The only root cause
Abridged form published 9/11/02 at the Duke chronicle
There is no such thing as closure after 9/11 and there shouldn’t be as long as Islamic fundamentalism threatens America. Those who say we should move beyond that event fail to grasp what happened. After going to school and working in New York for 12 years, I was extremely lucky that no one I knew lost their lives that day, although many close friends were not so fortunate.
Writing this column is one of the hardest things I have done. How does one try to capture the emotions of that day, the horror, the honor, the sorrow, the sacrifice? Even attempting to seems like an insult; words on a page can never do justice to those who suffered and died and those who continue to anguish.
The word courage was defined anew by the heroes of that day who hurled themselves at death to save others, especially the uniformed officers of New York and the passengers of Flight 93, not by the false bravery of fanatic Islamic fundamentalist jihad-pilots. To redeem the sacrifice of heroes and the lives of all the victims, we must as a nation ensure Never Again. Doing that requires an honest appraisal of the situation.
The many who casually blame US support for Israel as the cause of 9/11 are guilty of callous opportunism and willful blindness to history and the statements of Osama bin Laden, who planned these attacks for at least 2 years (while Bill Clinton made efforts for peace that no US president had ever done) and who never mentioned Palestinians till after 9/11. Yet US foreign policy did fuel radical Islamic fundamentalism, the one and only “root cause” of 9/11.
The trouble with President Bush’s phrase “axis of evil” is not its bluntness or simplicity but inaccuracy. It’s time to hit the nail on the head: the evil that flourished in Afghanistan and struck us on 9/11 was incubated in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries nourished by US foreign policy for decades.
The intimate nexus between al-Qaeda and Pakistan & Saudi Arabia is illuminated by their behavior before and after 9/11. Our so-called “friends” were the only allies of the Taliban prior to 9/11, because they created the Taliban. The foot-soldiers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda were trained in Pakistani madrassahs financed by Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda gained most of its funding from Saudi “charities” and has close connections with the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service.
Pakistan used Afghanistan for years as a terrorist university with camps melded with al-Qaeda to export terrorists to Kashmir, where they have tried to Talibanise Kashmir (e.g., by throwing acid on women who don’t wear the veil) and, in ironic counterpoint to Kosovo or Bosnia, perpetrated ethnic cleansing, not of Muslims, but of Hindus, driving out 350,000. Pakistan supplied the Taliban weapons even after US bombing began in October, airlifted hundreds of fighters (Lord knows how many al-Qaeda) out of Kunduz, and promoted inclusion of “moderate Taliban” (a la moderate Nazis) in Afghanistan’s government. There are reports from the BBC that the ISI provided dialysis, shelter, and escape to bin Laden. It is also reported that Gen. Mahmud Ahmad, the ISI chief on 9/11, directed Omar Sheikh (prime suspect in the beheading of Daniel Pearl and hosted by Pakistan for years after his release by India after the Indian Airlines hijacking) to wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the weeks before Sept. 11. Senior Taliban rest comfortably in Pakistan, even giving interviews to newspapers. Gen. Musharraf, in addition to releasing most of the terrorists he “rounded-up” (a la Arafat), stated that Pearl got “over-intrusive”, begging the question, what was Pearl killed to protect?
Saudi Arabia bankrolls a world-wide network of madrassahs and mosques to promote Wahhabism, their hateful brand of Islam. Saudi schools in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even the US, teach high school students that “Judgment Day will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill all the Jews”, and that “whoever is kufr [non-Muslim] it is okay to hurt and steal from”, while Saudi mosques in the West have held AK-47 training courses and hosted the 9/11 terrorists. Fatwas by Saudi clerics in addition to declaring “holy war against infidels” have said that suicide attacks are “the most noble rung a Muslim can attain” and specifically mention “crashing your plane into an important location that will cause your enemy to suffer colossal losses.”
Saudi Arabia prohibits freedom of religion, women from driving, continues beheading & stoning, and institutionalizes gender apartheid, to the point where women need the permission of male relatives to have surgery. Saudi royal oil largess has deflected anger at corruption & unemployment onto the West while relieving Pakistan of the burden of public education with madrassahs, allowing it to spend more on its military. This March, official Saudi newspapers have stated that Jews drink human blood for Purim and Passover, and Saudi religious police beat girls fleeing their burning school for not wearing the veil, forcing them back inside, where 15 died.
The cancerous venom manifest on 9/11 arose from the incubators of evil known as Pakistan’s military-mullah complex and Saudi Arabia’s checkbook terrorists; it will continue to metastasize unless we excise their medieval murderousness and dismantle the axis that incubates evil. We can do this by developing energy independence to break the sword of the oil weapon, and by standing against military and religious tyrannies that “help” us in the short term but foster hate for us in the long run. Americans must recognize that foreign policy beholden to oil sheikhs and military dictators has succored radical Islamic fundamentalism, a mortal threat ignored by too many: even if a pigeon closes its eye, the pouncing cat will not walk away. False realism should not override principle, because terrorism anywhere threatens freedom everywhere, a lesson learned in the bitter tears of Sept. 11.