"Why do they hate us?"
A month after the massacres, and the ugly scenes of Arabs and Moslems cheering the wounding of America, millions are still asking the question: What did we do that they should hate us so?
Last week, the president professed himself "amazed" to "see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred of America." "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us ... like most Americans, I just can't believe [it]. Because I know how good we are."
But if they misunderstand us, do we also misunderstand them? National Review says we are "hated ... because we are, indeed, powerful, rich, and good." Other journalists and politicians say we are hated because we are a democracy, with freedom of speech, of the press, and of worship, as though bin Laden's cave-dwellers had stumbled onto a copy of the Bill of Rights, and gone berserk.
Now, nothing can justify the atrocities of Sept. 11. Nor need we hear out unctuous plea bargains for those who murdered 5,000 of our countrymen in a crime that dwarfs the evil for which Timothy McVeigh was rightly put to death.
But after the Taliban go down and bin Laden is run to earth, America had best reflect before launching a second Cold War. We need to know why scores of millions of Arabs hate us. Why does the Islamic sea seem so hospitable to the likes of Osama? Why do crowds from the Philippines to Pakistan to Palestine riot for the Taliban? Why are all the Islamic nations so reluctant to back us?
And if we truly wish to know why they hate us, ought we not listen to them? For as the poet Robert Burns wrote, the greatest of gifts is to "see ourselves as others see us." How do the Arab and Islamic peoples see us? How do we appear in their eyes?
In the imams' indictment, here are America's alleged sins: First, America props up puppet regimes of parasite-princes who squander the oil wealth of Arabia in the fleshpots of the West. Second, U.S. presence on Saudi soil defiles the land on which sit the holy places of Mecca and Medina. Third, we pollute their culture and countries with drugs, alcohol, abortions, blasphemous books, filthy magazines, dirty movies and hellish music that capture and corrupt their young. Fourth, we starve Iraqi children with sanctions, because Saddam defies U.N. resolutions, as we give Israel the weapons to defy the U.N., persecute Palestinians and deny them the liberty we champion.
To those who hate us, it is America that is the Evil Empire. To some commentators, it is un-American even to repeat such charges. Yet, it seems unintelligent not to. For as Sun Tzu wrote: "Know thy enemy, know thyself, in a thousand battles, a thousand victories." If we must fight these people the rest of our lives, we should know why they hate us – and we delude ourselves if we believe the slaughters of Sept. 11 came about because we are "good."
Inhuman as these crimes were, they were not "senseless" or "irrational." They were purposeful acts of political terror. Having seen how Reagan pulled out of Lebanon after the Marine massacre, how Clinton pulled out of Somalia after Mogadishu, bin Laden believes we have less staying power than the Red Army that left Afghanistan after a decade of bloodshed and 15,000 dead.
Terrorism is a weapon employed for centuries by the weak, the desperate, the fanatic, for a reason: It works. Consider three recent Nobel Peace Prize winners. In 1946, Menachem Begin blew up the King David Hotel, full of British nurses, to force the Brits out of Palestine. They left. His Irgun perpetrated the massacre at Deir Yassin in April of 1948. The Palestinians fled, as he had hoped. Nelson Mandela was not sentenced to life in prison for a sit-in at the Five-and-Dime. His ANC "necklaced" its enemies, i.e., the burning to death of selected individuals by forcing gasoline-soaked motor tires around their arms and neck, and the ANC prevailed through terror. Arafat's PLO was a nest of organizations, all of which, including his own Fatah, committed acts of terror. And, in part, through such acts, Hezbollah drove the Israelis out of Lebanon and Arafat brought them to Oslo.
The goal of bin Laden is to drive America out of his region by first drawing us deeper in. And, as one reads of new U.S. security ties to Uzbekistan, promises to rebuild Afghanistan, new pledges to Pakistan, and commitments to help resolve the Palestinian conflict, one wonders if bin Laden's lasting achievement will not have been to draw the American Empire into a vast second Vietnam, from Algeria to Afghanistan, as a prelude to driving us out of his world forever. Let us pause and think before plunging into another Big Muddy.
Pat Buchanan has been a senior adviser to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. During his White House years, Buchanan wrote foreign policy speeches and attended four summits, including Nixon's opening to China in 1972 and Reagan's Reykjavik summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. On leaving the White House, Buchanan became a columnist and founded three of the most enduring talk shows in TV history: "The McLaughlin Group," CNN's "Capital Gang" and "Crossfire." Buchanan has written six books, including the New York Times best-seller, "A Republic Not an Empire" and a Washington Post best-seller about growing up in the nation's capital, "Right From the Beginning." His newest book, "Death of the West" will be out in January.