During the May 15 Republican presidential debate at the University of South Carolina, Libertarian gadly Rep. Ron Paul (TX) dared to speak logic about the reasons behind 9-11—and made clear that he, at least, has actually read al-Qaeda’s communiqués. “Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attacked us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Of course he had to play a stupid xenophobia/Orientalism card, and paradoxically invoke to his defense Ronald Reagan, whose imperial intrigues in the Islamic world only helped create al-Qaeda: “I think Reagan was right. We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics.” But he quickly rescued himself with some simple logic and humanity: “So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.” Of course, no good deed goes unpunished—and Paul’s punishment came swiftly…
When asked by co-moderator and Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler if he was suggesting that “we invited the 9-11 attack,” Paul replied: “I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it.” Rudolph Giuliani immediately jumped in, claiming what Paul had said was “an extraordinary statement … that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq… I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11.” (MediaMatters, May 14)
Now the media are playing it like Paul put his foot in his mouth and Giuliani won the debate. The reverse is true. We undoubtedly have disagreements galore with Ron Paul, but he won the debate on this question, hands down. He spoke common sense; Giuliani responded with empty condescension. No contest.
The notion that what some have called “foreign policy greivances” were not relevant to 9-11 (often backed up with the inane observation that it happened before the invasion of Iraq) is easily demolished by al-Qaeda’s own words. It seems we must repeat yet again:
There were “foreign policy grievances” galore in September 2001. The two al-Qaeda communiques in the immediate aftermath of the attacks (Oct. 7, 2001, Oct. 9, 2001) both invoked the US troop presence in Saudi Arabia, the Iraq sanctions and Washington’s support of Israel. Just because the US has made the situation much worse in the intervening years doesn’t mean that there were no “foreign policy grievances” behind 9-11! And however criminal al-Qaeda’s tactics and however totalitarian its ideology, these grievances are legitimate—a reality we ignore to our own peril.
See our last post on the politics of the GWOT.