You wrote above, “US policy WAS an accessory to the crime of 9/11, in the way Rauf meant it . . . .” Can you elaborate? What was the “way that Rauf meant it”? I have not watched the 60 Minutes interview, but I have trouble envisioning a context that renders Rauf’s statement as warranted or appropriate.
A country committed to the business of killing its enemies and discounting whatever “collateral damage” may not be disposed to admire shades of gray in its “just cause.” Since 9/11, American conservatives have been the guardians of our black and white.
Just as they wish to prevent Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf from building an Islamic cultural center too near the sacralized space of Ground Zero, they wish to exclude his thinking from the national discussion of the events that sacralized it. Like other elements of the conservative indictment of Imam Rauf, the count of 9/11 deviancy is connected to implicitly compulsory assumptions in relation to “foreign policy,” specifically where “foreign” and “domestic” – conception of the other vs. conception of national self – define each other. Because Rauf declines to adopt conservative-acceptable language and attitudes regarding 9/11 – as regarding Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the renowned but controversial 84-year-old Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the volatile Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, and others – popular Terror-Warriors treat him as a thought traitor. This pattern holds true even for a libertarian conservative like Dafydd ab Hugh at the HotAir Greenroom when, articulating a position partly anticipated by our occasional blog co-author Sully, he comes up with a peculiar “keep your enemy closer” justification for supporting Rauf and company in their material aims, if not as fellow citizens.
For this reason anyone who declines to condemn Rauf, or to condemn his defenders, or who goes on to attack his attackers, will sooner or later also fall under suspicion of being an enemy, a collaborator, a nutjob, a lurking neo-Marxist anti-imperialist fellow-traveling saboteur and traitor, and a clear and present danger. Defending Rauf and his views may therefore turn into a “radicalizing” experience – in the senses of forcing one to get at the root of an ideology, of requiring discussion of ideas that some seek to de-legitimize pre-emptively, of identifying oneself with “the radicals,” and of adopting radical methods, discursive and otherwise.
We can now view Exhibit “A” for the ideological prosecution:
Bradley: And throughout the Muslim world, there is also strong opposition to America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East because of its support of Israel and economic sanctions against Iraq.
Rauf: It is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.
Bradley: Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?
Rauf: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
Bradley: You say that we’re an accessory? How?
Rauf: Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.
Ed Bradley and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
60 Minutes, Sept 30, 2001
[transcript altered from “Feisal” (Arabic convention) to “Rauf” (Western convention)]
For my purposes a point by point defense of Rauf’s statements, closely read, would be irrelevant: I hold no illusions about my ability as an insignificant blogger to rescue the Imam’s character from assassination by attrition, or his project from “refudiation.” I will point out, however, ( as I have already done in thread discussion with Joe NS) that Rauf was responding to a request for re-assurance: If he believed that 9/11 was justified, he would not refer to it as criminal.
In asserting that “United States policies” were an “accessory to the crime that happened” and “to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world,” Rauf was not saying to 60 Minutes that the U.S. of A. was the sole or chief instigator or perpetrator of 9/11, or even the sole or chief source of whatever dislocations, pathologies, or hostile intentions arose from the Arab/Islamic world some time during the 1990s, before hitting North America in September of 2001. At the same time, however, he was clearly arguing for something more substantial than my old High School Chemistry teacher’s dictum that “everything relates to everything.” He was also arguing for something more concrete than a Dostoevskian premise of universal guilt – “If any of us were perfect, wouldn’t we have shown all others the way by now?” – though in my view that premise is not a bad starting point for any supposedly moral inquiry, and, Rauf, a religious scholar, not a lawyer, does speak of “crimes” in their moral dimensions, not juridically.
Avoiding abstract “everything is everything” philosophy and also “this and only this” legalism, we move to the level of concrete morality, which in turn requires us to look at history. In a search for U.S.-political accessory responsibility, we must therefore begin with the point at which the United States of America became undisputed “Leader of the Free World,” at the end of World War II. In military victory we assumed the role that under Woodrow Wilson we had earlier written for ourselves, but had conspicuously shirked in the 1920s and ’30s, the role of sponsor and guarantor of a transnational security structure, now to be symbolized by the United Nations and its Charter, and later to be known to some (mostly to its critics) as a “New World Order,” understood as a “unipolar” Pax Americana. Put differently, we self-consciously sought and assumed a level of disproportionate responsibility commensurate to disproportionate shares of power and wealth for ourselves and our favored allies. We did so not out of malice, pure ambition, and lust for conquest, and not solely out of greed, but at least to some irreducible extent out of moral vision joined to a belief that our leadership would be better for all concerned than the main alternatives of global anarchy and misery, or domination by the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.
Especially for those in receipt of disproportionately smaller shares of power, prestige, and material benefit, we may however seem – at times, and in some places continuously – to have allowed our vision to fail. For our own part, we generally remain aware that we have conducted ourselves rather less than perfectly as world leaders, but, impressed with our own successes, including measurable improvements in global productivity and well-being; pleading our honest belief in human fallibility next to our honest good intentions and honest assessments of our enemies, we find it relatively easy to excuse or extenuate our own sins of omission. For instance (now drawing closer to the other 9/11 Truth), we may perfunctorily acknowledge our abandonment of Afghanistan subsequent to the Soviet defeat by Islamist warriors whom we had encouraged and helped. We thus are able to minimize our own role in whatever occurred afterward: We functionally forget it; cease recalling it in our discourse; think of it as something only a leftist or Ron-Paul-bot would bring up – impolitely, unfairly, crazily. It was, after all, a small distant country about which we knew little.
Yet, the fact remains that the Saudi bin Laden and many of his transnational Islamist associaties were among the fighters whom we and our friends had helped to establish in place, and who took advantage of our “omission” in the immediate aftermath. We should also note that for the “others,” like Osama bin Laden, the Soviets were just an alternative industrialized secularism-materialism. “We” saw the Soviets as our “others” of that time. To the extent that the Islamists existed for us at all, they were more “us” than “them.” Yet the Islamists, not without reason, saw the Soviets as merely a variation on the same unwanted and alien, ruthlessly exploitative, culturally (and sometimes materially) genocidal Western/modern civilization. For their “us” we and the Soviets were both “them.”
Many of our other sins are sins of commission, but may not on first glance seem to build the case for our culpability as strongly. We speak about those even less often and less directly: Yet we can never acknowledge clearly and categorically enough – assuming that we are conducting a moral and historical inquiry, not an exercise in ideological auto-massage – that for at least 65 years, going back at least to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s deal with the Saudis, we have been financing (especially through the oil trade) and protecting, encouraging, and inciting the most reactionary forces in the Islamic world, the policy most dramatically extended through the defense of the Saudis against Saddam, then through our oversight of the further extreme immiseration of the Iraqis for a decade, and then through Gulf War II and the Iraqi Occupation. A similar and in some ways even more contradictory tale can be told in relation to Iran, but we’ll leave that aside for now, since its connections to Binladenism are murkier.
Where Rauf’s language focuses on Bin Laden, and describes him as “made in the U.S.A.,” it affirms U.S. complicity in key acts – the fashioning of this human weapon Bin Laden, and the destruction of “innocent lives.” Now, there is an active and unsettled historical dispute about the degree of direct U.S. involvement with Bin Laden and his fellows in Afghanistan, but this question is beside the point. Rauf may have believed, like many others, that Bin Laden was personally funded and trained by the C.I.A., but “made in the U.S.A.” remains a valid metaphor either way: To whatever extent – I believe a demonstrably significant one – that U.S. policies helped create the famous “swamp,” filled it up and let it stagnate while we dredged the major waterways that mattered to us, then U.S. policies are co-responsible for the disease-spreading creatures that emerge from it, and for the “collateral” effects of measures taken.
Through Bin Laden and the Al Qaida hijackers, our support for Saudi Arabia already bring us into the circle of 9/11 complicity, allowing us to say to virtually any participant in the global economy, “You paid for that Jew-hating, America-hating Wahhabi tract. You helped feed, clothe, miseducate, and arm the man carrying it, and buy his plane ticket. And we have fought, and fought, and killed, and killed for the publishers.” But those lines hardly exhaust our rap sheet. In a larger, inclusive sense, we are directly implicated through the externalities of the political and economic system from which we have benefited since the days of mercantilism and of which we have been lead managers for almost 100 years – the system that has meant that in the “under-developed world” local autocratic elites and their chief clients get rewarded and militarily protected while the economies and social systems of their countries are massively disrupted, often destroyed; while industrial commodities replace local manufactures, leading to waves of displacement, disemployment, and emigration; while globalized currencies destroy local media of exchange; and while valuable, never-renewable resources are extracted.
To fill in the political colors, in the shadow of WW2 and then Cold War, we took it upon ourselves to draw the map of North Africa to our liking, and to snuff out secular modernizers who struck us as either too socialistic, too interested in re-drawing that map to their advantage. Again and again, we have chosen autocracy – authoritarian rule by compliant client elites – for these countries, especially the economically or geo-politically important ones, in blatant contradiction of our advertised values of democratic self-determination – and now, at last, we reach the beginning point of Exhibit A. Often, it’s been because we feared and disapproved of socialism/leftism, as discernable in Pan-Arab Socialism/Baathism or the typical (re-)expropriation politics of Mossadegh in Iran, and we have been willing to enforce our calculation of interests – as have been our current allies, the former colonial powers – at incredible human costs to the indigenous populations. We may have had our very excellent reasons, but, when someone who does not necessarily share our view of them looks at the math – 1 million dead Algerians here, 1 million dead Afghans there, however many 100,000s of Iraqis, 100-1,000 Palestinians for every Israeli, etc. – they are astounded by our claim to stand for a ntion that “all men are created equal.” We and our friends certainly don’t un-create them that way.
So, yes, it’s true that “they” “hate” “our” “freedom” – hate the political-social-economic-cultural system whose universal adoption and pre-eminence we recently declared equivalent to the End of History. You might hate it, too, to the extent you were aware of it, if you spent your waking hours searching with daily increased desperation for water and firewood… or sorting through collateral rubble for collateral limbs… or tallying up “innocent lives” destroyed… For a couple of centuries “they” struggled to catch up, but they started too far behind, and enough of “us” (the West, with the U.S. eventually in the lead) were on hand to ensure that progress to rough parity or anywhere near would remain not just impossible, but inconceivable. Ideologies of total rejection of Western materialism – whose material calculus seemed always to work to certain people’s material disadvantage – are a natural, if desperate and rather pathetic response to this great historical inequality. So “they” dream of a primitive, pre-industrial Golden Age and the super-material rewards for those who strive to create it – anything but this world, the one “we” run – and some of “them” hurled the carriers of this great process now called globalization, jet airplanes (next time maybe they’ll do something with container ships or oil tankers), at the following target set: 1) the World Trade Center (globalized economics, society), 2) the Pentagon (global military reach), and 3) the centers of America’s globalized national power (misaimed, at the buildings; encountered the people on the way and were defeated).
It’s because no one should have any difficulty making out these hieroglyphs, because we live and breath their objective reality from the day we’re born to the moment we type a blog comment, that I say “everyone already knows it.” A couple of weeks after 9/11, maybe people could be excused for not wanting to hear from the morally equivalent Imam, but there’s no intellectual or emotional excuse 10 years later for stopping up our ears like toddlers who don’t want to hear a scolding. Can any mentally competent observer of history deny some level of “involvement” of “U.S. policies” with the conditions, the motivations, the aspirations, the opportunities that set those mainly Saudi extremists on their missions?
Should refusing to acknowledge the obvious be a requirement for a building permit in New York City?
The suppression of this perspective, or its absence, is something that leftists, jihadists, and global uncommitteds will intuitively identify as the subjective-ideological dimension of an objective-material (social, political, and economic) exclusionary subordination to the American neo-empire’s needs, interests, and expectations. In simpler terms: They don’t count. American conservatives may continue to presume that this unpleasant, one-sidedly adverse view of things has been permanently suppressed – and that undermining people like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf may help keep things that way, or mostly that way, sufficiently that way, in the United States. They may hope and expect that Americans in general will not want to hear this perspective enunciated, and will overall react negatively to anyone who turns up wanting to tell them all about it.
Perhaps a reasonable estimate of human nature – until the day, sooner or later, perhaps after the next “incomprehensible” crime, perhaps in an era when defensive incomprehension is generally understood to be impractical, unsustainable, and morally intolerable, that Americans in general will demand something more substantial than a fairy tale to hold onto.