More on American Foreign Policy’s Connection to 9/11

In my last post, part of my post defended Ron Paul from the criticism that he received during a GOP presidential debate after claiming Al-Qaeda’s motives were based on American foreign policy. I found a couple editorials from The Daily Caller that offer more on this topic. This first one is from a critic of Ron Paul, who rejected the idea that American foreign policy led to 9/11:

Jamie Weinstein: Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Fallacies

The second one is a response to it, arguing the opposite.

Jon Glaser: Yes, Al-Qaeda Attacked Us on 9/11 because of our Aggressive Foreign Policy

Obviously I agree with Glaser over Weinstein, and since Glaser does an excellent job refuting him, I suggest you read his article. I will not reiterate his points, but there are a couple points that Weinstein makes that I would like to further address. His arguments will be in block quotes, and my comments will follow:

America is in trouble financially, but not because of our defense budget. It is our entitlement programs that put us in fiscal peril.

How can someone argue this? He follows it up by saying “this is really beyond serious dispute.” The U.S. spends $700 billion a year on the military. These entitlement programs are a small fraction of that. Trimming the military spending would undoubtedly reduce the national debt, and the entitlements project benefits Americans and helps increase consumer spending, which benefits the American economy.

the argument that the attack was meant to draw the U.S. into a larger Afghan war was only made by al-Qaida members, including Osama bin Laden, after 9/11.

Weinstein is criticizing the argument that 9/11 served to attack the U.S. so they would respond in force and get stuck in a drawn out war in Afghanistan. First, the claim that al-Qaeda and bin Laden only made this argument after 9/11 is comical: of course they did not make this argument before 9/11; why would al-Qaeda announce their plans before the attack? Weinstein’s argument is so weak, it would be like arguing that al-Qaeda is not responsible for the 9/11 attacks because they did not take credit for them until after 9/11.

Does Weinstein seriously think bin Laden or al-Qaeda would be stupid enough to say before 9/11: “Dear U.S., we are plotting a major attack on your country. We will hijack planes and fly them into some of  major American buildings. The reason for this attack is to draw you into Afghanistan so you will get stuck fighting a long war. You’re welcome for the warning. Best wishes, Osama bin Laden & al-Qaeda.”

I cannot be the only one to find Weinstein’s point that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 because they did not expect the U.S. to react by attacking Afghanistan simply because al-Qaeda never mentioned it as a motive before 9/11 so absurd that it honestly makes me laugh.

Moreover, before 9/11, America had put its sons and daughters at risk at least three times to protect Muslims — to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, to bring food and humanitarian aid to the Muslims of Somalia, and to protect Kosovar Muslims from Slobodan Milosevic.

So I ask again, which Muslim countries were we forcibly occupying before 9/11 which helps explain why al-Qaida attacked us on 9/11?

Weinstein’s point here is that the U.S. did not occupy foreign Muslim lands, and therefore bin Laden could not have been motivated by that. He adds on that the U.S. even fought in Muslim countries to protect Muslims. This argument reveals how little Weinstein understand bin Laden’s ideology.

In Growing Up bin Laden, authored by Jean Sasson with Omar bin Laden and Najwa bin Laden, the reader sees Osama’s extremism and anti-Americanism significantly rise as a result of the first war against Saddam Hussein. Osama resented the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq, not because he liked Saddam Hussein, who he hated, but because he — fresh off his victory with the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan — wanted to lead his Mujahideen soldiers to defend Kuwait and attack Iraq’s military. As a friend of the Saudi royalty, he was insulted when they denied him permission to wage war against the Iraqi military and instead allowed the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and to continue to have bases there. To Osama, it was an insult that the secular Americans were allowed on Saudi religious territory  to defend Kuwait. Osama felt personally insulted that women soldiers were used while his Mujahideen soldiers were denied the right to fight, as he felt it was emasculating. This was a significant turning point in Osama’s life that cannot be understated; he went from a military hero in the Arab world who held close ties with Saudi royalty, to an outspoken critic of the Saudi government for allowing the U.S. to occupy its territory and fight wars for Muslims. It was not long after this that Osama was forced to leave Saudi Arabia behind because of his outspoken campaign against the government, and his resentment towards both the Saudi government and American government began during the Gulf War, while Weinstein seems to think Osama would have approved of the U.S.’s participation in the war.

Weinstein’s mention of the U.S. bringing food and humanitarian aid to the Muslims in Somalia further reveals how little he understands al-Qaeda’s ideology and even just recent history. Does he not realize that many of the fighters who resisted the U.S.’s foreign aid in Somalia — which, whether Weinstein wants to admit it or not, includes occupation — were affiliated with al-Qaeda? Bin Laden and al-Qaeda simply oppose the U.S.’s occupation or involvement in any Muslim lands, whether Americans believe it is a humanitarian mission or not. Weinstein’s argument is seriously flawed by using cases of the U.S.”aiding” Muslims as evidence that bin Laden did not oppose the U.S.’s foreign policy; what Weinstein sees as aiding, bin Laden saw as imperialism and rejected any attempt by the U.S. to get involved in Muslim nations.

Osama bin Laden wasn’t upset because the Palestinians were given poor treatment: He was upset that Israel exists at all.

Glaser already argues against this claim in his article, but I just want to re-emphasize it: how can one separate the two? Osama bin Laden opposed Israel’s existence, but he resented the U.S.’s unbinding support for Israel while Palestinians suffered under Israeli occupation. To attempt to distinguish his hatred towards Israel from his support for Palestine is absurd.

In short, Ron Paul — who, again, I do not support — was right that the U.S.’s foreign policy motivated al-Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11. It does not justify the attacks, but it is important to understand what their motives were. Osama bin Laden did not attack the U.S. because he hated our “way of life” or “our “freedom,” but because he hated our foreign policy.

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Osama bin Laden was a wrathful terrorist, but he understood politics

Due to the despicable acts of cruelty that Osama bin Laden organized, people dismiss everything he said. Performing such malicious acts on a grand scale makes someone a terrible person, but it does not mean his or her opinions or motives should be ignored and fully dismissed. Josef Stalin was undoubtedly an evil person who killed millions of innocent people, but he also was sometimes right. For example, during World War II, he also accurately perceived that the U.S. and Great Britain stalled their invasion of Nazi-Germany’s control of western Europe in order to allow Germany and the Soviet Union fight each other on the eastern front and significantly reduce the power of both countries. The U.S. and Great Britain hoped that, by a long war between Germany and the Soviet Union, both countries’ power would be diminished in a post-war world, which motivated them to delay the invasion of the western front, which Stalin suspected and was right about. In another example, though a much less terrible person than Stalin, consider George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. These people, while many Americans will continue to defend them and their actions, are seen by the rest of the world as terrible leaders who acted recklessly, tortured people, and invaded Iraq unjustly and unprepared for the consequences of the invasion. However, Bush and Cheney were not 100% wrong about everything they did; for example, I applaud Bush for not bombing Syria like Cheney advised, and as far as Cheney, well, he probably said or did something right at some point in his life. Again, this is not to say that Bush or Cheney are as bad of people as Stalin or Osama bin Laden were, but just because people perform evil acts does not discount every thought they have ever had. One final example: the students who shot up Columbine High School did horrible deeds, but the motive of why they did it (in response to bullying) needed to be discovered instead of dismissed to prevent it from happening again.

Nothing is as simple as black or white. People can be mostly evil, but make good points; and people can be mostly good, and still make some horrible points. Someone can do something that is a crime against humanity, but that does not mean they do not have motives for doing it or have some sort of insight that people should learn from.

During the Republican / Tea Party debate recently, Ron Paul was attacked by other candidates and booed by the audience for saying that Muslims did not attack us because they hate our way of life, and then mentioning that Al-Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. on 9/11 was a result of the U.S.’s foreign policy and their support for Israel’s treatment towards Palestine. Ron Paul, who I do not support, was not suggesting that 9/11 was an acceptable response to the U.S.’s foreign policy, but he merely mentioned the motive for it; it was not America’s “freedom” that bin Laden targeted, but its interaction in the Middle-East and opposition of Palestine. Unfortunately, many Americans think that it is blasphemy to question why bin Laden may have wanted to target the United States. Simplifying 9/11 into a narrative of “Muslims hate our freedom” prevents the U.S. government and American citizens from coming to terms with reality and accepting what is taking place in international politics. Yet, politicians take advantage of Americans’ ignorance by using this narrative, and slamming the politicians who question it. I condemn the attacks against the U.S. on 9/11 while still realizing that the terrorists who were responsible for it had motives for it, which do not justify it, but Americans need to be aware of international politics in order to understand why some people hate the U.S., and Americans can learn from the critics of the U.S. (just as Iranians can learn from critics of Iran, and this can go for any country). Even though any terrorist actions against the U.S. is completely unacceptable, it does not mean that Americans should not try to understand the mentality and beliefs of Osama bin Laden that inspired 9/11.

Osama bin Laden had evil and cruel intentions, but he also had a good, but warped, understanding of history, international politics,  and political affairs. According to Osama’s fourth son, Omar bin Laden — who rejected his father’s violence and courageously fled Afghanistan prior to 9/11 — Osama attacked the U.S. hoping that he’d be able to draw them into a long war in Afghanistan that would bleed the U.S. empire dry, due to Afghanistan’s reputation as the land that kills empires (Osama and the mujahideen fought against and defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; and prior to that, Great Britain’s empire struggled to control Afghanistan). According to Omar, by the U.S. getting involved in a long war and occupation of Afghanistan, Osama already achieved his goal. He hoped that the U.S., like the other foreign powers, would try to install its own government in Afghanistan — ignoring the tribal allegiances and other cultural differences — and then find itself in a stuck there because of the fragility of the government set up by the occupiers. A decade after 9/11, it seems Osama’s strategy has been a success; the U.S. is still in its longest war in history in Afghanistan while also trying to stabilize another foreign government in occupied Iraq; in addition, the American economy is at one of its weakest points ever, and politicians are playing political games that threaten the legitimacy of the American democracy. (If you want to read an amusing, satirical article about the U.S. now compared to the U.S. on 9/11, read this.)

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Al-Qaeda released (what was likely) Osama bin Laden’s final video, but the message did not contain threats of terrorism and violence against the U.S. like many people would have expected; instead he warned Americans of the dangers of capitalism because corporations and lobbies were controlling our government. Bin Laden did not blame Obama for American policies, but essentially said forces pressure Obama to take the positions he does. Bin Laden’s last message is not much different than arguments I have made on this blog before. I have never threatened “Jihad,” I am not a Muslim, I am not anti-American, and I reject the killing of anyone. However, I have often argued (for instance, it is a significant part of my argument found toward the end of this post) that the current stage of capitalism provides Americans, and the politicians who are meant to represent them , with little choice over major issues that affect the world today. As I have pointed out, and as other political critics have expressed, and what bin Laden has recently stated, is the U.S. is handcuffed in regards to its Israeli / Palestinian policy. The U.S.’s unwillingness to oppose Israel, in any significant sense, while continuing to provide several billions of dollars in aid every year, allows Israel to refuse to negotiate with Palestine or provide any rights to those living in the occupied territories of Palestine. What provides Israel with this unquestionable support by the world’s most powerful empire is the significant lobby influence of some pro-Israeli groups, such as AIPAC. When they provide enormous amounts of money to all political candidates in both parties to support Israel, politicians depend on these pro-Israeli lobbies, and face serious consequences if they do not support Israel.

Even, hypothetically, let us assume that Obama, after already in Office, wanted to take a firm stance against Israel, he would see an enormous of backlash against him in the House of Representatives and the Senate because everyone in those two chambers still depends on the lobbies’ support to further their political career. Both chambers would immediately denounce Obama and his plan would go no where.  Just look at the harsh criticism that Obama received when he suggested that Israel should make peace negotiations with Palestine based on the 1967 borders with adjustments. Members of both parties denounced him for it, and Netanyahu scorned him, despite the fact that Israel depends on the U.S. Also, consider the point I brought up earlier: what happened in the debate when Ron Paul said that 9/11 occurred because of the U.S.’s foreign policy and its unjust policy towards Palestine? He was booed and attacked by the other Republicans in the debate. You can also be sure that Ron Paul will not win the Republican’s nomination after making statements like that.

The point is not to slam Israel or single out the pro-Israeli lobbies because there are other lobbies and corporations who are just as influential and powerful, but the pro-Israeli lobbies and the U.S.’s unbinding support for Israel provides the most obvious example. Oil and gas corporations are also extremely powerful in American politics, and there are numerous of other examples. The U.S.’s imperialist foreign policy is directly influenced by the power of corporations and lobbies,  Again, I suggest you read my Beyond Tradition page — if you have not yet already — to my analysis of the basic evolution of American governance, and how we ended up where we are today. The government we have in power today — the world’s oldest democracy — was not created to handle this form of capitalism. Major changes need to be made to adjust the government for the stage of capitalism that we have reached because the government is no longer a true democracy that represents the people, but it now represents corporations and lobbies.

As terrible of acts as Osama bin Laden instructed, not just on 9/11 but also the terrorist activities he organized prior to then, he deserves to be condemned as a cruel person without respect for human life. Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden understood history and politics, and he knew what his actions would inflict long-term damage on the U.S. Now Americans are in a critical moment of American history, and yet politicians are more divisive than ever. As an American, I want to see our country succeed and continue to thrive, but change is needed. Bin Laden’s last warning about the dangers of capitalism was right, and we should not dismiss his warnings just because of the acts he committed. Of course, Bin Laden was not the first or only one to bring up these criticisms (bin Laden references well respected American author and journalist Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars). I have brought up similar criticisms of the current state of the U.S. government, and there are plenty of other intellectuals who realize what is going on. When Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, gets booed and verbally attacked during a debate for bringing up the motives for 9/11 because it includes a criticism of Israel, we need to seriously reconsider the state of our nation.

Americans, wake up! It’s time for us to refuse the status quo and demand change.