In response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush promptly declared that the attacks were motivated by a hatred for “our freedoms” —particularly our freedoms of religion and speech. All of the evidence appears to point to a completely different idea. Terrorists did not attack us on 9/11 because they hated our freedom or were commanded by their religion. They attacked the World Trade Centers in order to get revenge for American actions they perceived to be injustices.
In 2002, Osama bin Laden wrote a “Letter to America” which described the motives behind the terrorist attacks. The three main reasons were American sanctions against Iraq, the United States’ support for Israel and the presence of our military in Saudi Arabia, the holy land of Islam. Of course, bin Laden could potentially be lying, but after analyzing each of the stated reasons in detail, it’s clear that American foreign policy was the primary trigger for the 9/11 attacks.
The United States placed sanctions on Iraq in 1990 in order to punish the regime of Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait. Iraq cited Kuwait’s supposed “slant drilling” (for oil) into Iraqi territory as a reason for their invasion. The primary way America sanctioned Iraq was through limiting their imports. All imports had to be approved by a United Nations panel, and shortages of medicine and food became an issue.
The sanctions lasted until 2003. During the years between 1990 and 1998, somewhere between 200 and 300 thousand children under five years of age died as a result of the sanctions, depending on which academic study you look at. While bin Laden claimed 1.5 million children died as a result of American sanctions, 200,000 is still no small number, and the death of that many children is definitely something to be upset about.
The next foreign policy issue that bin Laden cited was American support for Israel. Israel is one of the primary enemies of Islamic terrorist groups since they have both been fighting for control of Palestine. Both the Muslims and the Jews have historical ties to the region, so it isn’t clear which group, if any, has the right to the land. Given that knowledge, the Muslims are upset that the U.S. gives $2-3 billion in yearly aid to Israel while they get nothing. Bin Laden and the terrorists saw America as supporting one of their hated enemies; therefore, they saw America as an enemy as well.
The last of bin Laden’s stated reasons for the 9/11 attacks was the presence of American military troops in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military stationed about 5,000 ground troops in the country and had the Air Force enforce a no-fly zone around southern Iraq near the Saudi Arabian border. The purpose of the military presence was primarily to enforce the Iraqi sanctions. Muslims see Saudi Arabia as a religious holy land, and they thought the military presence was corrupting the holiness of the region. A significant portion of Americans can hardly tolerate immigrants, legal or illegal, so it’s not surprising that the people of the Middle East were bothered by the presence of the U.S. military in the area.
Killing 3,000 innocent Americans evidently wasn’t justified, but some of our actions probably weren’t justified either —especially the sanctions on Iraq. In order to make prudent decisions in regards to foreign policy, we need to understand the causes of terrorism. The motives behind 9/11 are a perfect example of the general rule—terrorism is retaliation to perceived injustices in foreign lands.
Tim is a freshman intending to major in finance and economics. How do you feel about Tim’s breakdown of the factors that played into the tragedy on Sep. 11? Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.