Pat Buchanan and Ray McGovern Answer Helen Thomas’ “Why” Question - updated 5/7/12
Posted May 7, 2012

Pat Buchanan and Ray McGovern Answer Helen Thomas’ “Why” Question

by Sheila Musaji


When Helen Thomas in a recent press conference asked regarding Abdulmutallab “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why”, she did not receive an answer (or at least not any answer that made any sense).  I was absolutely amazed to find clear answers given by individuals I might not have expected to be so clear thinking and brutally honest. 

In an article entitled Why Are They At War With Us? Pat Buchanan gives the bottom-line answer to the often asked questions of who exactly we are at war with, and why they hate us.  It isn’t because of our freedoms, or because there must be an inevitable clash of civilizations or clash of religions, or because Muslims are just naturally violent, or any of the other nonsense that has been spouted by so many “experts”.  As an American Muslim, I find it refreshing to hear someone, especially someone from the conservative establishment speak so clearly and honestly.  Certainly, as a Muslim, I would not have been able to have written such an article without being accused of attempting to justify terrorism.  I encourage readers of The American Muslim to write to both Pat Buchanan and Ray McGovern and thank them for their honesty. 

Buchanan notes Helen Thomas’ unanswered question at the recent press conference, but Ray McGovern in another must read article, Answering Helen Thomas on Why really goes into this in detail.  I encourage you to read the entire article.  McGovern says in part:

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world.

But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room:

“America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a Donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11:

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

And, here is Pat Buchanan’s amazingly concise answer to Helen Thomas’ question:

“We are at war. We are at war against al-Qaida, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people and that is plotting to strike us again.”

Thus did Barack Obama clear the air as to whether we are at war, and with whom and why.

After his remarks, Helen Thomas during a White House briefing asked a follow-up question to which we almost never hear an answer:

Why is al-Qaida at war with us? What is its motivation?

It was Osama bin Laden himself, in his declaration of war in 1998, published in London, who gave al-Qaida’s reasons for war:

First, the U.S. military presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Second, U.S. sanctions causing terrible suffering among the Iraqi people. Third, U.S. support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians.

To Osama, we started the war. Muslims, the ulema, must fight because America, with her “brutal crusade occupation of the (Arabian) Peninsula” and support for “the Jews’ petty state” and “occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there,” was waging war upon the Islamic world.

Terrorism is al-Qaida’s unconventional tactic, but its war aims are quite conventional.

Al-Qaida is fighting a religious war against apostates and pagans in their midst. On Sept. 11, they were over here—because we are over there.

Nothing justifies the massacre of Sept. 11. But these are the political goals behind the 9/11 attack, and this is why Islamists fare well in elections in the Middle East. Tens of millions of Muslims, who may despise terrorism, identify with the causes for which Osama declared war.

Consider. America lost 4,000 soldiers in six years in Iraq, with 30,000 wounded. Yet not one American of the 125,000 soldiers in Iraq was killed in December. Why not? Because we no longer conduct raids, patrol streets, kick down doors and pat down suspects. We have ended our combat operations, withdrawn to desert bases and seem anxious to go home. When we stopped fighting and killing them, they stopped fighting and killing us.

According to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, we must now prepare for 300 to 500 dead and wounded every month in Afghanistan by summer.

Why are the Taliban killing our soldiers? Because we threw them out of power, took over their country and imposed the Hamid Karzai regime. And our troops, some 100,000 by fall, are the force preventing them from recapturing their country. We will bleed in Afghanistan as long as we are in Afghanistan.

But if, as Obama said, “we are at war with al-Qaida,” why are we fighting the Taliban when al-Qaida is in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa?

Hezbollah has used terrorism but not against us since the bombing of a Marine barracks a quarter-century ago. And our Marines were attacked in Lebanon because we were in Lebanon, intervening in their civil-sectarian war. Had the Marines not been sent into the midst of that war, they would not have been targeted.

When Ronald Reagan withdrew them, the attacks stopped.

As long as we take sides in Muslim wars, those we fight and kill over there will come to kill us over here. This is payback for our intervention. This is the price of empire. This is the cost of the long war.

Pat Buchanan is the author of “Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War.’”  He is an American conservative political commentator, author, syndicated columnist, politician and broadcaster. Buchanan was a senior advisor to American presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and was an original host on CNN’s Crossfire. He sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996. He ran on the Reform Party ticket in the 2000 presidential election.  He co-founded The American Conservative magazine and launched a foundation named The American Cause.  He has been published in Human Events, National Review, The Nation and Rolling Stone. He is currently a political commentator on the MSNBC cable network including the show Morning Joe and a regular on The McLaughlin Group. (from Wikipedia.  Pat Buchanan contact page http://buchanan.org/blog/contact

Ray McGovern now works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During a 27-year career at CIA, he served under nine CIA directors and in all four of CIA’s main directorates, including operations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


UPDATE 7/7/2010

Doug Bandow has published an excellent article Terrorism: Why They Want to Kill Us which discusses the motivation behind terror attacks. 

I have just published an article Why do they hate us? which includes an article collection.  In that article I said in part

This question of why has been heard thousands of times since 9/11.  The “answers” often given are simplistic and not particularly useful in actually doing anything to change the mindset of terrorists.  They don’t hate us because of our freedoms, or because we are better off financially than they are.  They don’t hate us because they are simply expressing their inherently violent nature.  They don’t hate us because Muslims simply hate anyone who is not a Muslim.  Over and over again, from their own mouths we hear that U.S. foreign policies have been a motivating force.  Terrorism is a criminal response to perceived injustices. 

All too often, anyone, but particularly Muslims who attempt to understand the motivation behind the terrorist response in order to crush it at its root - have been accused of attempting to defend the terrorists.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Attempting to understand why someone would choose such a violent and criminal response, what motivates the terrorists is critical in order to change the mindset and decrease the chances of future terrorist attacks.

As I said in a previous article “Our society is whirling down a spiral of violence of which terrorism is the face, that is currently at the front of our minds.  There is a growing exploitation by religious extremists, political extremists, nationalist extremists, etc.  All of these share a “religious” element in that they are all convinced that they are God’s agents to bring about and enforce their “right” belief on everyone else, and that they, and they alone - know the “right” way.  This “religious” element is particularly dangerous because it is devoid of spirituality.

More innocent lives are in danger today than in any previous period of history.  The entire world is in danger.  We are at the beginning of a new century and a new millenium, and it is possible that we will not complete either without destroying ourselves. 

As an American-Muslim I feel moral repugnance towards terrorism and violence, and at the same time I feel concern and frustration for what is happening to Muslims (and others in the third world) daily. Because the legitimate grievances of some have been hijacked by criminals as a pretext for terrorism does not de-legitimize the concerns.  The issues still need to be addressed..  Much of the world suffers from oppression, occupation, tyranny and injustice.  We cannot stop terrorism without first working to end the injustice.”

In that article, I also included some quotes worth pondering on

“September 11 demonstrated that America is not invulnerable. Washington no longer can expect to invade, bomb, and intervene in other nations without consequence. Policymakers should consider all the costs, including terrorism, before they casually thrust the U.S. into foreign controversies and conflicts.”  Doug Bandow 

“Note, too, the vast gap between how Americans perceive of their actions (mere “aberrations”) and how so much of the rest of the world perceives of it, especially those in the targeted regions.  So much of this disparity is explained by a basic lack of empathy:  imagine if every American spent just a day contemplating how they’d react if some foreign army from a Muslim nation invaded and bombed the U.S., occupied the country for the next several years with 60,000 soldiers, killed tens of thousands of citizens here, set up secret prisons where they disappeared Americans for years without charges or even contact with the outside world, imposed sanctions that blockaded food and medicine and killed countless children, invaded and ransacked our homes at will, abducted Americans and shipped them halfway around the world to island-prisons, instituted a worldwide torture regime, armed their allies for attacks on other Western nations, and threatened still other invasions.      Do you think Americans might be seething with rage about that, wanting to kill as many of the people from that country as possible?  Wouldn’t it be rather obvious that the more that was done to Americans, the more filled with hatred and a desire for violence they would be?  Just consider the rage and fury and burning desire for vengeance that was unleashed by a one-day attack on U.S. soil, eight years ago, by a stateless band of extremists, that killed 3,000 people.”  Glenn Greenwald

“A University of Maryland, Program on International Public Attitudes Poll said 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.” - Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.”  Polls and surveys 

“In the USA, it took 19 years before president and Nobel peace prize winner Mandela was removed from the US terrorist list. Yes it is true. He was only removed in 2008 during President Bush’s last year in power.”  Mats Svensson


UPDATE 5/7/2012

Ray McGovern has published The Why of Terrorism in which he discusses the fact that it seems we have learned little since Thomas first asked this question back in 2010.  In this article he says:

...  I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

He discusses the issue in depth including specific terrorist cases, and closes with:

We can wish Janet Napolitano luck with her “counter-radicalization” project and President Obama with his effort to “communicate clearly to Muslims,” but there will be no diminution in the endless cycles of violence unless legitimate grievances are addressed on all sides. It might also help if the American people were finally let in on the root causes for what otherwise get dismissed as irrational actions by Muslims.

 


SEE ALSO:
America’s ‘Global War On Terrorism’ , M. Shahid Alam http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/americas_global_war_on_terrorism/
Do they really hate freedom? The myth of the insane terrorist, Patrick Rael http://orient.bowdoin.edu/orient/article.php?date=2005-04-15&id=2&section=2
Don’t want to be terrorized ? Then stop creating terrorists. http://www.dailypaul.com/node/136812
Harvest of Messianic Foreign Policy: Anti-U.S. Radical Islam, Ivan Eland http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/harvest_of_messianic_foreign_policy_anti_us_radical_islam/
Muslims ask why do they hate us?, chris Toensing http://www.alternet.org/story/11590/
Politics of rage: why do they hate us?, Fareed Zakaria http://www.newsweek.com/2001/10/14/the-politics-of-rage-why-do-they-hate-us.html
Roots of Rage:  ‘Why Do They Hate Us?’, Mohsin Hamid http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/20/AR2007072001806.html?nav=hcmodule
Terrorism policy flaws ‘increased risk of attacks’, says former police chief, Vikram Dodd http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/07/terrorism-policy-flaws-attacks-police-chief
Terrorists Hate Our Freedom; Truth or a Failed Foreign Policy?, Ali Atayev http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/61143/terrorists_hate_our_freedom_truth_or.html
Thank God Someone Is Listening to Us - Terrorism Is Not Jihad, (with article collection on language) Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/thank_god_someone_is_listening_to_us_terrorism_is_not_jihad/
They do not hate us for our freedom http://aworldofprogress.com/they-do-not-hate-us-for-our-freedom-2/ 
They hate us for our freedoms, Glenn Greenwald http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/01/terrorism
U.S. Foreign Policy, Not Islamic Teachings Account for al-Qaeda’s Draw, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D. and Alejandro J. Beutel http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/us_foreign_policy_not_islamic_teachings_account_for_al_qaedas_draw/0015920
VIDEO: Why do they hate us?, Noam Chomsky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pfcW0_sSuw
War ‘on terror’ or ‘against Islam’?, Bertus Hendricks http://static.rnw.nl/migratie/www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/war060912-redirected
War on Terror Rhetoric Sounds Like a War on Islam, Parvez Ahmed http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/war_on_terror_rhetoric_sounds_like_war_on_islam/ 
Why do they want to do us harm?, In these times special issue http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/5711/why_do_they_want_to_do_us_harm_part_one/
Why Do They Hate Us? - TAM article collection http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/why_do_they_hate_us_-_tam_article_collection1
Why do they hate us?, Riad Z. Abdelkarim http://www.counterpunch.org/abdelkarim0917.html
Why do they hate us?, Reza Aslan http://www.slate.com/id/2171752
Why do they hate us?, Scott Bidstrup http://www.bidstrup.com/hate.htm
Why do they hate us? Zbignew Brzezinski http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_1_38/ai_79965766/
Why do they hate us?: It’s the policy, John Esposito http://hir.harvard.edu/index.php?page=article&id=1453
Why do they hate us?, Peter Ford http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/0927/p1s1-wogi.html
Why do they hate us?, Glenn Greenwald http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/10/19/rohde
Why do they hate us?, Jacob Hornberger http://www.fff.org/comment/com0608c.asp
Why do they hate us?, Bouthaina Shaaban http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=19857
Why do they hate us?, Julia Sweig http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0815-20.htm
Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years?,  By Stephen M. Walt http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/11/30/why_they_hate_us_ii_how_many_muslims_has_the_us_killed_in_the_past_30_years 
Why they want to do us harm, Imam Zaid Shakir http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/why_they_want_to_do_us_harm/


First published 1/13/2010