In one word: everything. I was as horrified as everyone else when the first plane slammed into the first tower, but my immediate thought was ‘why would anyone do that?’
Unfortunately, this question didn’t seem to be the reaction of many others.
The attacks showed genius. I know, cowardly, terrifying, killing innocents etc, all awful things that cannot be sanctioned by anyone – but incredibly effective, powerful, dramatic and attention-grabbing.
And incredibly cheap to execute, by comparison to what the US has been spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep them in crisis.
But still, why would anyone perpetrate the 9/11 attacks? The reaction in the States and in many Western countries immediately after – and this, unfortunately, persists – was just to demonise (not that it needed much help) the perpetrators.
They were just ‘evil’, and labelled with all the other buzzwords that makes it easier for us to hate in return. Some Americans even put it down to jealousy! But does any of this help us understand?
Certainly not. The depth of feeling in parts of the world against the US, and against the global monetary system that keeps the third world in poverty, has not been publicly explored or acknowledged effectively.
Meanwhile, the average US citizen can point at the rest of the world as being ‘other’, evil and dangerous. Which hardly amends the States’ outward condition of aggressive isolationism.
Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden cited US support of Israel, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and sanctions against Iraq (this was before the invasion of Iraq) as motives for the attacks.
But while Westerners and others were justifiably horrified on the day, I bet there were hundreds, thousands – perhaps even millions going as far as openly rejoicing.
And more importantly, why didn’t America ask why?
Do American policy makers honestly believe anyone would go to the lengths of crashing planes full of guiltless passengers into towers containing innocent victims just because they’re ‘evil’? The notion is ridiculous. Not only that, it’s ignorant and stupid.
Osama bin Laden may have been a deluded messianic nutcase, but if so, he combined it with a keen intelligence, and he motivated a dedicated cadre. It’s not hard to realise he and his followers knew far more about the US than the US knew about them. And bin Laden was from a privileged background – he was hardly a typical downtrodden and embittered Third World peasant.
In 1998, Al-Qaeda wrote “for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorising its neighbours, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighbouring Muslim peoples.”
This was, to some extent, true. America did have troops in muslim states, and was definitely benefiting from oil and other wealth. Meanwhile, America failed to realise the injury and indignation this was causing. Whether the intentions of such were uninvited, or willing transgressions against Islam, is a matter of conjecture and viewpoint. (The summary execution of bin Laden and the callous disposal of his body at sea were almost definitely calculated insults. It also meant he could not be called to account. He could never state his case or explain his actions in an international court.)
What I find incredible is that the US failed to acknowledge, or to even actively consider, the depth of feeling its actions engendered, and continue to engender.
America has perpetuated a deep-seated hate around the world which it has consistantly failed to acknowledge. This is mostly due to pursuit of profit at any cost and a reluctance to engage with other societies on an intellectual level. Yet this goes with an arrogance that has it meddling, in sometimes the most aggressive way possible, directly in world affairs. The international monetary fund and banking system has been, and is, culpable for perpetuating unequal trading and banking structures to the detriment of non Western societies. The World Banking Centre in New York was its emblem.
I’m not saying Al Qaeda’s reaction wasn’t crazy, thoroughly reprehensible, disgusting or misdirected. It was all of those things and more. I’m not condoning any of it for a second – and as repulsive to me is using a concept of ‘God’ in any form to justify any anti-human action. (But this goes for both sides.)
I’m just saying, the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon were hardly done lightly.
Yet US forces appear to remain as misdirected. As does the US State Department.
As for the converse question, what was right with 9/11?
But what are we really doing about it? Nothing.
Yet we continue to spread more inequality. Except outside the US, it’s often spread at the point of a gun.