Since September 11th 2001, the U.S. media and government have demonized Muslims and fetishized the US military so much that many Americans do not understand what a devastating impact our foreign policy has had on the Muslim world. It is the duty of every American to question their government’s action, we need to get this idea out of our head that patriotism means blind support for our military adventures in the Middle East.
Osama bin Laden has been painted as a maniac, a man so insane and blind with rage that he toppled the Twin Towers because Allah told him to hate Western culture. But the fact is bin Laden made his motivation for attacking us very clear: US intervention in the Middle East. If we don’t address the root cause of terrorism this cycle of violence will never end.
Bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa was entitled, "Declaration of Jihad Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holiest Sites (Expel the infidels from the Arab Peninsula)." The title makes bin Laden’s goal clear. After the Soviet Union was driven out of Afghanistan and collapsed at the end of the Cold War, bin Laden turned his eye on the United States. The US support for Israel long angered the rich Saudi, but it was US troops occupying the Arabian Peninsula that really stoked his rage.
George H. W. Bush’s cabinet found a new enemy in Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, giving up on the peace dividend that would have slashed the defense budget and reinvested the money back into the United States. After Operation Desert Storm, when Saddam was driven out of Kuwait, the US maintained its presence on the Arabian Peninsula. The administration broke its promise to Saudi leadership that they would go home once Saddam’s forces retreated back to Iraq.
The US and UN together maintained a brutal sanction and bombing campaign after the war, a UN sponsored report in 1995 claimed the US sanctions were responsible for the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children. In a 1996 interview with Nida’ul Islam magazine, when listing examples of the US killing innocent Muslims, bin Laden said, “the death of more than 600,000 Iraqi children because of the shortage of food and medicine which resulted from the boycotts and sanctions against the Muslim Iraqi people.”
Since September 11th there have been more terrorist incidents within the U.S. where the perpetrators motives were related to US intervention in the Middle East. In 2009, Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people in a mass shooting at Ft Hood in Texas. Col. Terry Lee, a colleague of Hasan said he was angry about US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, "He was hoping that President Obama would pull troops out and that things would settle down, and when things were not going that way, he became more agitated and more frustrated with the conflicts over there, and he would just – he made his views well known about how he felt about the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan." Hasan was about to be deployed, although it was not clear at the time if it would be to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber wrote a note on the inside of the boat police found him in, "The bombings were in retribution for the US crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan [and] that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in US wars around the world. Summing up, that when you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims." Tsarnaev’s note leaves no doubts as to his motive.
On June 12th 2016, Omar Mateen opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 innocent patrons. In the wake of the massacre, it was reported as a hate crime, but more evidence has been released showing Mateen’s motive was US bombing campaigns in the Middle East. The shooter didn’t even know the club was a gay club, reportedly asking the security guard where all the women were before opening fire.
Mateen posted to facebook during the shooting, "You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes. … Now taste the Islamic state vengeance." Released transcripts of a conversation between Mateen and a 911 operator make his motivations clear, “A lot of innocent women and children are getting killed in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, okay,” Mateen said. “You see, now you feel, now you feel how it is, now you feel how it is.”
In 2007, during the republican presidential debates, candidate Ron Paul said, "They attack us because we’ve been over there, we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East. I think Reagan was right. We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics."
Rudy Giuliani, who was also running for the presidential nomination responded to Paul, "That’s an extraordinary statement of someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11." Giuliani then asked, "the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that."
Giuliani’s response is a perfect example of the type of willful ignorance that has helped continue our disastrous foreign policy. The fact that Giuliani was the mayor of New York at the time of the attacks makes it all the more pathetic that he never thought to question his own governments responsibility for the deaths of thousands of his constituents.
Now that it’s 2019, almost 18 years after 9/11, our government can no longer guilt us into ignoring the plain facts in front of us: what drives these terrorists to kill is not Islam, their religion is just a common identity, the real motivation and drive to commit violence stems from US intervention. Ignoring these facts is not patriotism, it’s cowardice.
Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He recently joined Antiwar.com as an assistant editor. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.