During the last Republican presidential debate, Rudy Giuliani harped on a comment by Congressman Ron Paul that 10 years of bombing and sanctions which brought death to thousands of Iraqis was one of the reasons for Osama Bin Laden’s decision to attack the United States. Giuliani’s forceful condemnation and demand for an apology from Paul was a red meat moment for the Republican crowed who erupted into thunderous applause (no doubt many of them also believe we are “making progress” in Iraq). Wasting no time to attempt to stifle debate, former candidate for U.S. Senate Michael Steele and the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party have called for Paul to be banned from future forums.
Unfortunately for Giuliani and the Republican Party, Paul’s assertions are backed up by the 9/11 commission report and Osama Bin Laden’s own statements. Bin Laden, a former ally of the U.S. government in forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, stated in his 1990s declaration of war against America that it was U.S. troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia, U.S. bombing and sanctions of the Iraqi people, and one-sided U.S. support in the Israel-Palestinian conflict that were the reasons the mujahideen were declaring war on us. These actions, right or wrong, are why we were attacked on 9/11.
Contrary to what conservatives would say, saying that some American foreign policy initiatives have contributed greatly to this situation, known as “blowback,” is not that same thing as saying America it to blame for what happened on 9/11. For sure, Osama Bin Laden and the 19 Al Qaeda hijackers are responsible for the deaths of the 3,000 innocent people murdered that day. But, at the same time, it does us no good in our efforts to combat terrorism and the ideology that spawns it when we remain ignorant about the reasons they choose to attack us. They do not “hate us for our freedom.”
Certainly, the religious fundamentalists that comprise Al Qaeda and similar groups find our country to be immoral (as do the religious fundamentalists here). But this alone does not make young Muslim men and women strap bombs to themselves. However misguided, U.S. intervention in what they see as exclusively Islamic affairs is the fuel for their fire.
This is why the Iraq war is such a blunder. It has simply caused more hatred for the U.S. for many in the Muslim world, a lot of whom were on our side after 9/11 (people forget the thousands that came out for candlelight vigils in Tehran for the victims), and has increased the popularity of fundamentalists, from Bin Laden to the leadership in Iran. All of whom can now claim the Iraq war has simply proven them right about us. According to several national intelligence reports, Al Qaeda has gone from terrorist network to a banner jihadis can fight under worldwide.
Sadly, many here have still not learned anything from this. The U.S. government encouraged Ethiopia to overthrow the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, which has left the country ravaged by brutal warlords, causing yet more resentment of the West. Most of the Republican candidates in the aforementioned debate essentially tripped over one another to be the one who would bomb Iran first or be the one most willing to torture and, indeed, “double the size” of Gitmo.
The dangerous ignorance of those candidates like Giuliani should immediately disqualify them to voters as serious contenders to be president. There is no way anyone with such naivety about why these terrorists want to strike at us can possibly keep us safe from them.