Published by the Chicago Daily SouthTown
September 10, 2007
Sept. 11 is perhaps the single most important factor that has changed and shaped the American peoples' views and opinions - as well as prejudices - when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs and Muslims.
The war in Iraq was made possible as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy in which the victims of this terrorist act were exploited in the battle cry to launch and execute a war on a country that had committed no act of war or act of terrorism against the United States.
Iraq, ruled by Saddam Hussein, had no ties to the international terror network of al-Qaida. There were no terrorists present on Iraqi soil except in northern Iraq, which was a Kurdish-controlled territory and where the notorious terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi initially was based.
Though Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant and a criminal by all accounts, from an American perspective, and as far as American interests were concerned - he was not a threat to the United States nor to American citizens either at home or abroad.
So what are the factors that made it possible for the Bush administration to be able to convince half of the American people to accept its reasons to invade a foreign country that has done them no harm?
Those who populated and operated the halls of power in Washington were able to create an illusion of a connection between Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization and Iraq, which happened to be an Arab and Muslim country. With the help of a cowed media, the administration was able to weave support for the war by tapping into an under-current of racist and bigoted views of Muslims and Arabs.
Americans, in general, are conditioned by popular culture to view Arabs and Muslims suspiciously and as the enemy.
Some Americans were motivated by their fundamentalist and apocalyptic religious views, which are pro-Israel and anti-Arab, while others were consumed by their desire for bloody revenge in a sense that so long as the person at the receiving end of the blows is an Arab and/or a Muslim, it matters not where or who or when we strike.
In the meantime, well-meaning Americans were led to believe that invading Iraq and ravaging the entire country would somehow be equivalent to extracting revenge and, by extension, a measure of justice for what occured on Sept. 11. This, of course, is far from the truth. We now know, thanks to many official investigations into this matter, that neither Iraq nor Saddam Hussein had anything to do with Sept. 11 or al-Qaida terrorism.
On the contrary, this war has transformed Iraq into al-Qaida's main base of operation and its proving ground and in the process has gifted the country to Iran through Iraq's corrupt Shia leadership and its "holy" Ayatollahs.
The nearly 3,000 victims of Sept. 11 were used, immorally and shamelessly, to the advantage of those who planned for this war. The victims' murders have been exploited to justify the psychological connection between the state of Iraq and bin Laden's terrorism. The terrorism of Sept. 11 and the victims have become a convenient justification to wage war, a justification we only recently learned has nothing to do with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Sept. 11 or even democracy or freedom.
Despite what now are discredited objectives of the war, much of the support for the war continues to come from certain segments of American society that view Iraq and other Muslim and Arab nations as an "enemy" that deserves to be punched back, just as bin Laden did to America on Sept. 11.
Never mind, however, that bin Laden, Zarqawi and al-Qaida have collectively killed more Arabs and Muslims than Americans. Yet, the supporters of this war still desire to punish all Arabs and all Muslims simply because bin Laden is an Arab and a Muslim. Fueling this racist attitude toward everything Arab and everything Muslim is popular culture and the constant badgering of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans on TV and in the mainstream media by racist commentators and writers.
On this sixth anniversary of this tragic event, we should realize and remember that Sept. 11 was neither a spontaneous act nor an act that occurred in a vacuum. Those who killed Americans did not wake up one day thinking we should kill Americans; men are not born terrorists or suicide bombers.
We need to address the underlying reasons and circumstances that created a fertile ground for the evil of terrorism to take root. America should honor its victims by bringing those who were responsible for this crime to justice and embark instead on a self-critical examination of its bad policies in the Middle East rather than continue to punish the innocent in order to satisfy a nation's thirst for vengeance.
Ali Alarabi, of Chicago, is managing editor of The Arab Desk at www.TheArabDesk.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate.