The other day, I checked my SU box to discover a small leaflet entitled 09.11.01 Beyond the Headlines. The goal of this leaflet seemed to be, in the words of Marc Lynch, professor of political science, to help students “to gain a greater understanding of the history, ideas, and complex political relationships which might have led to the attack on the United States.”
This seems to me to be a rather benign goal, and one must applaud the commitment of the faculty of this College to try and educate the students as often as possible and particularly in relation to such a momentous occasion. However, this well-intended leaflet did bring a brief feeling of anger and disgust to me – mostly because I am very tired of calls to understand the monsters that butchered 7,000 innocent people on Sept. 11.
We were only given a brief respite following the attack before the preaching began, as we were informed that we needed to understand the terrorists. After all, this destruction was our fault, not theirs. Susan Sontag epitomized this feeling as she asked in The New York Times, “Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?”
There are two problems with this line of argument. Primarily, I must wonder why I should care at all about the reasons behind the attack. While an analysis of these reasons might prove an interesting topic for a history class 20 years from now, at this point I believe that the blood of several thousand washes away whatever right the terrorists had to be understood.
Indeed, it is somewhat dangerous to assume that those who would so willingly slaughter their fellow men are capable of being understood. Is there anything that can justify Hitler’s carnage? I should hope not, for I would hate to meet the individual who could consider such horrible and heinous acts reasonable.
Thus I can find nothing but contempt for those who seek to explain the events of Sept. 11 and demand that I try to understand the motivations behind the attack. This was very simply an example of unreasonable and unjustifiable destruction caused by monsters, and I for one do not plan on spending my time trying to understand monsters.
There are those all too willing to mitigate the evil of the attack, though, and it fills me with great anger when Dario Fo, an Italian playwright and analyst, writes, “The great speculators wallow in an economy that every year kills tens of millions of people with poverty, so what is 20,000 dead in New York? Regardless of who carried out the massacre, this violence is the legitimate daughter of the culture of violence, hunger and inhumane exploitation.” This anger comes not only from the incredibly incorrect assumption that America somehow kills tens of millions of people through its economic policies. It also comes from the idea that an educated and civilized individual can come to the conclusion that this level of violence and destruction is a somehow legitimate.
The arguments of Susan Sontag, Dario Fo and others assume that America needs to reexamine its motives, as if we have done something wrong. Perhaps I am a bit naive, but I have always believed that the bad guys hate the good guys precisely because they do the right things. The fact that we are so hated by the people who consider the slaughter of thousands of innocents a ticket to paradise should be a sign that we are on the right track.
A further examination of our actions shows them to not be worthy of such violence, either. We have been told that our foreign policy is highly anti-Muslim, but this is completely unsupported by fact. Three times in the last decade we have sent troops into harm’s way in the foreign lands of Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, and in each of these cases the troops were sent in support of Muslims. I also remember a time in which America held its bombing of Iraq to a specific timetable so as not to bomb during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, we didn’t seem concerned at all during the Kosovo campaign when we dropped bombs during the midst of Eastern Orthodox Easter.
About the only potential piece of evidence that could be offered to say that America pursued an anti-Muslim foreign policy lies in America’s support for Israel. However, this support has nothing to do with religion. It is a very simple matter of our nation being committed to freedom and democracy and Israel being the only free and democratic nation in the Middle East.
Arguments that American economic policy is a scourge upon the world that forces people into impoverished conditions is also highly untenable. It is an argument based more on too many years of reading Marxist theory than on any actual facts. The basic error of this anti-globalization dogma is a misinterpretation of the forces behind globalization. There is no smoke-filled room where American business leaders plot how to increase their wealth and subjugate the world to poverty. American corporations are hardly monolithic, and they are all simply driven by a desire to make money by offering a service or product that people are willing to buy.
The true force behind the globalization movement is instead the people who are often categorized as its victims. McDonald’s does not enter a country to try and force an American hegemony on the populace. They go to sell hamburgers, and I can guarantee that you would not find McDonald’s restaurants victimizing the people in various Third World nations if those people were not willing to buy the hamburgers. The same can be said for any other American corporation, they will only go where there is enough economic oxygen to sustain them. Globalization as a movement would not exist if there were not such a high demand for it among the citizens of the world.
I should perhaps make it clear that I am not foolish enough to believe that America is perfect. We clearly have our problems. However, I am also not foolish enough to believe any of these problems are even closely comparable to the evil represented by the terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center.
Our reaction to this tragedy should not be to examine our own actions and motives. It should be to do humanity a big favor by forever ending the scourge of terrorism. And we should carefully remember that trying to understand and justify the heinous actions of monsters will only lead to more monsters.