Terrorism: October 6, 2001

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A Few Myths in Need of Correction, Part 2

A number of annoying (to most people) or perplexing ideas have arisen since September 11th. One is that the September 11th attacks were actually Americas fault. Revenge, so to speak, for all the horrors America has committed against Islamic nations. The truth is rather different. It was America that, for the past century, have consistently pushed for the independence of Islamic nations from colonial or imperial rule. America, more than any other nation, has given tens of billions of dollars to help these countries, and invested much more in their economies. These investments are often called exploitation, but for the Moslems working in American owned or controlled factories, its usually the highest paid jobs theyve ever had. Many of the gifts and investments don't get through to the people who need it, and America is often blamed for this as well. But the local leaders are, well, locals and asking America to remove them is a very messy business that the American public has little stomach for.

Moslems complain about America backing Israel against the Palestinians, but its always been the other way around. While may Moslems believe that Israel is a puppet of America (or the other way around), something that is very far from the truth. The Israeli media has long been full of complaints about American pressure on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Its another case of no good deed going unpunished.

Another grievance in Moslem eyes is how America has treated Iraq. America never armed Iraq (Russia, China and France did) and came to the aid of the Gulf States when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The ten years of sanctions against Iraq are seen as a crime against humanity, but none of Iraqs neighbors ever demanded that American troops leave the area and stop enforcing the sanctions. Most Moslems like to ignore the fact that any harm done to the Iraqi people is done by the Sunni minority (led by Saddam Hussein) against the Kurds and the Shia majority.

Its also become fashionable to say we abandoned Afghanistan in 1989 when the Russians left Afghanistan. But lets take a look back at the situation in 1989. When the Russians left, there was still a pro-Russian government controlling much of the country. Opposing this crowd were half a dozen major factions, and many smaller ones. The factions fought each other, and the government, until the government fell in 1992. The factions then went after each other full time until they were driven out by a larger faction, the Taliban, in 1996. Several of those factions, operating as the Northern Alliance, continue to fight the Taliban (and several smaller factions still exist in Western Afghanistan.) Would the American public have approved our getting involved in the Afghan civil war in 1989. Thats very doubtful, if only because thats how the Russians got involved in 1979. And America did not abandon the Afghans, as we continued to supply most of the food for the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

One of Osama bin Ladens favorite myths is that Americans wont fight. He bases this on the American reluctance to take casualties, particularly in Somalia in 1993 and the Balkans in the late 1990s. What bin Laden misunderstood was the American attitude towards casualties is largely confined to American politicians and media. A survey done in the late 1990s by Duke University showed this very clearly. Politicians and the general public were asked how many American causalities they would tolerate in different situation. In all cases, the general public were willing to accept a lot more dead American troops than the politicians. The US media also plays a large role in all this. In Somalia, when 18 American troops were killed fighting Somalis (and killing over 500 of them), the Somalis initially felt they had suffered a major defeat (which they had.) The US troops were eager to go back in and finish the job. But the American media decided it was a US defeat, and American politicians agreed. The troops were rather dismayed at all this, but their opinions were not solicited. It was a similar situation in the Balkans late in the 1990s. The troops, and the American public, were willing to take losses and get the job done. But the politicians and the media preferred to futz around and insist that "the people won't stand for casualties" even when the surveys show quite the opposite. What's amazing about this is that this has happened before. In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines intending to kill so many U.S. troops that the American population would lose any enthusiasm about going to war. Same thing when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Some people never learn.


 

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