Saturday, October 30, 2004

The most interesting thing to me about Osama bin Laden's address to Americans today--apart from the fact that he is clearly alive and healthy--is what he did NOT say. He did not say that he, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim world hate the United States for what it is. He did not say that 9/11 happened because the Arab world is beside themselves with jealousy at Americans' affluent lifestyle. He did not say that, unless all Americans converted to Islam, new and even more deadly terrorist attacks would be launched. He did not say that Al Qaeda has launched a jihad against the United States because they hate our freedoms. He did not suggest that America could ensure against future attacks by abolishing the Bill of Rights or requiring women to wear burkas and be subservient to their husbands (Maybe he realizes John Ashcroft and the Southern Baptists are doing that job for him.)

This is what bin Laden said about 9/11 and future terrorist attacks:

  • If America does not threaten or attack Muslims' security, Al Qaeda will not threaten or attack Americans' security.
  • If George W. Bush is returned to the White House, that will not automatically guarantee Americans' safety or even serve to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks. If John Kerry is elected President, that will not protect Americans from future terrorist attacks either, NOR will it make future attacks more likely. In other words, the outcome of the election has nothing to do with how safe Americans are or will be.
  • The idea for crashing planes into skyscrapers in New York City was inspired by a 1982 Israeli air attack on building towers in Lebanon. It may or may not be true that this is what put the idea for 9/11 in bin Laden's head, but the more important point, I believe, is that the event bin Laden claims inspired the idea for 9/11 actually WAS an event: it was not Americans' religious belief or nonbelief, or a particular lifestyle, or values. It was behavior. It was actions. Actions carried out by Israel and supported by the United States. And obviously those actions referred to by bin Laden are not simply a bombing that took place 20 years ago, but the entire policy of persecution, subjugation, brutality, and occupation carried out by the Israeli government and condoned and approved by the United States. Bin Laden said he and his supporters wanted Americans to "taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."

To state all this is not to say that any of it justifies the murder of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Nothing can or will do that. But what it does mean is that, in deciding which policies would be apppropriate to make Americans safer from the threat and reality of terrorism, it would perhaps make sense to look at the real, actual causes of terrorism. It's not going to make anyone safer to pretend that Muslims hate Americans' affluence and freedom, or that Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because they want to take over America and convert all of us to Islam. Perhaps when (or if) whoever occupies the White House realizes that it is what America DOES rather than what America SAYS that motivates some people to hate us enough to want to kill us, we will actually be able to come up with solutions that make a difference.


Anonymous said...

So, is Bin Laden just misunderstood? I'm not being facetious. I just want to understand a little better.

Joan said...

Kathy, the fact that you would take bin Laden at his word about ANYTHING shows you are a little too eager to push an anti-Bush agenda. I do not like Bush either. But there is a huge difference between bin Laden and Bush. Even if bin Laden was being sincere chances are he himself does not know why he does these things. But in any case everything bin Laden has done so far is indefensible.
See you in chat sometime,
Joan aka panam_woman

Kathy said...

The statement Joan made that everything bin Laden has done so far is indefensible is not in question. No one that I know of has defended what bin Laden and Al Qaeda did on 9/11. The point is that bin Laden and Al Qaeda did what they did on 9/11 FOR A REASON. There was a reason. They had a reason. It may not be a reason you agree with. It may not be a reason you think justifies killing 3,000 people. And I would agree with that. But they did have a reason. And when deciding what policies to employ in fighting terrorism, it makes sense to choose policies that are responsive and relevant to the actual reasons why bin Laden, with many others, planned 9/11.

Recognizing that human beings have reasons for the things they do and that in order to address the (often bad) things that human beings do, we have to know what those reasons are, is not the same as saying that when someone does something bad, it's okay, because he had a reason. Having a reason is not the same as having a justification. Is this concept beyond understanding?

Anonymous said...

Lots of people have reasons for doing what they do. Adolf Hitler had his reasons too, I am sure. When someone does something so indefensible it does not matter WHAT their reasons are. What if we disagree with bin Laden? Does it mean we have to do what he says because he will use another act of terrorism for his reasons? Does it even mean the reasons he has given as are the truth? Maybe they are simply a justification. "I don't normally blow up buildings, but boy you people really piss me off!"

I don't believe much of what comes out of bin Laden's mouth. I don't believe the reasons he gives out for his actions. Bush has given his reasons for invading Iraq. I don't believe the reasons Bush has given for HIS actions either. Neither do you. So why take bin Laden at his word?

Joan AKA PanAm Woman