Understanding 9/11

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Let me start off by telling you what this post won’t be. It won’t be content-free self-congratulatory patriotism. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are millions of places you could go for it on today of all days. This won’t be a blind endorsement of the American actions that led up to 9/11 or the response, nor will a ringing condemnation. Here, I am going to try to present the truth in a simple abbreviated form– free from the strong emotional response that this topic seems to bring out in every single inhabitant of this Earth.

So why did al-Qaeda attack America in this way? If you asked the average American, most would tell you that it’s because they hated our freedom, our Christianity (used in the most general possible manner), and our wealth. Some would even go so far as to echo the words of President George W. Bush in his speech immediately after the attacks:

America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

While this may be an assumption that makes us feel good about ourselves, we should look to the explanation given by the one responsible for the plot rather than vague rhetoric for the truth. This is the letter Osama Bin Laden wrote to America to explain the attacks. In it, he clearly outlines the reasons for the attack, and they are more political than moral (figures. Most of the bad things in life are.). He does spend a significant amount of time at the end of the letter basically giving an altar call for Islam, but that was phrased as something he’s “calling” us to, not as the reason for the attack.

His primary issue with the US seemed to be our involvement in support of the Israeli nation and thus against Palestine. And that is an issue significantly more messy than any of us really want to acknowledge.

As a Christian, I know that God gave the land of Israel as an inheritance to the children of Israel forever, so they have a right to lay claim to it. But the Palestinians have been living on that land for hundreds of years. They don’t see the Israelis as noble crusaders reclaiming the land of their ancestors; they see them as invaders taking the land that belonged first to their fathers and to their grandfathers before that. I don’t see how either side can lay exclusive claim to being the rightful possessor of Israel, yet Washington gives a great deal of aid to Israel.

Keep in mind that many Palestinian civilians were killed and are being killed in the war over Palestine. In Osama bin Laden’s mind the 9/11 attacks were nothing more than just retaliation for the death of innocents. In no way does this justify the attack, but at least know that there was some logic to all of it– a twisted, perverted logic but logic nonetheless.

I don’t agree with the means, but in many ways I agree with the message of the attack. America claims to be a nation ruled by the consent of the governed. What right have we to impose the governments of our preference on other nations. This nation was built by its own inhabitants, and it’s been more prosperous than any nation that’s ever had a government chosen by an outside force. Shouldn’t we allow the other nations of the world to go through the natural progression that eventually leads to freedom without meddling and hindering that process? Shouldn’t we allow them to have what they define as freedom rather than what we define?

Perhaps the lesson we need to learn from 9/11 isn’t a self-congratulatory lesson about our own resilience; maybe we seriously need to rethink the foreign policy that caused the attacks in the first place.

With respect both to those who died in the 9/11 attack and in the war for Palestine,

Adam B

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