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9/11 and the ineffable innocence of US empire

The real reason our media were unable to examine the causes of 9/11 is that too many powerful Americans were invested in them.

By Philip Weiss

September 16, 2021 -- "Information Clearing House - "Modoweiss" -  I watched and listened to a lot of broadcast coverage of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and it was appalling: There was zero reflection on Why they hated us. I thought that after 20 years people in the mainstream would speak openly of the political motivation of the attack. No, everyone talked about “jihad,” as if an Arabic word for struggle was the American enemy. The long in-depth story on National Public Radio was all about how U.S. authorities missed the signs of the plot to attack the World Trade Center, as if this were merely a dastardly crime by evil men, which it was, and not a conspiracy generated by political grievances.

As if two dozen men would uproot their lives and cross oceans to die because they were “marginal” and “unstable,” as the 9/11 commission concluded — and not because they were fired by a sense of injustice. On one NPR story, teachers spoke about teaching the attack to children. When the kids asked why it happened, none of them had an answer. NPR treated their agnosticism as ineffable and blessed. Actually, it’s scandalous.

Al Qaeda perpetrated the 9/11 attacks because the U.S. was deeply involved as an occupying military force in the Middle East.

A 1998 declaration of war by Osama bin Laden cites three issues: the occupation of Saudi Arabia as a military base, the “devastation” of Iraq by U.S. sanctions including the alleged deaths of 1 million Iraqis, and the effort by the U.S. to “fragment” Arab nations so as to insure the survival of Israel.

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Bin Laden’s declaration is angry and articulate:

Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

“There you have it,” Scott Horton writes in his book “Fool’s Errand.” Bin Laden’s third cause of action was actually a rough description of the neoconservative project in the Middle East. The neocons laid it out in the 1996 paper they wrote for Netanyahu– which bin Laden surely read — called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” which envisioned militant action across the region. “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” The neocons of course carried out that scheme for Iraq on the part of the United States in 2003, a war that destabilized two or three countries.

Americans came up with many lies at the time about Why they hate us.

They hate our freedom. They hate Christianity. They hate western civilization. It is a war on terror– as if the bad guys are committed to terrorism as an existential faith. The 911 commission participated in this coverup. They did so because they did not want to face the truth: that brutal U.S. policies in the Middle East of an imperial character and in support of Israel had caused many Muslims to hate us to the point of wanting to hurt us by any means.

I know that it was considered bad form to bring up the causes early on because that suggested that our innocent neighbors deserved to die in such awful ways. Of course they didn’t, but as a country we were hardly innocent. And smart people knew it. A friend of mine who walked his son home from a school on Canal Street that morning wrote to me that day to say the chickens had come home to roost. The next day Robert Fisk wrote in the Nation and got the proportions right:

So it has come to this. The entire modern history of the Middle East–the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Balfour declaration, Lawrence of Arabia’s lies, the Arab revolt, the foundation of the state of Israel, four Arab-Israeli wars and the thirty-four years of Israel’s brutal occupation of Arab land–all erased within hours as those who claim to represent a crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and awesome cruelty of a doomed people. 

The real reason our media were unable to examine the causes is that too many powerful Americans were invested in them. But the failure to examine those policies resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians across the Middle East–right up to ten innocents blown up by a terror drone strike in Afghanistan on August 29.

The Israel lobby’s interest in these wars has never been debated. When David Petraeus dared to say that every house he went into in Fallujah had a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque on the wall, so U.S. support for Israel was a danger to American soldiers– he was shut down. Any suggestion that supporting Israeli occupation was not in the “American interest” had to be crushed inside the Beltway.

Many on the left say that the Iraq/Syria/Sudan/Yemen wars are about oil. Neale and Lindisfarne say so in their excellent analysis of the Afghanistan war that we ran lately. I disagree, and am happy to debate that some other time. While the causes of U.S. engagement across the Middle East surely have an imperial component, my lens is the Israel lobby and its role in pushing War as an answer. I remember when my mother’s best friend told me in Jerusalem in 2006, “The Arabs don’t want us here, and so there will be one war after another till they accept us.” This is the Israeli vision, constantly restated, even from hawks hosted by liberal Zionists; and it is no vision for any kind of future; and yet the U.S. adopted that mindset at the urging of neoconservatives, who have long pushed big U.S. defense spending in the name of Israel’s security.

And after Joe Biden withdrew from Afghanistan, the Israeli Prime Minister was lecturing him in the White House. You must not withdraw forces from Syria. You must threaten Iran.

It never ends. The Israeli vision of future war is granted standing inside policy circles, this time from the mouth of a racist expansionist who has bragged about killing Arabs.

The pressing question is of course what 20 years of devastating wars in others’ countries has achieved inside the Beltway, in the minds of those who design U.S. foreign policy. Here I am actually hopeful. These wars don’t make America safer, they breed hatred. Joe Biden’s angry defense of his Afghanistan withdrawal suggests that he believes as much. The New Yorker dares to say so in Anand Gopal’s piece of last week about why Afghans want us gone. The neoconservatives are today on the back foot, looking for a home. Criticisms of Israel are being expressed at last in the Democratic Party despite huge resistance.

A few can openly dare to question Israel’s policy of never-ending military occupation. A few talk about apartheid.

It’s been a long time but consciousness is changing. The U.S. has paid a terrible price for this understanding, but a far lesser one than the peoples of the Middle East.

Thx to Donald Johnson and James North and Annie Robbins.

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See also

How the U.S. Military Lied About the 9/11 Wars


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