The front page of Tuesday’s The Tennessean hailed the death of Osama bin Laden as a “Victory For Freedom” while calling him “the very face and embodiment of evil” and a man whose “actions, words and beliefs were about destroying our way of life.”
According to The Tennessean, and many other American newspapers, it sounds as if bin Laden had nothing else on his mind but making Americans miserable for unfathomable reasons.
But does this image of bin Laden jibe with reality? Now that he’s gone, will Americans be safe from terrorism, since he was clearly irrational to attack us for no reason? Is the madness finally over with the death of the madman?
All around Nashville there is a jumble of emotions: celebration bordering on jingoism, more reserved feelings of hope and relief, and of course more than a few doubts.
The media image of bin Laden is not entirely accurate, and we’re probably no safer with him dead than when he was alive. Unfortunately, we will continue to live in jeopardy of events like 9-11 until we finally face the hard facts and understand why 9-11 happened. (Please understand that I am in no way excusing bin Laden’s masterminding the murders of so many innocent American civilians. I simply believe that if we want peace, it does no good to demonize him while ignoring the cataclysmic mistakes our government made in the Middle East, as those errors helped lead to 9-11 and the subsequent wars.)
The key to understanding Muslim terrorism against the U.S. lies in the Nakba (“Catastrophe”) of the Palestinian people. Here’s what bin Laden said about 9-11, as reported widely by various sources:
"Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were those of 1982 and the events that followed when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."
In a diary entry eerily dated 9-11 (1983), Ronald Reagan wrote prophetically that the U.S. Sixth Fleet shelling Lebanon “could be seen as putting us in the war.”
According to many Muslims — including the vast majority who do not approve of bin Laden’s methods — Americans are hypocrites because our government has caused untold suffering to millions of completely innocent Palestinian women and children over the last 60 years. From bin Laden’s point of view, he chose to fight fire with fire, killing Americans because Americans caused so much suffering and death among innocent Muslim women and children.
Today millions of Palestinian women and children continue to suffer, and many die prematurely, due to the injustices of Israel’s government. Our government continues to hypocritically preach sermons about “equal rights” and “democracy” to the rest of the world, while vetoing one U.N. resolution after another that could have required Israel to treat Palestinians like human beings, rather than herding them into giant corrals while their ever-dwindling land is stolen by Israeli “settlers.” If we want a real, just, lasting peace, killing extremists accomplishes little or nothing because such terrible injustices only produce a never-ending supply. The path to peace can only materialize if Israel and the U.S. recognize the human rights of Palestinians before World War III erupts.
Yes, bin Laden was a mass murderer. But because causing innocent women and children to suffer and die is a terrible crime, we need our government to look in the mirror.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.