proverbial finger-pointing that somehow we 'asked for it.' it's so easy and fashionable to do, isn't it? be happy when someone else "gets it," and to do so at such an appropriate and opportune time! what follows is an interesting aside gathered from a mailing list. i forget whom first quoted it, but thanks to that person.

while i'm by no means saying that we are bereft of some of the evils that spawn on throughout the world, i think a bit of perspective here as to whether or not we're really that 'big baddy' on the planet.


Widespread but only partial news coverage was given recently to a remarkable editorial broadcast from Toronto by Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian television commentator.

What follows is the full text of his trenchant remarks as printed in the Congressional Record.

"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth.

Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of these countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.

When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the United States that hurries in to help. This spring, 59 American communities were flattened by tornadoes. Nobody helped.

The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, warmongering Americans. I'd like to see just one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplane. Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tri-Star, or the Douglas DC10? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all the International lines except Russia fly American Planes?

Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or woman on the moon? You talk about Japanese technocracy, and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon - not once, but several times- and safely home again.

You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at. Even their draft-dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, and most of them, unless they are breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from ma and pa at home to spend here.

When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke.

I can name you 5000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I'm one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of those."

posted by eatdonuts at 4:34 PM on September 13, 2001

owillis: Target? Do you mean the network of terrorists woven into most societies in the world, or do you mean mistrust of American motives and hatred for the US's past actions? Is that what we're going to bomb?

There's not a camp of bad guys here. There's not a country we can starve & demolish. There's an ideology that will only intensify if we make ill-conceived military moves.
posted by droob at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2001

ah yes. the US imperialism argument. 100 years ago, British soldiers would've been drinking tea in a palace in Bagdhad. Its not quite as if the tanks of democracy have just rolled over the world. Maybe we should just conquer through a grand system of flags.
posted by jbelshaw at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2001

i'm not saying it's our fault, argybarg. it's just like you said, "the blunted errors the U.S. has made in foreign policy." i think they just sort of add up and spiral out of control sometimes.
posted by kliuless at 4:39 PM on September 13, 2001

that editorial is real, but it was given in 1973.

the only reason to figure out why people are angry is to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
posted by rebeccablood at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2001

droob: we get the terrorists first - all of them, whether by bomb or gun or knife. Then we will move on to bring peace.
posted by owillis at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2001

This viewpoint is not "fashionable". It wasn't thought up yesterday by black-clad coffeehouse denizens trying to be hip. It's a legitimate, well-thought-out, valid argument that's been a sticking point for years with many people.
posted by droob at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2001

The U.S. is a victim of its own way of life. By granting freedom to all and sundry they allow enemies of freedom to come to the U.S. and destroy Americans. American people are, by and large, big-hearted, kind and tolerant. But - this goes with niceness, I'm afraid - they are much too naive. They have no idea how much other nations hate and envy them. Even here in Western Europe! So imagine in the Arab countries. Apart from the UK, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Holland I think most Europeans can't stand your guts.
This is tremendously ungrateful and unfair.

It's time the U.S. adopted the strict immigration policies that now exist in the European Union. For murderers to come in, use your resources(flight schools!)and then use your freedom of movement and expression to kill their hosts is sickening.
Without the U.S. - and the whole American people, who include many millions who are against U.S. policy and freely help the Third World - the world would be a much poorer and repressive place.
So quit the self-flagellating, please, for the sake of all of us. Keep it for times of peace.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:44 PM on September 13, 2001

this is actually a perspective that many people outside the US has. why would you think the US is different from other countries suffering the tragedy of terrorism? I think the pain of the US people now is equal to the pain that many countries on war have suffered trough years and years of violence.
posted by papalotl at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2001

No, the USA didn't "ask for this", but in any investigation when the assailant is unknown, the first thing you look at is the victim's life and behavior to try to understand why someone might want to hurt them-- just to reiterate, in part, what I said yesterday.
posted by Zettai at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2001

i think another issue at stake here is the sanctions we took up against iraq at the end of the persian gulf war. yes, saddam hussein is a truly frightening individual who should not have the control he does. however, denying the innocent people of iraq the food and medical services they so desperately need is genocide on the level of the wtc bombing.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2001

Interesting reading every one's comments here. Thats all I can say. And the reason is that once again, without giving some thought to the "theory", bright, intelligent Americans have once again stood up out right against it.

Not one of you, not one, has given attention to the lack of knowledge you people have of the world outside USA.

Ignorance is topped by arrogance.

I wish, I could only wish, that Americans being at the top of the world, had acted like World Leaders, Big Brothers, instead of acting as Super Cops.

In the end, its only LIFE that has lost. On both sides. US will attack Afghanistan for sure, perhaps some other countries too, because it has to. It will have to. Revenge will be taken. Because Americans need to move on. To watch sopranos and drink there beer. We all have to.

What happened on Sep 11, 2001 has changed the face of the world. Changed how we view it. More "terrorist" attacks will occur. Civil liberties will continue to be taken away. Arrogance will win. Humanity will loose.

God Help Us All
posted by adnanbwp at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2001

I saw this article in the Guardian today and have spent the ages looking for it, thanks for finding it! Did anyone see Question Time on the BBC btw? The same question was raised on it..

Now, my comment..

The US has had some very severe lapses in its foreign policy - look at Congo: all those who have died from the civil war. Look at the sanctions in Iraq - can you justify the thousands of children dying there? Look at Palestine.. Without US support, are you really telling me that Israel could keep up its occupation of the Westbank? People hate the US in these countries. They have no problem with you Americans - they hate your country, thats all - to these people (illiterate, living in terrible conditions due to sanctions/war), all you are is the bully that has funded or directly caused their suffering.

This doesn't make America all bad. America has done many good things. This is a terrible thing to happen to anyone - no matter who they are. Human lives are all equal, I would equate the death of one Palestinian civilian to that of an American - anyone argue with me on that one?

America must realise it can't keep such an insular stance. It has built itself up to one of the most powerful nations in the world, if not the most powerful (hey, China has a bigger army than you..) - it may not be possible to make everyone love america (hey, people get jealous), but at least stop things like the senseless starvation of the Iraqi kids..
posted by Mossy at 4:49 PM on September 13, 2001

I love this country and always will. But I recognize the fact that we have been involved in some nasty business around the world. Civil wars. Manipulatation of foreign governments. You handle rattlesnakes long enough sooner or later you're going to get bit.
What happened was a tradgedy even more so because in the last 50 years we have been graced with leaders of such high caliber. Martin Luther King jr. The Dali Lama. Ghandi. Nelson Mandela and Desmon Tutu and the list goes on. What would they counsel?
posted by keithl at 4:49 PM on September 13, 2001

Droob, actual serious question here. Not rhetorical. I'd like to hear your answer.

In both Northern Ireland and Israel, there have been periods of relative opposition and relative appeasement by the "offending" side vis-a-vis the "terrorist" side.

Why is it that appeasement-driven policies don't seem to stop the terrorist incidents?
posted by marknau at 4:49 PM on September 13, 2001

Without the U.S. - and the whole American people, who include many millions who are against U.S. policy and freely help the Third World - the world would be a much poorer and repressive place.

sorry but I just can't think of Latin America being more repressive without Pinochet, Fujimori, Videla and other beautiful sweet people that the US financed.
posted by papalotl at 4:50 PM on September 13, 2001

Aaah @ Immigration.

What would the US had been without Immigration. How many "Americans" can trace their roots to 200 years back with ancestors born in the USA. Were their ancestors always in the USA.

Why are medical colleges from India, Pakistan, Mexico filling in American Hospitals with qualified, American tested Doctors and Surgeons ?

Why is there such a shortage of trained and experienced ppl in Information Technology ?

Engineers, scientists, doctors, architects etc. All of us. Are we not Americans ? Some one said on Fox News yesterday "why arent all the Immigrants being rounded up and deported."

Because we are Americans. We who either were born here after our parents immigrated or who immigrated ourselves.

What would America have been without Immigration ?

As I said, Ignorance is only topped by Arrogance.

God Bless You.
posted by adnanbwp at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2001

marknau: because there is a great deal of cultural ignorance on both sides of the argument. The media and government perpetuate the idea that both "sides" are distinct, opposed groups. Outsiders are often baffled to see apparently similar groups killing each other over differences only they can see, differences that are miniscule compared to the humanity we all have in common. In both Israel and Ireland, the warring factions feel too deeply entrenched in conflict to back off, but a shift in perception would allow them to do so instantly.

The US/Middle East situation is a bit different; we're geographically and economically distant. Politics and behavior, not ideology and "race", are at the root of our problems, so they'll require a modified set of tools to amend.
posted by droob at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2001

"What happened on Sep 11, 2001 has changed the face of the world. Changed how we view it. More "terrorist" attacks will occur. Civil liberties will continue to be taken away. Arrogance will win. Humanity will loose."

Humanity will only lose if we stoop down to their level.
posted by jcterminal at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2001

jcterminal: Public opinion and official statements show that, sadly, everyone's ready and willing to stoop ASAP.
posted by droob at 5:08 PM on September 13, 2001

Is there any doubt in your mind that we will do just that, jcterminal?
posted by Optamystic at 5:11 PM on September 13, 2001

What makes this stance about the US "fashionable" isn't its newness. It's the blind consensus (and even in a minority blind consensus is dangerous). When everyone nods their heads in unison I get nervous.

History is stocked wall-to-wall with famine, military dictatorships, wholesale slaughter, suffering over territories. Yet somehow, during the past 50 years, the entirety of suffering on the planet falls on the head of the U.S. Does it ever occur to anyone that this may have reasons other than incontrovertible fact? Does it ever occur to anyone that this may in fact be purest expression of arrogance to believe that America is the world's sole moral agent?

And as for America's famous "ignorance" of the rest of the world -- Europe's intimate familiarity with its gypsy population hasn't prevented it from damned near a millenium of concerted misery rained on the gypsies' heads. Its cosmopolitan knowledge of the nations of Africa and S.E. Asia didn't forestall some perilously ugly imperial occupation.

Should the Jews of 1930s Europe have developed a litany of their historical sins as a means of "understanding" why Nazis hated them? Tuesday's actions were on a moral level with the Nazis.
posted by argybarg at 5:14 PM on September 13, 2001

september 11, 1973 was also a terrible day for my friend Consuelo. She and her boyfriend Pablo were in highschool and were planning to get married. A right wing dictatorship took over Chile that day, killing the president of the nation. Pablo dissapeared. Consuelo heard he was tortured and killed in the National Stadium with a few other hundreds of people. over the next 10 years more than 10K people were tortured or killed and buried in the sea. That was one of those "bad foreing policy choices" of the US. I am sorry this ever has to happen to anybody. You are not alone in your tragedy. A world outside your borders have been feeling this agony for decades.
posted by papalotl at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2001

I don't think that this article says that the US deserved to be attacked. It is pointing out that many Americans, including the public face of our leadership, seem clueless to our country's role in world affairs. It's especially apparent in our newscasts, which have basically offered no context in which to place this tragedy. It's just the tragedy. There's no why and/or how attached. There's no history. We did support bin-Laden (www.msnbc.com/news/190144.asp). People should know that, and know the context of the attack, not just assume that the "other" is consumed with blind hatred. What's the point in that? It just compounds the problem.
posted by kittyloop at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2001

I'm equally amazed at people in other countries who assume that Americans are clueless dorks who sit around drinking beer and watching HBO.

We know the world hates us. Tough. We'll stand on our principles regardless. We'll continue to support democracy, equal rights, and freedom of religion. We'll continue to promote those values around the world.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2001

And for any clueless, beer swilling Americans who don't know why Bin Laden hates us, here's the nut shell version:

He hates us because the Saudi government allowed our troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. Which he says taints the whole place.

This is why his supporters hate us enough to try and kill 20,000 civilians.

Fine. Now we know. Hello? Can we kill him now?
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:30 PM on September 13, 2001

y6y6y6: Now who's making knee-jerk assumptions?

We're not playing Beowulf to his Grendel. It's not black and white.
posted by droob at 5:32 PM on September 13, 2001

In both Northern Ireland and Israel, there have been periods of relative opposition and relative appeasement by the "offending" side vis-a-vis the "terrorist" side. Why is it that appeasement-driven policies don't seem to stop the terrorist incidents?

One has only to look at the Middle East at this very moment to see plainly the fruits of "retaliation-driven" policies. The cycle of terrorism and counter violence is merely that of two serpents devouring one another.

Let us not suppose we can quell fire in the long term by pouring more fuel upon it.

We export arms and terror along with our caramel colored sugar water. And we're getting a return on our "investment". Now. Today.

People in America are calling for blood. Members of this forum are calling for blood. How are they different from Osama Bin Ladin? Hijackers killed thousands of innocents. How have our missiles and "sanctions" been different? How will they be different when loosed again by we Americans? How has our cowardice...how will our cowardice... be any less when we send our young to kill and die in our names?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:35 PM on September 13, 2001

Right attitude, y6y6y6!
But remember that the third of the world who doesn't hate you - still quite a lot of us - love the U.S.A. to bits. Not just like and admire - love, feel part of you.
This often goes unremarked and should be said outright.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:36 PM on September 13, 2001

Then where is the difference between 'promoting' and 'forcing'?

I'm all for those values, and I support them; but I don't like to think that those values are any better than anyone else's, and that I should take a moral high-ground to promote them to anyone else, whether they want them or not.

Anyways, values have no meaning to people like Osama. He is a killer, plain and simple - and he just needs a reason to kill, ragardless of any justification. He needs to be brought to justice.
posted by mkn at 5:36 PM on September 13, 2001

America sure as hell didn't support democracy or equal rights when they took Chile from it's democratically elected leader and handed it to Pinochet.

That's one in a long series of gigantic foreign policy gaffes. These gaffes have killed thousands. The thousands killed have parents, children and friends who have bones to pick with the US.
posted by websavvy at 5:40 PM on September 13, 2001

America bad! No, America good!


For the author to place the blame for all of the evils of modern society on American imperialism in the second half of the twentieth century is intellectually vapid, though cloaked behind a veneer of sophistication.

Just look at the fact that the guy quotes Gandhi - but do we hear of the fact that centuries of European colonialism are every bit as much to blame for the current world inequities as American imperialism? Of course not, because it's much more convenient to the argument to have a short memory, while simultaneously accusing Americans of having an even shorter one.

Sure, I wish Americans were more aware of the atrocities that have been committed in their name. But though it doesn't excuse them, let's also point out that a lot of the steps taken by the United States were taken to confront Nazism and communism. Would the world be a better place if America had not done those things? I'm not so sure.

And this argument aside - no matter whether you hold up America as a beacon of freedom or codemn it as a world aggressor, killing thousands of innocent people in peacetime is morally indefensible.
posted by Chanther at 5:48 PM on September 13, 2001

Sorry, websavvy, but foreign policy gaffes are not assassinations. Gaffes don't kill. People do. I.e., don't blame the U.S. for what Pinochet did.
Although it's true U.S. foreign policy has been often disastrous - look at all the unsavoury regimes U.S. administrations have backed(and now attack, probably with the same shortsightedness) - it was no worse than that of other Western powers. The struggle against communism led to many excesses - but, in the end, it was right.
It is anyway grotesque to mention foreign policy decisions, made by democratically elected governments, when discussing insane and pointless massacres by crazy fanatical people-haters.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:49 PM on September 13, 2001

values have no meaning to people like Osama

Or one could argue that Tuesday's attack was driven entirely by bin Laden's values, by his belief that the death of Americans is justified in his war to remove the American presence and Isreal from the Middle East.

Statements like "He is a killer, plain and simple - and he just needs a reason to kill, ragardless of any justification" show a glaring ignorance of what we're facing here. bin Laden isn't killing just anyone, he's waging a targeted war on Americans for specific reasons based on his beliefs.
posted by megnut at 5:49 PM on September 13, 2001

Your point, megnut?
posted by argybarg at 5:51 PM on September 13, 2001

y6y6y6 - We'll continue to support democracy (like we supported the Shah in Iran, Latin American dictators, the Royal Family in Saudia Arabia, yes), equal rights (like we supported them by defending South Africa's apartheid for years?), and freedom of religion (like we support the Taliaban with millions of dollars in financial aid while they destroy their own country?).

Our support of our fundamental freedoms worldwide has often been thrown away for "realpolitik" reasons of combating communism. If we were fair and consistent, we wouldn't be hated, even if we were envied.

You're dead right about why Bin Laden hates us, but that isn't why he finds it so easy to raise funds and find people willing to die to hurt us.

Perhaps we had to do the things we did to destroy the greater evil communism, but we are now reaping the whirlwind. I only hope that at least some Americans take the time to learn WHY we are hated instead of lashing out blindly. We should destroy Bin Laden, but we should also repair the damage we have done to prevent the next Bin Laden's from stepping into the vacuum we would leave.
posted by jonnyp at 5:53 PM on September 13, 2001

I agree with jonnyp-- can't we hunt down terrorism AND rethink some aspects of our foreign policy? Why does it have to be one or the other?
posted by eric anders at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2001

To generalize with statements like "these people have no values" or to call this a "senseless act" or to state that bin Laden "just needs a reason to kill" fails to understand what some of the deeper issues are here. This attack was coordinated by an intelligent, highly-organized, well-funded group of people. My point? Know thine enemy.
posted by megnut at 6:04 PM on September 13, 2001

"But for every "terror network" that is rooted out, another will emerge - until the injustices and inequalities that produce them are addressed."
-Seumas Milne

A nice touch at the end of this bit of base apologism: the ominous rhetoric of a bomb threat, a ransom note, a terrorist manifesto. This is not analysis or even opinion journalism. It's an opportunistic gotcha, a smirking "I told you so," a self-righteous, demagogic sneer over the bodies of thousands of innocents. Nice.

The roots of this event are dark and twisted and should be unearthed--and our complicity in sowing its seeds is evident. But to suggest that this particular act of evil--and those which Mr. Milne ominously/hopefully warns will follow--was as organically inevitable, as mindlessly unstoppable, as the growth of a weed is not only logically faulty and offensively simpleminded, but plainly shameful.

It conveniently ignores that a decision was made to kill on a mass scale--not by automatons or a causal dialtectic or a system of political determinism--but by humans, endowed of free will, and tragically more attuned than most to the plain effects of bloody violence. They knew better, perhaps, than I do how it feels to lose a loved one to an anonymous killer. (Though I came too freaking close to knowing on Tuesday to accept callow intellectual posturing like this and Choamsky's article lightly--sorry Ben.) Yet they went forward, and they murdered.

Perhaps it is easier to blame the victim, to cast the perpetrators as pawns of vast forcses, because it is hard to accept that individuals can be evil. Or perhaps it is a cloak for a darker suggestion, one that cannot be voiced so plainly: that the attacks were justified.

Must we provide simple hate with a justification, a built in apology? It seems to do just fine without these things, but it truly thrives when it finds them--as we have seen from the senseless attacks against innocent Arab-Americans over the past two days.

posted by hodgman at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2001 [3 favorites]

Amen, jonnyp.

I am a non-American who has grown up with access to American and non-American news sources. There is a wide gulf between the news as presented to Americans and the news as presented to the rest of the world.

Here's an analogy. When you're in the US during the Olympics, you pretty much only see the sports that the Americans have done well in. Yet there are a lot of things happening at the games that fall entirely off the US radar. The American networks and the American people are interested in America.

Now understand the this Amero-centric bias pervades the entire American media. Americans hear the feel-good stories about the good things that America and Americans have done (and there are many!!). Unfortunately, Americans don't hear so much about the blood that is spilled all across the world by Americans, or with the support of Americans.

America is an elephant, and we are mice. You roll on some of us every once in a while, and don't notice. That's because to you, we're unimportant.
posted by websavvy at 6:12 PM on September 13, 2001

correction: intelligent, highly-organized, well-funded extremistgroup of people.

Ben Laden is waging a war he thinks he is justified to wage - like many people in that area. Thing is, for every one person in his group, how many are there that want to resolve it peacefully? And what is the difference between these people? The difference is that one chooses to use his finances to indiscriminantly kill anyone it sees as the enemy, rather than to use the millions of dollars to help it's own people.

What is the greatest sadness is that it took such a tragedy to make Americans (and, in a way, all Westerners really) question their roles around the world.
posted by mkn at 6:13 PM on September 13, 2001

I think websavvy's Olympic analogy is pretty damn apposite.

I also endorse one of the comments on the BBC this evening: that it's as obscene to condemn all Americans as it is to condemn all Muslims.

But Hillary Clinton's on CNN right now, declaring war (like every US politician today) on "those who fund terrorism, those who equip terrorism"; if that's now the case, it contradicts the assertion made by some here that you can't trace responsibility from Pinochet or Marcos or even bin Laden back to the CIA. But that's a done thing. You can't rewrite past failures. We all need to demand that supporting the lesser evil is no longer good enough when it comes to foreign policy.
posted by holgate at 6:39 PM on September 13, 2001

Someone made a good point at lunch yesterday: the US is damned if they intervene in other governments' domestic policies, and they're damned if they don't. People get upset that the US has stepped up to be the world's policeman, but they kick up a stink of the US chooses not to act when things happen. It's an impossible situation.

I'm not from the US, just thought I'd make that clear. Many people do feel that the US is self-centred, which is not fitting for a superpower. So people are unhappy with the 'American Dream', which seems to be built on Third World labour.

But it does not excuse acts of terrorism. The group(s) that planned this knew they would start a war, so they'd better be prepared to face the consequences.

(Read Instapundit.com, he makes very good commentary.)
posted by jetgrrl at 6:40 PM on September 13, 2001

Assuming this was bin Laden (who knows, it could be some Algerian group who have figured out if they remain hidden he'll get all the stick), the roots and reason that he would have done it aren't hidden away. They're quite simple.

He believes America is responsible for the death of many tens of thousands of innocent muslims through its support of Israels illegal occupation of the westbank and gaza. That it is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent muslims in Iraq through direct sanctions. From this basis, America appears to be destroying muslim countries - killing his muslim brothers.. For this, he wishes to exact revenge..

There are many in the Middle East who share bin Ladens hatred of America for these things - how hard do you think it is for him to recruit from countries like Iraq?

I have very strong feelings about America's impact on the Middle East. I am shocked every time I see more of my fellow muslims killed in Palestine by US made guns and tanks. However, these things are remote for me - they are halfway across the world from London - how would I feel if a relative starved to death because of sanctions? If I felt a closer kinship to my fellow muslims?

Killing civilians of any stripe is wrong - whoever did this deserves punishment. But it was not just done out of spite or murderlust - if it was someone like bin Laden, you will never convince him to say he would do otherwise given another chance.

So what to do? Dunno. Round up the terrorists who killed those innocents, but at the same time have a look why they were pissed and fix it if they can..
posted by Mossy at 6:46 PM on September 13, 2001

they're bad, we're good....read it and weep. god, i'm proud to be an american!
posted by billybob at 6:57 PM on September 13, 2001

"don't blame the U.S. for what Pinochet did..." I'm laughing out loud.
posted by tranquileye at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2001

debates about this very issue, but less thought-out, less civil and much more frightening than the one here, are currently going on the swarthmore college daily jolt forum. swarthmore college often has the reputation of being very, very liberal, so i guess this is it's seamy, disturbing underside. (read the entire thread in the first instance to get to the seamy part.) i've blocked my web browser from allowing me to look at it anymore, it's bad for my mental health and i don't like to be threatened with slaps or called a bitch by anonymous persons on my campus. (wanted to give another glimpse of this sort of debate, this would be more appropriate as a brand new link but i can't post there yet.)
posted by surblimity at 8:05 PM on September 13, 2001

Every morning I listen to KQED on the radio as I drive to work. Every morning someone has died as a result of terrorism-- Belfast, Jerusalem... .

A common story is one that goes along the lines of "a man with a bomb wrapped around his waist stood waiting outside a school. When the school let out and he was surrounded by 12-15 years olds, he detonated the bomb. "

There is a world out there. Where horrible things happen. Some of those things America condones. Some of those things America condemns. Sometimes our reasons are economic, sometimes moral.

I very much hope one thing: we slow down and learn all we can about the situation before we act upon it. Why do you assume I wish to learn about the enemy so I can feel liberal guilt, or some such. I want us to learn about the enemy so we can completely eradicate it. That enemy may turn out to be our behavior which we need to modify, it may turn out to be a few madmen who we need to bring to justice.

But if we don't find out the true and complete nature of the problem, we will be shooting out the sun because the clear weather made the attack possible. Good and evil is lazy thinking for children; war is a placebo solution for an incredibly difficult problem. We hollywood-raised babies don't like hard problems, we like happy endings with the flag in the background while the hero kisses the girl.

Our media prechews our news for us; our politicians flavor it with rhetoric. If we allow ourselves to remain ignorant spoon-fed masses, we will be stupid sheep. It may be your loved one dead when the next building blows. Read everything, from all the presses, think hard, learn. Hold your politicos responsible. You don't have to be democrat or republican to realize we have to keep a close eye on all those sneaky bastards.

"Attack on freedom" my ass.
posted by christina at 9:00 PM on September 13, 2001

Why not new ways of conducting ourselves amongst such a shocking attack?

"Those who only know how to use hammers see every problem as a nail."

This, from General Douglas MacArthur
April 19, 1951

I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.

Indeed, on the second day of September, 1945, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:

"Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful.

"Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

Not exactly a knee jerk, new-age pacifist, eh?
But more so the voice of experience.
Perhaps wisdom...
posted by a_green_man at 9:11 PM on September 13, 2001

I know few people on either side of this argument who are well read or well versed on the subject of American imperialism. I try to be. I've read Chomsky, Zinn, all of the others. We've commited atrocities. We've funded, trained and protected fanatics only to turn around and do the same to our enemies. We were and are, to many, a target. This incident is not entirely without explanation.

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't bomb the living hell out of a few places that spawn this kind of activity. It was an act of war, and certain nations are in all probability complicit. There needs to be retaliation for this for reasons that should be obvious to anyone but pampered middle class radicals who can afford to avoid dirty hands when the shit goes down.

I'm an American, and that is a fact that I'm not often proud of. But people from within this country and beyond its borders who use this as an opportunity to be self-righteous and snide have absolutely no concept of appropriateness. They are people who find a certain petty satisfaction in tsking and waving their fingers, even when these behaviours are counterproductive to their stated ends of changing minds and building sympathy for their points of view.

We need to take decisive action against the guilty parties in this scenario. And then we need to get our asses out of the Middle East. Take care of business first, and then start asking the questions implied by the chest beating here, and hopefully alter our international policies so that the aid dollars are cut off from all parties. Justice has to be done before injustice can be remedied. The people who disagree with this basic concept are of the ilk that has crippled the existence of any viable leftist movement in America and many parts of the world.
posted by hipstertrash at 10:29 PM on September 13, 2001

Hipstertrash, I respect you and your opinions quite a bit. But in this case, I believe you to be wrong. The warmongers of this nation (Dick Cheney, et. al) had their prayers answered on Tuesday. There must be a point at which we lay down our swords. This could be an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. to set a pacifistic example.

We all know that this will not happen. I suspect that this is going to be a grievous error. We will all (hopefully) live to regret the moronic dick wagging that is happening today.
posted by Optamystic at 10:56 PM on September 13, 2001

This could be an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. to set a pacifistic example.

Optamystic, I do not understand how you can support this? I know what idealism is, but the reality is to lie down at this point lets them win and invites further attacks not just on America proper but Americans and our allies around the world.

I am not into the Cheney-esque "blow 'em all to hell" mentality, but I'm also not for cowering meekly in a corner.
posted by owillis at 11:09 PM on September 13, 2001

owillis, I support it with a heavy heart. I am angry as hell. I'm hurt. I'm scared. But I honestly don't think a military response (at least a large scale one) is going to improve the situation one iota.

We have to give great consideration to the possibility that we are reaping what we have sown. It sucks to look at things in that light. But there are two paths we can go down, and one of them leads to less bloodshed than the other. Therefore, we should give all possible deference to the more peaceful path.
posted by Optamystic at 11:18 PM on September 13, 2001

I respect your opinion. I disagree with it - but I respect it.
posted by owillis at 11:24 PM on September 13, 2001

Optamystic - there is no such thing as less bloodshed. people kill each other. they will continue to kill each other. war is a fact of humanity, and to belive that things in 2001 can be any different is unrealistic to say the least.

the bottom line is that this HAS to happen. if this goes unpunished, like owillis said, it will just open the door for more of the same. the people who are doing these things will continue to do so until they are annihalated, they will continue to do so as long as they have nations that offer them refuge. the historical threads that led to this point are complex and crucial to understanding what is going on, but ultimately irrelevant to the immediate matters at hand. that is exactly why i said that we need to get the hell out of israel and everywhere else in the middle east after this is over with. like it or not, we can't leave this moment unfinished. the time for change is long past, the only hope now is that we see the second chance that will hopefully emerge after the dust clears over new york, washington, and many other parts of the world.

and yes, its regrettable, but there is another simple fact here. if no revenge or retribution occurs, this country will implode. in one hour, the usa was turned into a pressure cooker that will burst out into general chaos unless there is some release. and i'd rather have that release come at the expense of the talaban than on my street. if that makes me an imperialist pig, so be it. pragmatism is a bitch sometimes.
posted by hipstertrash at 11:59 PM on September 13, 2001

• If you’ve got some time on your hands and an understanding of Islam, read Bin Laden’s Declaration of War. He spells out from a fundamentalist’s perspective reasons to attack “infidels”.

(I don’t agree with him at all, but understanding other people’s perspectives is very important.)

That page also has an intro on Laden. He made his millions ($300m, apparently) at his family’s construction company.

• Laden was hand-picked by the CIA to funnel American resources into Afghanistan during Russia’s decade long invasion. More than likely, he learned a lot about clandestine actions under CIA tutelage.

• Sadam Hussein and his family are not popular. He is comparable to Stalin and Hitler, occasionally purging his lieutenants, murdering his own people and forcing strict allegiance. Upper-class homes in Baghdad display portraits of Sadam. Often, not by choice.

Hussein recieved massive foreign aid during the Iran-Iraq War from the US. During the height of Sadam’s atrocities against Kurds and Shiites he continued to get US aid. After invading Kuwait, the atrocities were used by Bush Sr. as a reason to attack Iraq. This conflict wasn’t pointed out by the mainstream press.

A popular uprising intent on deposing Hussein asked the US for access to captured Iraqi weaponry. The Bush Sr. Administration made motions that any popular uprising would get help. This turned out not to be true, and the uprising was quelled.

This makes it look further that the US supports evil dictators, but has it in for Arab people.

• Ten years after “liberating Kuwait” the US stands nearly alone in the international arena on continued sanctions against Iraq. Britain has publicly stated that the sanctions have gone on long enough, but continue to give tepid military support for them. The sanctions are a near perfect way of giving Hussein an iron-clasp on his country. Since Iraqis were impoverished during life without sanctions, they are living day-to-day with them. If someone has trouble finding food, they certainly aren’t going to have energy to fight a revolution.

• The US gives billions a year to Israel ($3b slated for 2001: $1.98b for military, $840m for “economic assistance”). This doesn’t include add-on packages and low-interest military loans.

• Palestinians live under a brutally oppressive government. The human rights violations include assasinations, collective punishment and torture. Which isn’t to say the actions Israel takes in retaliation to suicide bombings and the like aren’t warranted, only that they are looked upon — throughout the world, except in the US — as grossly excessive.

• Arafat, as leader of the PLO, is pretty much considered a crook by a significant portion of Palestinians. Last year, Middle Eastern leaders refused to give him access to a billion-dollar trust fund earmarked for Palestinian relief efforts due to his misuse of funds in the past. PLO elites build sea-side mansions while the people they supposedly represent live in squalor. The US only negotiates with Arafat and the PLO, which further alienates Palestinians.

• Palestinians have been without the right to self-determination for fifty years. Every peace plan the US has constructed in the last 30 does not include that right — which Americans consider birthright — despite unanimous international support for it. Only the US and Israel fight to keep Palestinians under Israeli rule.

• The US bombed Libya, Sudan and Afghanistan. The military called these attacks “retribution” and “pre-emptive strikes to guard against future attacks.” Countries other than the US that make pre-emptive strikes to guard against future attacks are branded “terrorists” and called “evil”.

Consider the US has a ten-year-old “contingency” base in Saudi Arabia to enforce sanctions against Iraq.

Consider Israel lays claim to religious areas also holy to Muslims.

Consider, possibly unwittingly, US foreign policy consistently aligns against Arab Muslims.

Consider extremist Arab Muslims are blamed for the Beriut, Kenya, Tanzania, WTC ‘93, USS Cole and WTC/DC attacks.

Now, why would any extremist Muslim consider America a target?

The attack against New York and Washington was directed at civilians and is completely indefensible. Those responsible should be brought out and punished for their crimes. After that task is completed, we, as citizens, must make our leaders accountable for the international climate they create. Otherwise, sure as the sun, we will be attacked again.
posted by raaka at 12:29 AM on September 14, 2001

What can I say to that except that I agree? Lets get rid of those goddamn sanctions first..
posted by Mossy at 3:20 AM on September 14, 2001

We need to take decisive action against the guilty parties in this scenario. And then we need to get our asses out of the Middle East.

I half agree; I just received a piece by Slavov Zizek via "nettime": lots of it is, frankly, academic wankery, but the final paragraph is worth sharing:

Either America will persist in, strengthen even, the attitude of "Why should this happen to us? Things like this don't happen HERE!", leading to more aggressivity towards the threatening Outside, in short: to a paranoiac acting out. Or America will finally risk stepping through the fantasmatic screen separating it from the Outside World, accepting its arrival into the Real world, making the long-overdued move from "A thing like this should not happen HERE! "to "A thing like this should not happen ANYWHERE!". America's" holiday from history" was a fake: America's peace was bought by the catastrophes going on elsewhere. Therein resides the true lesson of the bombings: the only way to ensure that it will not happen HERE again is to prevent it going on ANYWHERE ELSE.
posted by holgate at 3:55 AM on September 14, 2001

i'm coming to the conversation a little bit late. sorry if some of this is a little bit retro:

This European-style condescension towards the U.S. should be flushed with your berets and every other totem of sophomoric pretension. totally out of bounds.

dr emory: no, we spit in their faces, so they spit back.

marknau: a lot of those choices were motivated by pure selfishness and greed. yes, we give aid, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the money we take out of international markets, including through the use of cheap labor.

let's not fall into polarized rhetoric. analyzing US responsibility for international resentment is fair play. holding people everywhere responsible for their actions is also fair play. no one is saying we should just roll over and play dead or that we are guilty as accused of everything.

the dismissive rhetoric of many here is very alarming to me. calling us disparaging names referring to black-clad, coffee, berets, Eurosnobs, etc. is not to the purpose or the point.

closing the borders is no solution: America: the land of opportunity: no vacancy.

America: love it enough to be constructively critical when necessary. everyone knows that a permissive parent only produces a spoiled child. there must be love and discipline.
posted by Sean Meade at 7:27 AM on September 14, 2001

argybarg: i'm much less concerned about supposed 'blind consensus' in being critical of American foreign policy (which consensus i don't believe exists) than i am blind consensus about America being innocent.

it is simultaneously the case that:

those responsible for tuesday's attacks are guilty of horrible crimes, and

there are legitimate grievances against the US which may have motivated this attack or come to light in the wake of it.

let's not oversimplify the moral issues involved.

i find the analogy


utterly flawed. the Jews were a people-group with little power. the US is the most powerful nation in the world. we have acted to support people who oppress others and we have not acted to assist those oppressed by others.

my line of argumentation does not excuse the perpetrators of any of these crimes. it attempts linkages.
posted by Sean Meade at 7:51 AM on September 14, 2001

y6y6y6: your statement has some correct facts, but is oversimplified in the extreme. i doubt this was an attack on freedom, on 'democracy, equal rights, and freedom of religion'. it's not that simple. to try so to reduce it is harmful to understanding and future action.
posted by Sean Meade at 8:01 AM on September 14, 2001

Meg is right on.

jetgrrl: again, it's not that simple - damned if we do, damned if we don't. the purpose makes a difference. to what end are we involved? is it just for our own good? are we working to assist nationals? the places we get involved and the places we don't look pretty arbitrary, or, worse, selfishly motivated.
posted by Sean Meade at 8:14 AM on September 14, 2001

Optamystic: this seems too far the other direction. is it fair to call Dick Cheney a warmonger? do you want your opinion to be heard, or blown off as more useless rhetoric.

MLK Jr and Gandhi (and Jesus) before them showed us the possibilities of nonviolent engagement. is there any way their ideas could apply in a situation like this? i haven't though about it much. it would be interesting. but they will be dismissed out of hand if the presenter is seen to be one more 'radical'.
posted by Sean Meade at 8:19 AM on September 14, 2001

i totally agree with raaka and Mossy (except raaka and Mossy.">the concept of civilians is a little antiquated. plus, you could argue that the US's policies have had the same effect on civilians and that other, conventional means of discourse have been tried and failed. how do you deal with the US if the US won't deal?).
posted by Sean Meade at 8:26 AM on September 14, 2001

raaka -- thanks for taking the time to type out the above. If the question is not who are the bad guys, and who are the good guys, but 'Why do they hate us?', you've explained a lot of good reasons.

And now, unfortunately, as what goes around comes around, we have another enormous reason to hate them.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2001

This European-style condescension towards the U.S. should be flushed with your berets and every other totem of sophomoric pretension.

these europeans? these berets?

"The reaction of the French left, often regarded as reflexively anti-American, was very different. Jean-Marie Colombani, the editor of Le Monde, wrote a column headlined “We are all Americans” and dismissed the idea that the attacks were the revenge of the world’s dispossessed on America as “monstrous hypocrisy”. Libération, the other leading French left-of-centre paper, called for “extreme severity against identifiable culprits”, while cautioning against “blind vengeance”."
posted by christina at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2001

The focus of the article is about how Americans don't understand why they're hated.

I don't think we're in much of a position now to care. Does anyone doubt for a minute that the terrorists who did this are trying to get the material necessary to detonate a nuke in one of our cities?

If there's something we can do that would make terrorists not want to kill us in great numbers, short of abandoning the Middle East entirely, taking the Israelis with us, and paying whatever price they ask for their oil, I'd love to hear it. I can't think of anything that's going to make these extremists, and the embittered peoples of the Middle East they recruit from, start buying Lee Greenwood records.

The overriding concern here has to be self-preservation against an enemy that will kill thousands of us without hesitation.
posted by rcade at 3:46 PM on September 16, 2001

has anyone considered propaganda?
posted by christina at 5:50 PM on September 17, 2001

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