On May 2, 2011, I posted a blog entitled “‘Bin Laden Is Dead,’ motives for 9/11, & his ‘Letter to the American people’.”
As I pointed out two years ago,
…As is well known, Bin Laden worked with the Americans (to purge Afghanistan from Western influence) before he worked against the Americans (ditto).”…
It is always worth trying to understand hostile people and movements–even, or perhaps especially, fanatics. Europe would have done well to pay more attention to Mein Kampf, which Hitler began writing in prison and which clearly sets forth the plan that he soon set in motion, with horrendous consequences for the world.
So, what did Bin Laden say about his own intentions, with horrendous consequences for the world?…
For Bin Laden’s own 2002 analysis and radical rhetoric, see his “Letter to the American people,” published in translation by The Guardian (UK) on 11/24/02. Obviously, seeing what he said is not the same as endorsing or agreeing.
He starts with what he terms U.S. attacks or support for attacks against Islam and Muslims in Palestine, Somalia, Chechnya, Kashmir, and Lebanon….
And so on. But did you catch the reference to Chechnya? That was a part of the world most Americans weren’t paying a whole lot of attention to, but over the years, it seems two brothers of Chechen origin were (see “Chechnya connections build picture of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Boston Marathon bombing suspects never lived in Chechnya but republic’s struggle played a central role in their lives,” The Guardian, 4/19/13).
And further, according to “Boston bombing suspect cites U.S. wars as motivation, officials say” in the Washington Post, 4/223/13:
The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.
Bin Laden wrote, among his long catalog of US actions he condemned:
…We also advise you to stop supporting … the Russians against the Chechens….
…you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya….
Now, of course, the US needs to choose its own foreign policy and can’t be blackmailed by fanatics, whether foreign or domestic, whether religious or non-religious, or whether just plain crazy.
But one does wonder whether the State Department, Pentagon, CIA, and White House (it’s not really clear who has been and is in charge of policy) have been paying enough attention to the consequences of their actions.
People don’t like being bombed, or tortured, or executed, or suffering sanctions and embargoes, or what may seem to some such a little thing as being disrespected. And they don’t like seeing their friends, relatives, compatriots, and members of their own faith groups subjected to those either.
Whether or not you think the US should do those things, it seems to me clear that we should get the consequences clearer in our minds and should not attack or antagonize others unnecessarily. Don’t we already have enough enemies (a lot more than in 2001, unfortunately)?
Perhaps it’s time for the State Department, Pentagon, CIA, and White House–and yes, Homeland Security–to reread Bin Laden’s 2002 tirade. It might help to predict the next strike against us.
To end, let me note that a letter in yesterday’s New York Times says exactly the opposite of what I have written above:
Oliver Bullough suggests that the radicalization of the Boston Marathon bombers and other people of Chechen origin is due to displacement and oppression. This reasoning may be applied to any number of violent extremists — from I.R.A. terrorists who fought to liberate Ireland, to Palestinian suicide bombers in the occupied territories.
As someone whose brother was murdered by Chechen hit men, I find such explanations abhorrent.
To rationalize terrorism is to invite more of it.
New York, April 20, 2013
With all respect for the writer’s loss of his courageous brother, I still don’t see that trying to understand extremists helps advance their twisted mission. On the contrary, I think it can help thwart it.
For further reading from various viewpoints, see the online comments on Bullough’s April 20 op ed.