What the US Has Done to Provoke Muslim Extremists

A columnist in the Seattle Times wrote that our defense of Israel and Kuwait do not amount to us having brought the September 11 attacks on ourselves. Here's the letter I wrote but didn't send in to the newspaper. It amounts to a reminder of things we've done to Muslim nations. As to Bin Laden's more specific motives, see Saudi Arabia.

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Our foreign policy has done plenty to provoke Muslim extremists, some of which also disgusts humanitarians.

Osama bin Laden and his supporters hate us because we helped found Israel on land the Palestinians considered theirs, and we veto the UN's would-be resolutions condemning Israel's actions against the Palestinians.

We not only ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, we enforce an embargo that's killed tens of thousands of civilians (far more than were killed on September 11).

With the UK, we executed Project Ajax, to thwart Iran's nationalist movement and to support the Shah and his repressive regime. Our support for the Shah prevented secular nationalists from gaining power and cleared the way for an alliance between nationalists and fundamentalists (with the fundamentalists gaining power).

We shot down an Iranian airliner (dead civilians again), and the previous President Bush said that the US would never apologize for doing so.

In Algeria, we support a government that vacates elections and resorts to torture in order to prevent an Islamic party from taking power democratically.

We bombed Libya, aiming at Gaddafi's residence and killing his daughter.

We support corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (Maybe that's unfair, as it's hard to find a regime to support in the Mid-East that's not corrupt.)

If you think that despite these perceived affronts we did not call the attack on ourselves, then come out and say so in your column. Don't let your readers imagine that our provocative acts have been limited to supporting a beleaguered ally and repelling an invading army.

Not to say that egregious attacks against civilians are justified. Merely to point out that their being bad guys doesn't make the US government into the good guys.

September 2001


When I wrote this rant, I didn't know that during World War I Europeans had promised independence to the Arabs, including control over the territory that later became Israel (the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence). Obviously, this promise was broken.

March 2006

Poll of Muslim Countries: More on why they hate us.