SAN JOSE, September 11, 2012 — In a horrific display of unprecedented global terrorism, the simultaneous and sinister attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon revealed to the world how helpless a free and open society is to terrorism and how victimized it can be by the destruction, death, and the despair it evokes. On that day, the people in the United States, as well as millions around the world, were compelled by the sheer magnitude of horror to watch, in disbelief, scene after scene of video clips via television or over the internet and witness the devastation brought about by an enemy in the shadows.
Now Americans refer to this day as Patriot Day in remembrance of those brave men and women who went into the danger zone to help save and serve their fellow human beings caught in harm’s way. But on that day, America was caught completely off guard and the people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time became victims of a premeditated, well-planned, well-coordinated terrorist assault. The series of attacks stand as the most devastating coordinated attack on American soil, ever.
In the hours after the initial incidents, Americans were stunned and could only wonder about who was responsible. The security agencies only had suspicions and could not identify any one nation or organization that would be audacious enough to commit to such a deadly assault upon one of the most powerful nations in the world. Ultimately, suspicions were confirmed as evidence was sifted and intelligence agencies concluded that Al-Qaida operatives were the ones responsible for the attacks, but they initially denied it, and denied that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with it.
When President George W. Bush went before Congress, he had preliminary intelligence reports that linked Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to the suicide attacks. Finally this enemy, having declared war on the United States while the nation wasn’t paying attention, seized the day and demanded our attention. But such an enemy can fade into the shadows and could be much more complex and sinister than the enemy the U.S. faced on December 8, 1941.
Spokesmen for Al Qaeda or bin Laden were eventually crowing over their victory. When bin Laden was questioned about his involvement he has been quoted as saying: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people.”
In stark contrast to such a public statement, when bin Laden was privately shown the video clips of the horrific attacks, he reportedly remarked that the acts of terror were “spectacular” and when he eventually came out of the closet and admitted complicity in the incident, he praised the hijackers as freedom fighters exhibiting “defiant spirits” in a fight against an evil oppressive empire. The reason for killing Americans was because of the “jihad” or religious war against the infidel and the suicide squad of 19 who carried out the lethal plans were acting in the name of freedom.
This perspective was in direct contradiction to President Bush’s statement immediately following the attacks: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.” Bush also indicated that he felt such deadly terrorism was directed against the U.S. because the terrorists hated the freedom that existed in America. But this was a bit simplistic. Neither Bush nor bin Laden provided comprehensive answers for their own reasons. But, Osama bin Laden was no more a freedom fighter than Pancho Villa. Yet, for the faithful, the illusion serves its purpose.
Although bin Laden mocked Bush and attempted to play up the freedom loving, freedom fighter image of Al Qaeda, he later made a statement that revealed a bit more of his interpretation of a “free” nation. In bin Laden’s “Letter to the American People” in 2002, he denounced U.S. support of the “Jews” in Israel. He also called upon Americans to embrace Islam and reject the immorality that pervaded the nation and specifically the evils of “…fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest.” He went on to decry the U.S. as the “worst civilization witnessed by history of mankind.”
But when looking more closely at bin Laden’s religious values, someone questioned how he could claim to be a “good Muslim” in light of the obvious contradiction of what he previously said about obeying Islam and not being involved in “the killing innocent women, children, and other people.” At that point, he simply confessed that he was not a good Muslim. But it certainly didn’t stop him from preaching to the American people in his letter: “…rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah… You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator.”
Osama bin Laden’s weak adherence to the fundamentals of Islam also did not stop him from re-arranging the pillars of the teachings of Islam to suit his own purposes. People in the West would realize this, if they understood more about Islam. In addition, although it is not clear whether bin Laden was genuinely a religious man, it is clear that he used the religion of his people to obtain his sinister objectives. The real question is if there was a hint of a religious jihad against non-believers, why were the attacks directed at a global business center and the most recognized structure of the U.S. military?
One other objective bin Laden referred when he explained the purpose of the attacks was that he wanted the American people to rise up against their corrupt government. Really? And that would be best accomplished by killing the Americans themselves so they would be angry at their own government? The more exact purpose of bin Laden’s uprising was supposedly to stimulate the American public to revolt against the Capitalist system and to end the evil government’s support of Israel! Those seem like honest religious-oriented objectives to many –- who are confused.
Additionally, if there were an effort to advance a fight for freedom, the question remains: freedom for whom? A supreme irony is that the government that harbored Al Qaeda, was the Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist regime based upon Shariah law that permitted very little freedom for the women within the society, with very little tolerance for any non-believers and non-conformists. Such a government would seemingly be the kind which Osama bin Laden would have supported wholeheatedly.
The reality is that bin Laden’s notion of fighting for freedom could not honestly be considered legitimate. One sad reality that is often overlooked in the U.S. when remembering the horror of 9/11, is the reality that the most high profile targets were the twin towers, the World Trade Center, not the “U.S.” Trade Center. In addition, the people who lost their lives on that dreadful day were not only Americans, but people from all over the world. The attacks can be more appropriately viewed as a dramatic quest, not for freedom, nor even an effort to advance Islam, they will primarily be remembered in history as an effort of militants to be ”free” to terrorize or dominate the rest of the world.
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