Some of those people (people who, before 9-11, had their own rather convoluted reasons for disliking America) seized upon this terrible event to ram home the point they'd been anxious to make all along. America is evil, it inspires hatred around the world, and we'd be so much better off if only the nation that defeated Saddam, de-clawed Al Qaeda and keeps China, Russia, Iran and North Korea at bay, was destroyed.
American leaders (for the most part) acted differently. Caught wrong-footed much as everyone else was, they at first struggled to elucidate the enormity of what had happened, and, most importantly, why they thought it had happened at all.
The President, George Walker Bush, spoke simply, as he is wont to do. Unlike some people, it is a trait that I appreciate. He is singularly straightforward in articulation, and guile is ever absent from his responses.
The President believed then as he does now, that the Al Qaeda terrorists committed the atrocity of 9-11 because of one basic motivation. The deep desire to attack the roots of American freedom.
Unsurprisingly, this led sophisticates the world over to bend double with gales of scornful laughter. "Dumbo George" just didn't have the sophistication, he lacked the nuanced understanding that was so very necessary in reaching the predetermined conclusion that the deaths of thousands of civilian Americans were his nation's fault, and by extension, his own. Legacy of greed, ultimate reality check, reap what had been sown... on, and on, and on.
A good example of this eager self-loathing was expressed by Susan Sontag:
The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgement 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 super-power, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?But was he wrong? I've never believed so. Why? Well, it's a chain of strategic logic. By "freedom" the President was referring to the uniquely democratic processes that make ancilliary rights; such as freedom of speech, right of free assembly, and so on, possible.
9-11 was an aggressive first strike against the greatest threat posed to Wahabbist Islam, not a retaliatory response to economic disparity. In his most early statements, Osama bin Laden repeatedly stressed only one primary demand; the removal of all US Troops from Saudi Arabia. He had watched Clinton turn tail and run from Somalia after the Blackhawk disaster, and had been emboldened, believing that the United States was a paper tiger, an empty superpower. It's quite clear that with the US gone, Osama would have used all of his resources to oust the Saudi royal family, and replace it with a theocracy, most likely with himself at the head. His language has always been grandiose, and his subsequent statements have given his intentions away. He didn't just want Saudi Arabia. That was stage one. Stage two would have involved far more agressive overthrows of secular leaders (using that phrase very, very loosely) around the middle east and North Africa. He has repeatedly talked about reinstating the grand Islamic Caliphate, and the reclaimation of all lands once occupied by Islamic troops. That would include good portions of Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Spain and Austria. He had big plans.
Thanks to George W. Bush and the land he leads, those plans have been, by necessity, modified. But the core of the hatred still remains, and thankfully, at last, it has been spelt out clearly by one of bin Laden's most senior commanders.
This war, Al Qaeda's war, isn't just against America. It is against the concept of Democracy itself:
A suicide car bomb smashed into a checkpoint near the party offices of the Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Baghdad yesterday, a day after Iraq's most feared and wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared a "fierce war" against democracy.Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is almost certainly going to someday succeed bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and speaks with bin Laden's authority.
Two people were killed and 10 wounded in the attack, police and medical sources said. Officials in Mr Allawi's office said the prime minister was not in the area at the time.
Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for the blast, according to an internet statement.
"A lion of the martyrs' brigade of the al-Qaeda Group in the Land of Two Rivers this morning attacked the headquarters of the Iraq National Accord of Iyad Allawi, the agent of Jews and Christians in Baghdad," said the internet statement.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.
On January 3, a suicide car bomber killed three people in an attack on the same checkpoint which blocks the street where Mr Allawi's party has its headquarters.
On Sunday, a speaker identified as Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who tops Washington's wanted list in its drive to stamp out an insurgency, said the poll was a plot by the US and Shiite allies against Sunnis, who were dominant during Saddam Hussein's rule.
"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it. Those who vote ... are infidels," he said in an internet broadcast.