America Embattled: September 11, Anti-Americanism, and the Global Order

By Richard Crockatt | Go to book overview
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3

The roots of terror

Islam, the Middle East, and the United States

The Middle Eastern sources of the terrorist attacks of September 11 have been firmly established. The evidence suggests that the attacks were carried out by terrorists from a number of Middle Eastern countries acting, if not under the direct orders of Osama bin Laden, then according to his publicly stated goals. Bin Laden's primary aim, as announced in a statement issued by the Al Qaeda organization in 1998, was “to kill the Americans and their allies-civilian and military” as a matter of “individual duty for every Muslim, this aim in turn being supposedly in line with the Quranic injunction to “fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together” and “fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.” 1 Among the frequently stated grievances of bin Laden was the presence on Saudi Arabian soil of American troops, defiling the holy land of the Prophet; American support for Israel and, in particular, its policy toward the Palestinians; and finally, American policy toward Iraq. Bin Laden's was at least nominally a pan-Islamic vision that linked the oppression of any one group of Muslims with the West's oppression of Islam itself.

Whatever doubts were expressed initially about the responsibility of bin Laden and Al Qaeda for the attacks of September 11 disappeared in most observers' eyes with the release of a videotape in mid-December 2001, in which bin Laden was seen to exult in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and to show knowledge of the planning of the attacks. 2 Investigations by the FBI and other organizations in a number of countries produced an evidence trail linking the perpetrators of the attacks with cells of Islamic militants in several European countries. Clear connections were established between these militants and Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was based after the Taliban took power there in 1996. Bin Laden's own actions and statements showed a consistent pattern of extreme rejection of the West and also of Arab governments, above all

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