(Update I and II below)
After the September 11th attacks, many Americans wondered, “why do they hate us?” President George Bush gave his now famous explanation: “They hate our freedoms.” Radical Islam, we are told, is to blame.
When someone dares counter this argument by pointing out that “Muslim rage” is due to U.S. foreign policy, accusations of disloyalty quickly abound. Ron Paul was chastised when he had the audacity to claim that they didn’t attack us because of our freedoms, but rather “they attack us because we’ve been over there [bombing them].” In other words, they terrorize us because we’ve been terrorizing them.
Yet, the terrorists themselves consistently explain why they attack us. Osama bin Laden himself responded to George Bush:
Contrary to what Bush says and claims — that we hate freedom –let him tell us then, “Why did we not attack Sweden?” … Bush is…misleading you and not telling you the true reason.
The real reason, explained Bin Laden, was that
we had to destroy the towers in America so that they taste what we tasted, and they stop killing our women and children… Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.
Subsequent terrorists have consistently confessed similar motivations, whether it be the Times Square bomber or the Fort Hood shooter. Time and time again, the terrorists give the same explanations: they attack the United States because the United States is attacking Muslims.
With the Boston Marathon bombings, once again Americans repeat Bushian explanations. The vapid radio personality Adam Carolla explained:
They hate our culture. They hate our way of life.
Why Americans simply can’t fathom that it is U.S. foreign policy that motivates terrorists is understandable: it would be too difficult on the American psyche to admit fault–to admit that our own foreign policy is criminal and the ultimate source of a legitimate grievance. It is far easier to lay the blame on another religion.
So, once again, we are told that the Boston Marathon bombers were “motivated by religion.” This is what “anonymous U.S. officials” told the media, who then unthinkingly regurgitated it:
Two U.S. officials say preliminary evidence from an interrogation suggests the suspects in the Boston Marathon attack were motivated by their religious views but were apparently not tied to any Islamic terrorist groups.
The two brothers, from southern Russia, practiced Islam.
The U.S. officials spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.
Notice that the U.S. officials “were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation”–but they discussed it with reporters anyways. This is typical of the U.S. government-media relationship: journalists grant anonymity to government officials, who can then freely spread their propaganda while at the same time hiding behind the wall of anonymity when challenged. (Glenn Greenwald has written extensively on this practice.)
And so, Americans will continue to believe the myth that the terrorists attack us simply because of their religious views. This successfully shrouds the real underlying reason: U.S. foreign policy.
“Muslim rage” toward the United States has to do with the fact that the United States has been continuously bombing, invading, and occupying multiple Muslim countries. This is a process that began in the early 1990’s–over two decades of U.S. warmongering in the region. (And actually, U.S. interference in the Middle East begins way before that.)
The Tsaernev brothers may well have been becoming more religious. But, that’s only half the story–and it’s the half that’s less important. The more important half is what the government and media isn’t telling.
The Tsaernev brothers were ethnically Chechen. As has been pointed out by many in the media, Chechens don’t necessarily have a particularly antagonistic view towards the United States. Why should they? Their “beef” is with the Russians.
However, the Tsaernev brothers were becoming more religious. As such, it is only natural that their affiliation and self-identity became closer tied to Muslim. Once they started identifying themselves more as Muslims, they naturally grew closer in affiliation to the Muslim community worldwide (the Ummah). This sensitized them to conflicts in the Muslim majority world, including the U.S.-led incursions in the region. Therefore, the turn to religion did facilitate their eventual commission of the terrorist attacks, but only because it caused them to identify with the people who are being attacked by the United States.
It is true that the Koran commands believers to come to the defense of other Muslims:
And why should you not fight in God’s cause when defenseless men, women, and children are being oppressed and cry out, “Lord, rescue us from this land whose people are oppressors! By Your Grace, give us a protector and give us a helper.” (Koran, 4:75)
But, is this not a universal moral principle? Few people, aside from extreme pacifists, would argue that it is immoral to defend “defenseless men, women, and children who are being oppressed.”
That the Tsaernev brothers would respond to this call means that they identify the United States as the oppressor. It is less that the religion itself caused the Tsaernev brothers to plan these attacks, and more the fact that the U.S. is bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands. If this weren’t the case, the Tsaernev brothers would hardly have identified the U.S. with the oppressors mentioned in the Koranic verse.
Islam does advocate fighting oppressors to save the oppressed, but this is hardly something immoral. Rather, it would be immoral to deny the right of the oppressed to defend themselves against the oppressors. Where the Tsaernev brothers left the Koranic injunctions and Islamic tradition was in their targeting of civilians instead of military targets. The Koran declares:
Fight in God’s cause only against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression, for surely, God does not love aggressors. (Koran, 2:190)
The Prophet Muhammad is said to have explicitly forbidden the targeting of non-combatants, specifically women and children.
Islamic extremists like the Tsaernev brothers are not following the Koran or Islamic teachings when they commit acts of terrorism against innocents. Rather, they are flouting long-held Islamic prohibitions against targeting non-combatants. The extremists justify this departure from Koranic and Islamic law by claiming that the times are so exigent that an emergency suspension of this prohibition must be declared, i.e. the only way to stop them from killing our civilians is by killing theirs. This twisted logic is the same used by many in the West to justify nuclear warfare.
Other Muslims counter the Islamic extremists by invoking Koranic and Islamic injunction, declaring such suspension of the religious law to be religiously baseless. So, it is misleading to say that the Tsaernev brothers were motivated by religion and just leave it at that. Islamic extremists like the Tsaernev brothers follow the Koranic injunction to come to the defense of the innocents (at least in their minds that’s what they are doing), but they suspend and contravene the religious laws regarding the conduct of such defensive war. In other words, they uphold (part of) the Islamic jus ad bellum (right to wage war) but refuse to follow the Islamic jus in bello (conduct of war).
It is thus important to remember that:
(1) the right to wage war that these Islamic extremists invoke is rooted in not just Koranic scripture, but is part of universal moral principles (and is enshrined in the Just War Theory).
(2) The U.S.’s actions, not religious scripture (since, as discussed in point #1, it is a shared universal moral principle), are the ultimate cause of inspiration for terrorists. If, for example, the Koran still existed but the U.S. hadn’t been continuously bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands, it is very unlikely that the Islamic extremists would have selected the U.S. to target. (As Osama bin Laden asked, “Why did we not attack Sweden?”) On the other hand, if the Koran and Islam never existed, the people in the Muslim world would still seek to defend themselves against U.S. aggression, the only difference being that their resistance would be colored in national or ethnic instead of religious colors. (One could reasonably argue that religious motivation instills greater fanaticism to resistance movements, but nonetheless, people of any or no religion would seek to defend themselves against invaders.)
(3) The Tsaernev brothers may have been motivated by religion, but they ignored that same religion when it came to the conduct of war, which reinforces point #2: resistance is colored by religion only, but really it is a universal human desire to fight back against invaders.
Of course, it’s more reassuring to Americans to think that these terrorists keep attacking us because of their religion. It’s far easier to point the finger at some other extrinsic cause rather than at oneself. This makes us feel good about ourselves: we are the good guys being attacked by the bad guys. It’s hard to accept that the pan-ultimate motivator for why they attack us is our own actions in their lands: bombing, invading, and occupying them for over two decades.
One could argue that I don’t know for certain that U.S. foreign policy is the ultimate motivator for the Tsaernev brothers because this information has yet to be released, but it’s a matter of such obviousness–and it has been proven over and over again once the motivations of previous Muslim terrorists were revealed–that I say it with utmost certainty. It’s a simple answer to the question “why do they attack us”, as opposed to the simplistic answer that they hate us for our freedoms or because of their religion.
The Boston Globe declared: “It doesn’t matter why they hate us, they just do.” If fellow Americans really don’t think it matters why they hate us–or think “they just do” for no legitimate reason at all–we shouldn’t expect an end to such horrific terrorist attacks, and we can’t just keep claiming to be absolutely flabbergasted when the next attack comes.
Just as I predicted: the Huffington Post reports (hat tip: JD):
So, the primary motivation to target the United States was not religious but political.
Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011. Due to a hectic work schedule, Danios took a “sabbatical” from LoonWatch in 2012, but he plans to write from time to time in 2013, as time allows.