America's Policy Has Consequences, Right or Wrong'

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September 20, 2006

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 descends, so does the opportunity for our nation's leaders to descend into another orgy of false patriotism and fearmongering. Empty and meaningless debates fill the airwaves, resurrecting the fear of that awful tragedy. They either ignore or spew misconceptions about what motivated the suicide attackers, and fail to address any of the substantive underlying foreign policy questions. Terrible foreign policy has terrible consequences, and the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a consequence of flawed US foreign policy.

The 9/11 Commission held its twelfth and final public hearing June 16-17, 2004 , in Washington , DC . On June 16 the commission heard from several of the federal government's top law enforcement and intelligence experts on al Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. It was at this hearing that the question "What motivated them to do it?" was finally asked by Lee Hamilton. Watching a video of the scene, one observes the panel of FBI agents nervously looking back and forth at each other, obviously shocked that the question is spoken aloud. After a few awkward moments, FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald truthfully responds. He says, 'I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the US ,' because they identify with the Palestinian problem and people who oppose repressive regimes.

This testimony was kept out of the 9/11 report, and no recommendation was ever given to address the main motivation for the attacks. On page 376 of the final report, it is simply stated, ' America 's policy has consequences, right or wrong.'

The biggest post-9/11 tragedy is that US citizens are not freely discussing those destructive policies, even though they may claim your life the next time you take an airplane or travel outside the US . The 9/11 commission heard accurate testimony from the FBI panel about how policy bias for Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US government support for other oppressive regimes in the Middle East led to 9/11. All the military invasions, foreign occupations, border controls, curtailments of civil liberties, airport security measures, increased military spending, and weapons systems will not make a hill of beans worth of difference in 'making us safer' if we as citizens refuse to debate, review, and reform the flawed foreign policies that have created deep and deadly hatred for our nation and in effect claimed the lives of over 3000 innocent people on September 11th. We best grieve and honor those victims by pressing the nation to examine the root causes of 9/11. Desperately needed is a radical evaluation of US foreign policy in the Middle East , an analysis that will underscore the need for immediate changes.

'Are we safer?' This is a question being bandied about at this juncture, five years after 9/11 and nearly four years into the war on Iraq. The banal and selfish nature of this question is mind-boggling. Are we safer? Think about this in context to how the Iraqi people must feel today. Their nation was illegally invaded under false pretenses (Iraqis having nothing to do with terror) and now the beautiful 'land of two rivers' has literally been torn apart by the Coalition forces and the chain of violence they began. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and suffered, and hundreds die weekly. And we in the US have the arrogance and insensitivity to only ask one question, 'Are we safer?' Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, the 14-year-old girl in Mahmudiya, Iraq, whose parents and little sister were all murdered by US soldiers after they raped and killed Abeer, aren't any safer, they're dead. Our president is right, Iraq is the central front on the war on terror, and those state actors who waged war there, whose forces bomb, rape, torture, and kill Iraqis are terrorists.

'The only thing to fear is fear itself" were words spoken by a former president of these United States , Franklin D. Roosevelt. We would never hear those words today from our current president, because he needs us to be afraid and live in a constant state of fear. That state of fear is congruent with his promotion of never-ending war, the so-called 'war on terror.' Today's US rulers want us to be so afraid that we will easily give up all our freedoms and rights, so that we turn from questioning the powerful to questioning each other. Such fear means that US citizens will happily turn on anyone who is deemed different or suspicious, according to the stereotypes and myths that the compliant media puts out: Beware the scary Muslims, the Mexican immigrants, the sign-carrying anti-war activists, etc.

To not be afraid is downright un-American, but I can state unequivocally: I'm not afraid, not of Muslims, Arabs, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Mexicans, or dissidents. I am afraid of US citizens who are not outraged ' people who aren't paying attention or are actually buying into this destructive, senseless fear. I often feel like I live in a modern-day horror show, 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' because this zombie-like state of fear that people have allowed themselves to absorb is much more frightening to me than 69 million people in Iran potentially using nuclear energy. Iran is a nation with a weak air force and navy that has not launched a war on a neighbor since the late 1700s. Call me blissful, but neither do I start every morning worrying about 5,000 al-Qaeda members ' probably no more than a few hundred of whom are actually dangerous to the United States ' a number which by no means can justify all of Bush's aggressive policies.

As Bush gears up to expand his killing fields to the independent nation of Iran, using a familiar tale of potential WMD, we must work hard to ask our fellow Americans to begin to examine the root causes of hatred expressed toward us, to see that the grievances are primarily based on our government's unbalanced bias toward the Israeli apartheid state and the interconnected need to control a region rich in oil resources. To challenge the massive US funding of the Israeli military machine is difficult, and critics of foreign policy toward Israel are always wrongly accused of being anti-Semitic. But I would argue that the current path of denying Palestinian rights and statehood is counterproductive to the long-term interests of the US , the Israeli people, and the region as a whole.

The 9/11 commission members, the politicians of the two major parties, the news anchors and media all subscribe to the chilling and glib remark that the commission itself used: 'America's policy has consequences, right or wrong.' You won't see these people ever questioning our blind support for the Israeli state and other oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt . Producers of mainstream news shows, journalists, and the entire press cadre operate under a code of silence in regard to our nation's brutal foreign policy actions in the Middle East . They stifle crucial debate and nurture the citizenry into an obedient and dimwitted trance. But these politicians, 'experts,' and pundits are disingenuous. Yes, America 's policies, right or wrong, do have consequences. The right ones can lead to lasting peace while the wrong ones, as we witnessed on 9/11, will have terrifying results.

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Kristina M. Gronquist's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Kristina M. Gronquist is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She specializes in foreign policy analysis and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota.