HERZLIYA, Israel - I'm attending the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in this Tel Aviv
suburb and having a coffee while reading the International Herald
Tribune. There on Page 2 is a feature, datelined Cairo, reporting that
seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the "conventional
wisdom" in the Middle East is that "the United States and Israel had to have been involved" in the planning, if not execution, of the mass murder.
A Syrian engineer says the United States organized Sept. 11 as an
"excuse to invade Iraq for the oil." An Egyptian driver claims
"everybody knows" the Jews stayed home from work that morning. A
student planning to go into the tourism business says Americans can't
be trusted because "they killed Saddam, tortured people."
And Wahid Abdel Meguid, deputy director of the "government-financed
Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies" says Arabs and
Muslims believe "the United States has a prejudice against them. So
they never think the United States is well-intentioned and they always
feel that whatever it does has something behind it."
No less distressing than these opinions is the pose adopted by the foreign correspondent, Michael Slackman.
The demands of political correctness in the elite media being what they
are, he has not found a single source who will suggest that the
prevalence of such attitudes reflects the fact that governments and
media in the Middle East routinely spread anti-American and
anti-Semitic slanders. He does not note that schools in the region
instill bias while neglecting critical thinking. He can't even raise
the possibility - however gently - that the persistence of such
beliefs, long after the details of al Qaeda's plot have been made
public, may reveal a pathology in the culture of the contemporary Arab
Instead, the only theory given ink is that such ideas demonstrate
"the first failure in the war on terror - the inability to convince
people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign
against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims."
So it's due to the inadequacies of U.S. public diplomacy that the
fabled Arab Street thinks Americans incinerated fellow Americans as
part of a "crusade" against them?
Of course, it might help if reporters like Mr. Slackman mentioned to
his interlocutors that there is no evidence the United States has
stolen so much as a drop of Iraqi oil. Evidently, it did not occur to
him to ask those he interviewed whether they are equally angry over the
serial bombings of Iraqi civilians by al Qaeda terrorists, and the
assassinations carried out by Iranian-backed militias. Or do they think
those murders, too, were masterminded by the CIA and the Mossad? And he
didn't bother to ask them if they are aware such atrocities have
dramatically diminished, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. military
working hand-in-hand with their Iraqis comrades-in arms.
He might have elicited some interesting responses had he pointed out
that Americans in recent years have repeatedly sacrificed blood and
treasure to rescue Muslim communities.
Americans intervened in the Balkans to protect Bosnia and Kosovo
from hostile Christian neighbors. Americans saved Kuwait from the
savagery of Saddam Hussein. America liberated Afghanistan from the
Taliban, an al Qaeda proxy. He could have mentioned, too, the billions
in aid that American taxpayers have given to the Palestinians.
Instead, Mr. Slackman tells us "experts here" say Americans might
better understand the region "if they simply listen to what people are
saying - and try to understand why they are saying it - rather than
He adds: "The broad view here is that even before Sept. 11, the
United States was not a fair broker in the Arab-Israeli conflict and
that it then capitalized on the terror attacks to buttress Israel and
undermine the Muslim Arab world."
Yes, it all comes back to Israel: Supporting the idea of a secure
Jewish state living in peace next door to an independent Palestinian
state, is just not fair! So, in response, it must be expected that
extremists will slaughter innocents, while those of a less activist
bent blame Israelis and Americans for the crimes, and the "experts"
accuse Americans of exploiting their dead. After listening carefully to
that, who could take offense?
Mr. Slackman concludes: "Trying to convince people here that it was
not a quest for oil or a war on Muslims is like persuading many
Americans that it was, and that the Sept. 11 attacks were the first
steps." And who can say which is true and which a deranged conspiracy
theory? Seven years after Sept. 11, clearly not Mr. Slackman and the
International Herald Tribune.