Why do they hate us?

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The question "Why do they hate us?" arose after the September 11, 2001 coordinated simultaneous attacks upon the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and other unknown, unsuccessful targets. There have been several different responses.

One source for the question appears on page 31 of Against All Enemies. Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke.

"I found a moment without meetings [on September 12, 2001] and sat at my computer and began: 'Who did this? Why do they hate us? How will we respond? What can you as an American do to help?' It all came out, in a stream of pages. I wrote of al Qaeda's hatred of freedom, of its perversion of a beautiful religion, of the need to avoid religious or ethnic prejudice. Thinking it might be helpful, I sent it to John Gibson in Speech Writing."

Responses

President George W. Bush

Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
  • At an October 11, 2001, press conference, President Bush was so intent on addressing the issue of why there is so much hate for America that he posed the question aloud himself: "How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America?"
He then answered, "I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are." [1]

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

QUESTION: A number of news organizations have done some very in-depth reporting on why they hate us -- if you want to use that phrase. And it's not just they don't understand our goodness. I mean, you hear a lot of policy issues -- troops in Saudi Arabia, our Israeli policy, Iraqi women and children -- you know, you hear those things over and over again. The President in his response to his question did not mention any of the policy things that some Muslims have problems with. Is there any reexamination of our policy going on right now?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the policies of the government remain the same and it's important to communicate those policies to people around the world.

Charley Reese

"It is absurd to suppose that a human being sitting around suddenly stands up and says: 'You know, I hate freedom. I think I'll go blow myself up.'" [2]

Zbignew Brzezinski

Brzezinski, national security adviser during the Carter administration, was quoted in the National Catholic Reporter October 26, 2001:

In a CNN interview, Brzezinski said the United States should be going after the terrorists and added: "But we have to ask ourselves, what fuels them? What sustains them? What produces the terrorists?"
His answer: "Political rage over a number of issues."

Osama bin Laden

  • "We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation of the Prophet's Night Travel Land (Palestine). And we believe the US is directly responsible for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq The mention of the US reminds us before everything else of those innocent children who were dismembered, their heads and arms cut off in the recent explosion that took place in Qana (in Lebanon)."
  • "Because you attacked us and continue to attack us."
  • "Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis;"
  • "You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats."
  • "Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures."
  • "You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down."
  • "Palestinians and Iraqis: But when we move to Palestine and Iraq, there can be no bounds to what can be said. Over one million children were killed in Iraq. The killing is continuing. As for what is taking place in Palestine these days, I can only say we have no one but God to complain to. What is taking place cannot be tolerated by any nation. I do not say from the nations of the human race, but from other creatures, from the animals. They would not tolerate what is taking place. A confidant of mine told me that he saw a butcher slaughtering a camel in front of another camel. The other camel got agitated while seeing the blood coming out of the other camel. Thus, it burst out with rage and bit the hand of the man and broke it. How can the weak mothers in Palestine endure the killing of their children in front of their eyes by the unjust Jewish executioners with US support and with US aircraft and tanks? Israel and US 'are one': Those who distinguish between America and Israel are the real enemies of the nation."
  • "The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. The American Congress endorses all government measures and this proves that the entire America is responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims."

An al Qaeda spokesman

"Let the United States know that with God's permission, the battle will continue to be waged on its territory until it leaves our lands, stops its support for the Jews, and lifts the unjust embargo on the Iraqi people who have lost more than one million children."
"The issue at hand is the issue of an entire nation that opposes humiliation and subservience under the yoke of US arrogance and Jewish persecution."

United Nations Security Council

25 resolutions being violated by U.S. allies (1968-2002).

Pentagon's Defense Science Board

A strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. President Bill Clinton has also acknowledged that link. The board, however, has provided no empirical data to support its conclusion. This paper fills that gap by citing many examples of terrorist attacks on the United States in retaliation for U.S. intervention overseas. The numerous incidents cataloged suggest that the United States could reduce the chances of such devastating--and potentially catastrophic--terrorist attacks by adopting a policy of military restraint overseas.

From Bill Maher(?)

"They hate us because we don't know why they hate us." [3]

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

In 2002, in a survey of 38,000 people in 44 countries, the Pew Research Center found that the U.S. global image had slipped. But when we went back this spring after the war in Iraq - conducting another 16,000 interviews in 20 countries and the Palestinian Authority - it was clear that favorable opinions of the U.S. had plummeted.
What is most striking, however, is how anti-Americanism has spread. It is not just limited to Western Europe or the Muslim world.
Moreover, there is considerable evidence that the opinion many Muslims have of the United States has gone beyond mere loathing. In this year's Pew survey, majorities in seven of eight predominantly Muslims nations believe the U.S. may someday threaten their country.
  • American policies and power fuel resentment for the U.S. throughout the world.
  • Global publics believe the United States does too little to solve world problems and backs policies that increase the yawning global gap between rich and poor.
  • For Muslims, it has become an article of faith that the U.S. unfairly sides with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians - 99% of Jordanians, 96% of Palestinians and 94% of Moroccans agree. So too do most Europeans. The only dissent comes from Americans, where a 47% plurality sees U.S. policy as fair. Even in Israel, more respondents view U.S. policy as unfair than say it is fair.
  • resentment of American power, as much as its policies or leadership, also drives anti-American sentiments. People around the world - and particularly in Western Europe and the Middle East - are suspicious of America's unrivaled power. [4]
  • Later, in 2004, "A year after the war in Iraq, discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished. Opinion of the United States in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war's conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical. Perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America's credibility abroad. Doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound, and a growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the United States. Across Europe, there is considerable support for the European Union to become as powerful as the United States." [5]

Report by the Christian Science Monitor

  • Most Arabs and Muslims knew the answer, even before they considered who was responsible.
  • And voices across the Muslim world are warning that if America doesn't wage its war on terrorism in a way that the Muslim world considers just, America risks creating even greater animosity.
  • Arabs do not share Mr. Bush's view that the perpetrators did what they did because "they hate our freedoms." Rather, they say, a mood of resentment toward America and its behavior around the world has become so commonplace in their countries that it was bound to breed hostility, and even hatred. And the buttons that Mr. bin Laden pushes in his statements and interviews win a good deal of popular sympathy. :
    • the injustice done to the Palestinians,
    • the cruelty of continued sanctions against Iraq,
    • the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia,
    • the repressive and corrupt nature of US-backed Gulf governments.

Council on Foreign Relations

Two groups have come under examination in the "why do they hate us?" debate that has unfolded since September 11, 2001. One comprises the perpetrators of violence and terrorism -- the Osama bin Ladens, the Mohammad Attas, and some suicide bombers. They are fanatics in every sense of the word. Their interpretations of politics and Islam are so extreme that they disparage the great majority of Muslim Middle Easterners as "unbelievers." They are not going to be deterred by debate, compromise, sanctions, or even the threat of death. The challenge they pose to the United States is a security issue, a matter to be dealt with through careful police work and military action. America's resources are adequate for dealing with this threat.
The vastly larger group of Muslim Middle Easterners who express anger toward the United States and evince some sympathy for bin Laden pose a far more serious challenge. This group's members are afflicted by middle-class frustrations, governed by political systems that give them no voice, and burdened by economies that offer them few opportunities. They are witnessing a conflict over land and sacred places in which they perceive the United States as applying two standards of equity and two standards of measuring violence, each in favor of Israel. That resulting frustration and anger leads to expressions of sympathy for those who resort to violence against the United States.

What the U.S. papers say

American newspapers have reacted with a mixture of defiance and patriotism to yesterday's attack. But none are jingoistic. Although many declare the attack as an 'act of war', none calls for revenge.

What the Middle East papers say

For all their differences, the media in the Middle East - from Iraq to Israel - seem to be agreed on one thing: whoever was to blame for yesterday's carnage in the US, the attacks are the result of American policies.

Jerusalem Post

The answer is that America has been attacked not for what it has done wrong, but for what it has done right, and for being the hope of the entire world.

Allegedly from the Wall Street Journal

The east coast carnage was the fruit of the Clinton administration's Munich-like appeasement of the Palestinians.

80 Reasons, and More

Adam Young

  • The U.S. sends billions in financial and military aid to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan each year to prop up these regimes against "fundamentalist" popular Islamic movements (which are the only way dissent can be expressed in these regimes, since Islam is the only thing these rulers can't outlaw). The U.S. also gives political support to corrupt and oppressive dictatorships, such as exist in Algeria and Tunisia. Everywhere, the U.S. favors and aids the status quo of political repression and dictatorship. This hypocrisy is what fuels Arab and Muslim anger. [7]
  • "Before we celebrate the bombings of Afghanistan with hope of their expansion to other countries, let's pause and take a look back on the past fifty years of U.S. folly in the Middle East." November 9, 2001.

Harry Browne

According to Harry Browne and millions of clear minds around the world: [8]

There was only one possible motive for the 9-11 attackers: they were protesting the way the American government has been using force for half a century to overrule the wishes of people in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

  • Rumsfeld suggested in a memo dated October 2003 that "the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying" terrorists against us.
  • Col. Dan Smith (Ret.) responded that [9]
Focusing on the madrassas and other institutions that promote narrowly focused viewpoints, whether directed against the U.S., the West, their own government, or international organizations, misses the crux of the problem. (Were this a problem in auto mechanics, the solution to eliminating harmful emissions will not be found at the output end--the tailpipe--but at the input--the engine combustion chamber.) It misses because the real problem is the repression of human and civil rights and liberties, often in the name of "security," in countries whose regimes have been supported or condoned by the U.S. and other western nations.

Guardian/UK

"Nearly two days after the horrific suicide attacks on civilian workers in New York and Washington, it has become painfully clear that most Americans simply don't get it. From the president to passersby on the streets, the message seems to be the same: this is an inexplicable assault on freedom and democracy, which must be answered with overwhelming force - just as soon as someone can construct a credible account of who was actually responsible. ... any glimmer of recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process - or why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world - seems almost entirely absent." September 12, 2001.

Foreign Affairs

"In the weeks after the attacks of September 11, Americans repeatedly asked, 'Why do they hate us?' To understand what happened, however, another question may be even more pertinent: Why do they want to provoke us?" --Michael Scott Doran, "Somebody Else's Civil War" in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2002. [10]

Related SourceWatch Resources

External Resources

Websites

Articles & Commentary

  • Chris Toensing, Muslims Ask: Why Do They Hate Us?, AlterNet, September 25, 2001.
  • Robert Tracinski, Why Do They Hate Us?, Ayn Rand Institute, October 1, 2001.
  • Fareed Zakaria, The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?, Newsweek, October 15, 2001: "To dismiss the terrorists as insane is to delude ourselves. Bin Laden and his fellow fanatics are products of failed societies that breed their anger. America needs a plan that will not only defeat terror but reform the Arab world."
  • Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and Middle East: Why Do "They" Hate Us?, zmag.org, Revised December 12, 2001. Provides chronology of "some specific incidents of U.S. policy in the Middle East" since 1947.
  • Riad Z. Abdelkarim, Time to Answer. Why Do They Hate Us?, CounterPunch, September 17, 2002: "In trying to characterize the motives of those suspected of perpetrating the terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush proclaimed that 'they hate our way of life.' This is at best a gross oversimplification, and at worst dangerously naive. Such jargon may sound nice for an 11 o'clock news sound bite, but it does not accurately answer the question, 'Why do they hate us?'"
  • Kenneth Zapp, The Naivete in Asking 'Why Do They Hate Us So Much?', Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 13, 2001: "While Americans like to believe that our government treats all fairly or equally, our actions are viewed differently abroad. The forces that globalized markets also cause our security to depend on stable relations with peoples whose perceptions differ radically from ours. ... Arab and Islamic countries have a long list of grievances with us. Among them are the children who die annually in Iraq because our government continues the embargo there, the 17,000 civilians who died in Lebanon during the 1980s Israeli invasion, and Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank which has forced three generations to live in tent cities. ... But why do they blame us for actions of Israel? Because our government has bankrolled that country's policies with $3 billion to $4 billion of aid each year. Most damaging to our claim of evenhandedness, we continued these subsidies even when the Israeli actions were condemned widely by our Western allies and the United Nations."
  • James Akins, Why Do They Hate Us? Anti-American feeling in the Middle East has everything to do with U.S. policy, inthesetimes, December 24, 2001.
  • Rory McCarthy, 'But why do they hate us?' Iraqis face up to the threat of a US attack, Observer/UK, October 20, 2002: "Life for many Iraqis under the regime of Saddam Hussein has been unbearably harsh. No one will say so in public, but few would mourn his departure after a US and British attack. But the past 12 years of sanctions and a decade of American-led bombing raids have significantly changed attitudes towards the West."
  • Chris Suellentrop, The French. Why do they hate us?, slate, January 29, 2003: "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Americans rushed to bookstores and libraries in search of the answer to the question that had been thrust upon them: Why do they hate us? But who knew that we should have been boning up on the history of France, not Islam?"
  • Ted Rall, Op-Ed: "Ahead: Six Decades of Humiliation," Yahoo!, June 29, 2005: "The reason for our declining popularity is no mystery: Bush's unjustified, illegal war against Iraq. But Iraq, Bush's doctrine of preemptive warfare and instances of prisoners being tortured and even murdered aren't completely unprecedented. Cheney's neoconservatives are merely the latest executors of an aggressive foreign policy that has long prompted fear, hatred and resentment among the leaders and citizens of other nations."