When investigating criminals, the main thing you look at is the motive behind their crimes. If we are to believe that Osama bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11 attacks, then an examination of his motive is in order.
The President says the motive is a hatred for “our freedom, our justice and our tolerance.” Another motive that has been presented is that the attacks were an act of retaliation to our foreign policies, such as our support of Israel and the economic sanctions on Iraq that have caused nearly two million civilian deaths. This column will focus on a third possible motive: The attacks were meant to provoke America into taking drastic action, paving the way for war and terrorism on a larger scale.
Bin Laden has stated that “the world is divided into two sides. The side of faith and the side of the infidels.” In a message that was recorded before the US began its military campaign, bin Laden said, “Every Muslim has to rise up and defend his Muslim brothers and wipe out this act of aggression.” The “aggression” that he spoke of had not yet occurred when he recorded this. For the initial action, a reaction was expected, with the hopes that the reaction would trigger a bigger counter-reaction. This action-reaction cycle, as bin Laden tells it, will eventually lead to a large-scale war between Muslims and the New World Order.
According to the UN-run World Food Program, 5.5 million people in Afghanistan will be entirely dependent on food aid to survive the upcoming winter, a quarter of the Afghan population. Doctors Without Borders, a Nobel Prize-winning organization, has stated that our current airdrops of food are “virtually useless and may even be dangerous.”
The efforts to remedy this situation have been minimal. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in an Oct. 8 news conference, said, “We will root them out and starve them out. We are determined not to be terrorized.” Washington has cut off aid from neighboring Pakistan and other countries, leaving only the UN’s World Food Program and the Red Cross to get food to millions of Afghan civilians before winter sets in.
What if this is bin Laden’s aim: to demonstrate that the U.S. doesn’t care about civilian lives, allowing him to gain broader public support for his jihad against America. Unknown to the average CNN viewer, there have been civilian casualties nearly every day of the air strikes. More than 100 houses were leveled in Khushkam Bhat on Oct. 13 because US planes were trying to drop a bomb on a single helicopter. A village named Karam was reduced to rubble about a week ago.
If this is bin Laden’s motive, then his methods are in clear violation of Islamic religious law, which forbids the killing of non-combatants in war. It would follow then that bin Laden thinks of Islam not in the strictly religious sense, but also the political. In his most recent broadcast, bin Laden referred to the “80 years of humiliation of our Islamic nation,” referring to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. When the Afghan people were able to drive Russia out of their country in the early ’80s, Islamic revivalists began to see the combination of religious zeal and modern military tactics and weaponry as the formula for a new Islamic era. That victory, according to bin Laden, “cleared from Muslim minds the myth of superpowers. I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America.”
In a press conference last Monday, Rumsfeld said, “The task is to keep at it until Americans can go through their lives without fear. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It will be years, not weeks and months.” If the U.S. allows millions of civilians to die, and at the same time begins to bomb other countries it believes “aren’t with us,” there is no doubt that more terrorist attacks will be provoked. America’s actions do not coincide with its stated objective.
In America, over one hundred Middle Eastern citizens are being held as “material witnesses” for extended periods of time. They are allowed no contact with their family, very limited contact with lawyers and there is no record as to why any of them are being held and for how long.
As we prepare to step up our “war on terrorism,” we must step back from the CNN point of view and look at what all of this will lead to. It seems both sides have an agenda, and civilians in both America and the Middle East are caught in the crossfire.
Drew Atkins is a freshman political science major.