6.06.2005

Yet another paper!

Here is a paper I wrote as an assignement of the cause and effect type. The topic, as you will see, was 9/11. Again, bare with the grammar.

No single event in modern American history has come so violently or as unexpected as the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. It has left footprints in the minds of people who experienced it and thrown our country into a new era of foreign policy. But before we can decide what to do in the future, we must understand the past. It is important to examine the causes of this tragedy in two different perspectives. What could possess people to give up their lives to kill thousands of innocents in the name of God? And the most pressing concern immediately following the attacks: why couldn’t our country of such military might and power stop these people?
The first cause of any event such as this is people who have the motive to do it. Each of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers was a fanatical Arab Muslim with a deep hatred for us. Radical Islam is nothing new, but it has been growing for several decades. Osama Bin Laden and his associates believe that by killing those that they label infidels, which includes Americans, Israelis, and even moderate Muslims, they gain entrance to heaven. They believe that any foreigner in an Islamic country is a threat to their religion. To promote their radical agenda, the extremists use what Muslim scholars decree as a gross misinterpretation of the Koran (the Muslim holy book). This set of beliefs allows them to incite their followers against other groups. Radical Muslims are very anti-Semitic and have labeled America as “The great Satan” (Terrorism).
Free and prosperous citizens of developed Western countries struggle to comprehend how a person could subscribe to such a hateful and violent sect. One of the main reasons it is successful is the level of poverty in the Middle East. A lot of Al-Qaeda recruits come from impoverished areas of Palestine and the country of Pakistan. There most of the people have no hope to overcome the situation they are in. Al-Qaeda is able to take the despair of these people and turn it into anger against Western powers and Israel. Without a public school system in Pakistan, fanatical Muslims set up Madrasas, religious schools where, along with math and reading, they learn to hate America and praise Osama bin Laden as a hero. A large help in this is a media throughout the Middle East that sympathizes and plots with radical groups (Terrorism).
When one realizes that much of radical Islam’s existence is due to hatred of certain peoples or countries, we must examine why. Chief on the list, at least for Osama Bin Laden himself, is the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia. Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia is a base used from the Gulf War until this day to patrol no-fly zones over Iraq. Many Muslims detest this presence in the land where the prophet Mohammed was born, and the country of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Al-Qaeda uses this both as a recruiting tool and a reason for violence. They see it, as well as other situations, as the U.S. colonizing the Middle East for oil gathering purposes (Terrorism).
Also a motivator for fundamentalists is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since it’s creation in 1948, Israel’s Muslim Palestinian minority has tried to create a separate state. The problem lies in the fact that the Muslims were there first, and lay claim to Jerusalem as a holy site, as do the Jewish Israelis. Radical groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which have ties to Al-Qaeda, resort to suicide bombings to advance their cause. Israel responds with strong showings of military force that often harm Palestinian civilians. Each side blames the other and is unwilling to compromise, meaning that at least for now, there is a continual circle of violence. The U.S. government has a long history of supporting Israel, and continues to send military and economic aid. Some in the Arab public, however, see Israel as an oppressor, and view suicide attacks on innocent civilians as acceptable. To them, America is supporting the killing of Palestinians, and is just as guilty as Israel itself. Because this issue is so polarizing for Arabs, Bin Laden uses it to persuade the public (Terrorism).
The most common reason for 9/11 given by our government is one version or another of the simple phrase “they hate our freedoms”. While we should all realize that the situation is much more complex than that, it holds some truth. A certain amount of jealousy can be expected from people who come mostly from countries where laws are dictated by religious clerics and women are forbidden from showing their faces in public.
However, the most important factors they resent are our economic power and the prestige of our military. They refer to us as an “evil empire” because they recognize and hate the influence we have everywhere in the world. It is this power that we have that they were trying to undermine with the attacks of 9/11. They knew that the images we saw on our televisions would paint a picture of America as weak and vulnerable, which plays perfectly to their objectives.
All these factors combine to help far out ideologies take hold in the Arab world. But why, then, should they resort to terrorism, which is viewed with distaste around the globe. Against an enemy as powerful as the U.S. (and Israel, which also has a large army) the only course of action left is terrorism. Guerrilla warfare is historically used when an enemy is well trained and better equipped than you. A direct and honest military assault would be fatal to them. Consequentially diplomatic efforts would be worthless without the threat of military action. Nor do radical groups have significant financial reach to influence other’s policies. The only option left is to strike unexpectedly against weakly guarded targets in a manner that most civilized peoples deplore. Yet we all saw videos of Palestinians dancing in the street, throwing candy and having parades, on the day we know so infamously as September 11th. Only the fact that some Arabs have been convinced that we deserved this allows Al-Qaeda to continue to exist and operate (Terrorism).
Beyond this complex motive, perhaps the causes easier understood are those that are directly our own fault, though they are by no means easier to stomach. Radical Islam as a philosophy survives because of state sponsors of terrorism. The State department lists seven countries as sponsors of terrorism (Commission). Some others are excluded for political reasons, while still more are not sponsors, but simply provide havens for terrorist cells. Some of the more potent sponsors are Iran, the former Taliban government of Afghanistan, and Syria.
The single country most responsible is Afghanistan. In the early 1990’s, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic group, took control of most of the country. They ruled with an iron fist, forbidding women to go to school or appear publicly. Osama Bin Laden shared their political and religious views, and made his bases there. Afghanistan was used to construct terrorist training camps and operations centers. Without a harbor such as Afghanistan, it is doubtful that Al-Qaeda could have pulled off such an attack (Terrorism).
Overall, state sponsors allow rogue organizations to become highly organized and orchestrate complicated strikes. While it is not our fault that they exist, we hold the responsibility for not acting against them, be it financially, diplomatically, or militarily. Several administrations over several decades ignored them because they didn’t believe action was economically feasible. We needed the Oil exports of these countries, and continue to need it, sometimes so badly that we were willing to ignore the human rights violations and blatant acts of violence of these rogue states. Arabs see this and call on us to stop sponsorship of oppressive regimes, which is one of the most legitimate claims radical Islam makes (Commission).
9/11 seemed quite unexpected to most Americans, but in reality, Islamic terrorists have struck many times before. Though earlier attacks occurred, the root of the power Islamic fundamentalism enjoys today is rooted in the terrorist attacks of the early 1990s. After the first (unsuccessful) attempt by Al-Qaeda to blow up the Twin Towers, it would seem obvious that we were a sitting duck. Unfortunately, policymakers in Washington failed to take action. In 1993, American troops were sent to Somalia on a humanitarian mission. When Special Forces got in a firefight with Al-Qaeda trained fighters and 18 American soldiers died, you would think retaliation would be in line. We did not attack or even identify the enemy; we abandoned the country. Bin Laden said of it, “The youth realized that the American soldier was a paper tiger”. In 1996, Al-Qaeda bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. 19 Americans died, and the radical Islamic government of Iran was to blame. Instead of action against them, we avoided looking into the situation further specifically because it might force us into military action. The attacks came to a climax in 1998, when Al-Qaeda obliterated two U.S. embassies in Africa. Our response was cruise missile strikes. Gen. Wayne Downing, who is the former commander of U.S. Special Forces, lamented, “We used kids gloves after the embassy bombings. Cruise missiles – that’s the cowards way out.” Right before the end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen rammed a boat of explosives into the destroyer USS Cole, and 17 servicemen were killed. There was no response (Lowry).
All of these successful strikes emboldened radical Muslims. Their plotting became increasingly larger in scale and ambitions for a major hit on American soil arose. They continued to spit anti-Americanism from Afghanistan, now confident that the United States of America was unable to defend itself (Commission).
Also disturbing was the lax security at vital points in our interior. Our borders were weakly defended, and we accepted foreigners too quickly and easily. Al-Qaeda cells from California to New York (including one in Peoria, IL) easily came into and out of the U.S., and received funds disguised as Muslim charities. Airport screening and immigration processes put in place after 9/11 could have kept Mohammed Atta and the rest of the hijackers out of the our airplanes and our country. On that fateful day, we saw the failures of the intelligence community and a government communication structure that was unable to deal with such a horror. It was a high price to pay to realize the failures of our government to adapt to changing threats (Commission).
While Bill Clinton gets credit for helping the economy, his Neville Chamberlain-like foreign policy was at least partially responsible for the loss of those 2,792 lives. By September 11th, George W. Bush had not even finished appointing his Cabinet, but was faced with the largest attack ever in our nation’s history. The 9/11 commission, being half Democratic, didn’t want to put blame where blame was due, but the facts speak for themselves.
No one sentence can sum up the complexity of why September 11th, 2001 is a day that will surely live in infamy as much as Pearl Harbor or D-Day. It is important that measures be taken to prevent it from happening again. But true safety will come only by understanding the culture of the people that harbor such hateful feelings toward us. We have endured the effect of these causes, and may we use the knowledge we have gained from it to bring freedom and prosperity to the world.

Works Cited

Lowry, Rich. “What Clinton Knew – And What Clinton Did”. National Review Online.
October 17, 2003, 9:39 a.m. December 9, 2004.
Terrorism: Questions and Answers. 2004. December 9, 2004.
“The 9/11 Commission Report”. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States. September 20, 2004 12:00 a.m. EDT. December 9, 2004.

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