Zionism and the war on terrorism both rest on the same hollow foundation

Distilling some of his findings from extensive research conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, Robert Pape writes:

For nearly a decade, Americans have been waging a long war against terrorism without much serious public debate about what is truly motivating terrorists to kill them. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this was perfectly explicable — the need to destroy al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan was too urgent to await sober analyses of root causes.

But, the absence of public debate did not stop the great need to know or, perhaps better to say, to “understand” the events of that terrible day. In the years before 9/11, few Americans gave much thought to what drives terrorism — a subject long relegated to the fringes of the media, government, and universities. And few were willing to wait for new studies, the collection of facts, and the dispassionate assessment of alternative causes. Terrorism produces fear and anger, and these emotions are not patient.

A simple narrative was readily available, and a powerful conventional wisdom began to exert its grip. Because the 9/11 hijackers were all Muslims, it was easy to presume that Islamic fundamentalism was the central motivating force driving the 19 hijackers to kill themselves in order to kill Americans. Within weeks after the 9/11 attacks, surveys of American attitudes show that this presumption was fast congealing into a hard reality in the public mind. Americans immediately wondered, “Why do they hate us?” and almost as immediately came to the conclusion that it was because of “who we are, not what we do.” As President George W. Bush said in his first address to Congress after the 9/11 attacks: “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

Thus was unleashed the “war on terror.”

The narrative of Islamic fundamentalism did more than explain why America was attacked and encourage war against Iraq. It also pointed toward a simple, grand solution. If Islamic fundamentalism was driving the threat and if its roots grew from the culture of the Arab world, then America had a clear mission: To transform Arab societies — with Western political institutions and social norms as the ultimate antidote to the virus of Islamic extremism.

This narrative had a powerful effect on support for the invasion of Iraq. Opinion polls show that for years before the invasion, more than 90 percent of the U.S. public believed that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But this belief alone was not enough to push significant numbers to support war.

What really changed after 9/11 was the fear that anti-American Muslims desperately wanted to kill Americans and so any risk that such extremists would get weapons of mass destruction suddenly seemed too great. Although few Americans feared Islam before 9/11, by the spring of 2003, a near majority — 49 percent — strongly perceived that half or more of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims were deeply anti-American, and a similar fraction also believed that Islam itself promoted violence.

The narrative — “it’s not what we do but who we are” — that Americans swallowed after 9/11, came ready-made. It is the narrative that provides the bedrock of Zionism by characterizing opposition to Israel’s creation and expansion as being an expression of anti-Semitism rather than a reaction to colonialism and dispossession.

Palestinians don’t attack Jews because their homes are being destroyed and their land is being taken away; Palestinians attack Jews because Palestinians hate Jews.

Al Qaeda didn’t attack Americans because American governments for many decades have propped up oppressive regimes across the Middle East and supported Zionism; al Qaeda attacked America because al Qaeda hates Americans.

In both Zionism and the war on terrorism, the refusal to deal with political injustice expresses itself through an ideological fixation on security and military solutions.

As Ariel Sharon focused on “dismantling the terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza and the West Bank, George Bush pursued a parallel course across the whole region. Americans and Israelis united in the belief that they were all innocent targets of the same implacable enemy: Islamic extremism.

Our war on terrorism was simply an extension of Israel’s war on terrorism — simply on a much larger scale. Naturally, we would borrow most of Israel’s techniques for tackling “the terrorists” — targeted killing, torture, extrajudicial detention, remote warfare and so forth.

And the underlying imperative was identical: that our righteous victimhood could not be questioned, our innocence was unassailable. Indeed it was our virtue that made us targets for attack.

If we were successful in dismantling the terrorist infrastructure or draining the swamp in which evil festered, we would save the world. We would engage in war without choice, knowing that we did so in the name of peace.

No wonder that on September 11, Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to contain his satisfaction about the way the attacks would help solidify the bond between Americans and Israelis. “It’s very good,” he said and then, quickly realizing his candor might not be well-received, added: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” The attack would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”

Lies breed unconsciousness because they deprive intelligence of the invigorating effect of experience, thus, as we near the end of a decade of a war on terrorism we now inquire even less as shock has been given way to indifference.

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10 thoughts on “Zionism and the war on terrorism both rest on the same hollow foundation

  1. Christy Walsh

    Good article, though it seems to end without direction, a common fault as there is no clear concensus on what should be done and how it can be done –which likely contributes to a seemingly ‘indifferent’ public.

  2. Norman

    Another view on why we are where we are. The question I think that hasn’t been answered, is just how much of a role did Israel played in 9/11? For all the comparisons, examples, rush to judgment, denial-ability, even the total removal & destruction of evidence, we are no further along to solving the mystery, beyond the 19 hijackers were Arabs. Is it possible to brainwash 50 million people? Apparently it is. If the percentage who believes the official story line is true, then either they are ignorant of what’s taking place around them, or could be induced to eat an onion, then being told they just ate the best tasting apple ever, believing the latter to be fact. Be interesting to read the reaction of these people when the truth finely comes out.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    Agree, Christy, but it’s evident that the public in nations with media sources that are allowed to disseminate information other than the common propaganda line that blankets America’s debate have a broader perspective.
    Reform of media ownership laws would be a good place to start. And how about a publicly owned, state supported media to balance the corporate, special interest monopoly in countrywide discussion? If you doubt how valuable that would be, just look at the effort (always unpopular) the right wing expends in Canada to muzzle the publicly owned CBC.

  4. dickerson3870

    I recall reading that in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, George H.W. Bush called junior and asked him why he was letting the neo-cons run U.S. foreign policy. George W. Bush’s response was to hang up on his father.
    I also read that after the Republicans took a ‘thumpin’ in November of 2006, George W. Bush visited his father in Kennebunkport (The Place to be all Year ™), and asked him who the neocons were. Bush Sr gave him a choice of the long or short answers. Junior characteristically opted for the short answer. Bush Senior’s short answer was something akin to, “They only care about Israel”.

  5. BillVZ

    For a more complete reading of Pape’s view:It is the Occupation Stupid:
    Foreign Policy Magazine, BY ROBERT A. PAPE | OCTOBER 18, 2010
    Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.
    An indifferent public? Hmmmm…

  6. scott

    Yeah Paul, more fucking links and give us the answer to the Israel Palestinians. …and no more of that snootyness.

  7. scott

    We’re waiting,… You gonna solve the problem of American imperialism or not? You gonna bring peace to the Middle East? Hmmmmm,

  8. Patrick Cummins

    ‘Americans immediately wondered, “Why do they hate us?” and almost as immediately came to the conclusion that it was because of “who we are, not what we do.” ‘

    Fine, but you have to wonder on the extent to which America’s elites have ever really believed in this.

    To wit, last summer as the good preacher in Florida was preparing to burn all those Korans, General Petraeus and the Obama Administration did every thing they could to prevent the event from happening. There were certain that doing things like this would incite hatred and put US troops in danger. In their minds there was no doubt: they would hate us for what we did. I didn’t hear anyone saying otherwise.

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