Author Topic: The Legacy of 9/11 and the War on Intellectuals  (Read 3124 times)

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The Legacy of 9/11 and the War on Intellectuals
« on: September 11, 2011, 06:47:05 AM »
Saturday 10 September 2011
by: Stephen Zunes, Truthout | News Analysis

(Photo: Bob Jagendorf / Flickr)

Ten years after 9/11, for the first time, a plurality of Americans recognizes that US policy in the Middle East played a major role in the attacks. It was not, as George W. Bush famously put it, simply because, "They hate our freedom."

As a Middle East specialist, I engaged in scores of interviews and wrote a number of widely circulated articles in the days, weeks and months following the terrorist strikes arguing this very point.

Both out of respect for those killed and their loved ones as well as my own deep-seated feelings of anger and horror, I did not mince words regarding the perpetrators of the attacks and their supporters. I even supported the right of the United States and its allies to engage in (a limited and targeted) military response to the very real threat posed by al-Qaeda. However, I also thought that it was critical to examine what may have motivated the horrific attacks, which I found important not only in preventing future terrorism, but also to avoid policies that could further exacerbate the threat. Indeed, I barely allowed myself to grieve over the horror of 9/11 due to my fear - which ended up being tragically prescient - of the far greater terror my government would unleash on the Middle East.

My argument was that the more the United States has militarized the region, the less secure the American people had become. I noted how all the sophisticated weaponry, brave fighting men and women, and brilliant military leadership the United States possessed would do little good if there were hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East and beyond who hated us. Even though only a small percentage of the population supports Osama bin Laden's methods, I argued, there would still be enough people to maintain dangerous terrorist networks as long as his grievances resonated with large numbers of people.

I went on to explain how, as most Muslims recognized, bin Laden was not an authority on Islam.  He was, however, a businessman by training, who - like any shrewd businessman - knew how to take a popular fear or desire and use it to sell a product: in this case, anti-American terrorism.  The grievances expressed in his manifestos - the ongoing US military presence in the Gulf, the humanitarian consequences of the US-led sanctions against Iraq, US support for the Israeli government and US backing of autocratic Arab regimes - had widespread appeal in that part of the world. I quoted British novelist John le Carre's observation that, "What America longs for at this moment, even more that retribution, is more friends and fewer enemies."

I reiterated how there was nothing karmic about the events of 9/11, but that history had demonstrated how the United States did not become a target for terrorists because of its values, as President Bush and others claimed, but because it had strayed from its values of freedom, democracy and rule of law in implementing its policies in the Middle East. Furthermore, I argued that a policy based more on the promotion of human rights, international law, and sustainable development, and less on arms transfers, air strikes, punitive sanctions, and support for occupation armies and dictatorial governments, would make Americans a lot safer.

I repeatedly emphasized that, whatever the failings of a government in its foreign policy, no country deserves to experience such a large-scale loss of innocent lives as the United States experienced on 9/11. Yet, I also stressed that the hope of stopping extremists who might resort to such heinous acts in the future rested in part on the willingness of Americans to recognize what gave rise to what veteran journalist Robert Fisk described as "the wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people." To raise these uncomfortable questions about US foreign policy was difficult for many Americans, particularly in the aftermath of the attacks. Indeed, many were afraid to ask the right questions because they feared the answers.  Still, I was convinced that it could not have been more important or timely.

Raising such questions was not popular, however. Detectives investigating a crime trying to establish a motive are generally not accused of defending the criminals. Fire inspectors inspecting the ruins of a building for the cause of the blaze are not accused of defending its destruction. Yet I found myself, along with scores of other Middle Eastern scholars, being attacked for supposedly defending terrorism.

Within a few months, I found my dossier - along with seven other professors specializing in the Middle East - compiled by Campus Watch, a project of the right-wing Middle East Forum, led by the Islamaphobic intellectual and occasional Bush administration adviser Daniel Pipes. The list of "anti-American" professors who had the audacity to raise concerns over certain US policies also included some of the top scholars in the field, including John Esposito at Georgetown, Joel Beinin at Stanford, Ian Lustick at the University of Pennsylvania, Rashid Khalidi of the University of Chicago and the late Edward Said at Columbia.

Rarely able to respond effectively to specific arguments by scholars of the Middle East regarding the negative political, strategic, economic, legal and moral ramifications of US policy in the region, supporters of US policy in the region resorted to misrepresenting our arguments to make them appear extreme, naive, cynical or simply foolish.

For example, my Campus Watch dossier included the following:

    Prof. Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco believes that the US - a "superpower (that) puts far more emphasis on weapons shipments and air strikes than on international law" - is almost entirely to blame for Sept. 11.

The phrase "is almost entirely to blame for Sept. 11" was not in quotation marks because I never said that. The complete quote - which I had written in an op-ed column for the Baltimore Sun the day after the attacks - referred to the well-documented link between militarization and terrorism, arguing that:

    It is no coincidence that terrorist groups have arisen in an area where the world's one remaining superpower puts far more emphasis on weapons shipments and air strikes than on international law or human rights.

Various manifestations of this Campus Watch claim that I had said that 9/11 was "our fault" soon made its way to Fox News, MSNBC, radio talk shows throughout the nation and even into my short biographical entry in Wikipedia.

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Re: The Legacy of 9/11 and the War on Intellectuals
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2011, 11:08:32 AM »
Thank you Nonillusions for this and all the other articles you posted today.  :)


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Re: The Legacy of 9/11 and the War on Intellectuals
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2011, 12:00:25 PM »
Thank you Nonillusions for this and all the other articles you posted today.  :)

geekemmy thank you for your honesty peace friend  :D