Tuesday, August 03, 2004

They Hate Us For Our Freedom

Juan Cole has a post that tracks nicely with my post yesterday about the root causes that lead Muslim youth to join the ranks of radical Islamist jihadists, the impact American foreign policy has on the mind state of potential jihadists, and the failure of the Bush administration to issue a cogent strategy for addressing these problems.

To quote Cole:

The number of persons in the Muslim world who wanted to inflict direct damage on the US homeland in 2000 was tiny. Even within al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri's theory of "hitting the distant enemy before the near" (i.e. striking the US rather than Egypt or Saudi Arabia) was controversial.

The Muslim world was largely sympathetic to the US after the 9/11 attacks. Iranians held candlelight vigils, and governments and newspapers condemned terrorism. Bush's
unprovoked attack on Iraq, however, turned people against the US. The brutal, selfish, exploitative occupation, the vicious siege of Fallujah, the tank battles in front of the shrine of Ali, a vicar of the Prophet, Abu Ghraib, and other public relations disasters have done [al-Qaeda's] work.
To back up this assertion, Cole points to an article by Lawrence Pintak that documents some of the recently released Zogby poll results:

The latest survey results out of the Middle East show that America's favorability rating is now, essentially, zero. That's down from as high as 75 percent in some Muslim countries just four years ago.

It was bad enough in 2002, when Zogby found that an appalling 35 percent of Jordanians and 12 percent of Saudis viewed us favorably. Now those figures are 15 percent and four percent respectively. We can't even buy friends. Egypt received some $4 billion last year in U.S. aid, yet only two percent of Egyptians responded positively. In a poll with a margin of error of about four points, that doesn't even move the needle.
Pintak also addresses the now infamous head fake thrown by Bush in a speech on the one year anniversary of 9/11: "Why do they hate us? They hate our freedoms - our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

According to Pintak:

It was an effective soundbite, but it wasn't true. "There appears to be no empirical evidence to support the claim that Arabs have a negative view of the U.S. because 'they hate American values,'" the Zogby survey concluded. Interviews with members of suicide cells and surveys of opinion in the Middle East have consistently shown that both the terrorists and Arab and non-Arab Muslims as a whole generally admire American 'values' like democracy, a free press, free speech, and universal human rights. What they hate is our support for authoritarian regimes that deny them those rights. Ignoring those grievances was to ignore the "hearts and minds" so vital to defeating terrorism. An overwhelming majority in the Zogby poll expect the U.S. invasion of Iraq to result in less democracy in the Middle East and say it was motivated by U.S. goals of "controlling oil," "protecting Israel" and "weakening" or "dominating" the Muslim world.
He concludes the piece thusly:

The issue was not whether bin Laden posed a dangerous threat, which he demonstrably did; but a question of whether, if it had framed the war on terror differently, acknowledging the root causes - the denial of political and human rights - and taking peaceful steps toward addressing them, the United States might have preserved the well-spring of goodwill that existed among the majority of the world's Muslims in the days after 9/11, rather than creating precisely the climate of fear and alienation that bin Laden sought to foment.

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