It was 12 years ago today when 19 men hijacked four airplanes and crashed three of them into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. Many millions of words have been written about those attacks and their cause, but it seems that most people are still just as clueless about why the attacks happened as they were 12 years ago.
George W. Bush famously told us that the attackers hate Americans because we are free. In a speech to Congress, he said, “Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
Bush was out of touch with reality, even though his defenders continue to look for ways around this. Those who attacked this country were very plain about their grievances and their motives. They hated this country because of the U.S. government’s constant interference in the affairs of their nations. This isn’t news to anyone who’s followed the history of the last hundred years and who’s listened to what these groups have said.
The U.S. government has spent the last century intervening in the affairs of people in the Middle East (and elsewhere). Our rulers have supported tyrants and claimed it was in the name of freedom. They’ve spent billions and billions of our tax dollars to give dictators the weapons with which to murder their people and each other. Our government has chosen which groups to support and which regimes to bring down, all on the basis of which groups were willing to act as puppets for what people in D.C. wanted. (And they sometimes support a dictator today and then call him the devil tomorrow when it suits their purposes.)
That’s why they hate us. It has nothing to do with our “democratically elected government.” It has nothing to do with our freedom of religion, speech and so forth, although they surely wouldn’t respect those things. They hate us because of things that have been done to their nations and families — in our name — by the U.S. government.
But our politicians don’t want to learn that lesson. They want to continue interfering in other countries’ affairs and continue dictating winners and losers. They don’t want to admit that all their efforts simply create more reasons for more people to hate us and then to come to this continent seeking revenge.
Barack Obama’s insane desire to attack Syria recently is proof of that. He and his advisors can’t accept that Syria’s problems are Syria’s business, not ours. His absurd speech Monday night that tried to explain his position on Syria is a portrait of political incoherence. Not only will he not accept that Syria’s civil war isn’t cause for a U.S. attack, but he’s dishonest enough to pretend that the Russian government’s intervention with the Syrian government — which might stop the U.S. attack — was part of his brilliant plan to bring peace. Are you stupid enough to buy that?
It’s not just Obama and other warmongers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, though. We can also see the same insanity and refusal to learn from those in the media.
I was disgusted by this column in the New York Times this week from Bill Keller, long-time (but now former) executive editor of the Times. Keller lambasts the “knee-jerk isolationism” of those of us who oppose attacking Syria. He spends most of his column making the tortured comparison of the current situation to the Americans who opposed U.S. involvement in World War II prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. No, I’m not kidding.
I’m not an isolationist. I favor completely free trade with anyone who would like to trade with anyone in the United States. I favor complete freedom to travel across national borders for whatever peaceful exchange people want to make. I favor visiting their countries and learning about them. I favor allowing them to freely visit here and immigrate here. I favor free people being allowed to interact with each other in whatever ways they voluntarily choose. That is not isolating oneself.
What I oppose is anyone using my tax money to kill people in my name — when those people haven’t threatened me or anyone else in this country. I oppose murdering people through the legal fiction called war. I oppose pretending that there’s a “good side” that should be supported in a civil war between a brutal dictator and a group of fighters who want to set up an Islamic state in his place.
We who oppose war aren’t isolationists. We’re realists who understand history, morality and logic.
We who oppose war understand why this country was attacked 12 years ago today. We want to stop giving people in new places reasons to hate us and new reasons to attack us in the future.