"Let's get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (One Love!),
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!).
Have pity on those whose chances grows t'inner;
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation. "
Lyrics from the song "One Love" by Bob Marley
When it comes to foreign policy and America's role in the world, we are rarely a true democracy; we rarely even have much idea of what is going on. This veil of ignorance has contributed in no small part to the endless series of ghastly events. If we are to prevent a repetition of them, we as citizens must reclaim some authority over our role in the world, and not simply endorse every "war on terrorism."
Simple justice and morality demand that we regard the acts of the terrorists and those with whom they worked as evil, irredeemable deeds, and that we tirelessly seek justice for their victims. But our revulsion and our determination to bring evil-doers to justice do not require us to abandon the search for the larger causes of such deeds. Sheer pragmatism, not to say the desire for self-preservation, requires that we do all we can to prevent future repetitions of these events.
Such a pragmatic imperative is not adequately served simply by beefing up our intelligence capabilities or by retaliating with military or economic violence. If widespread hatred of the United States is the seedbed of acts like those of September 11, we would do well to reflect on the roots of that hatred. Understanding it does not require that we ratify it, or accede to its fantastic and coercive manifestations, or refrain from passing judgment on despicable acts. It does, however, require that we pause to examine how U.S. policies and attitudes have helped in the making of the world we now regard with fear and revulsion.
With few exceptions, Americans do not have a particularly cosmopolitan vision or understanding of what we are content to call the "Arab world." For many of us, that vision consists of turbaned sheiks conspiring to raise the price of oil; of Arafat, Khomeini, Saddam, and Qadhafi; of nameless terrorists hijacking airplanes; of huddled masses who may have been buried under the sands of Desert Storm, although we're not quite sure, because those faceless masses seem somehow always to be replenished by other faceless masses. Human empathy or identification with the people of this storm-tossed, largely poverty-stricken region is in short supply.
Nor-and this is the most significant point-are most of us truly aware of the role the U.S. has played, for generations, overtly and covertly, in the world that was once the Ottoman Empire. As Professor Abou El Fadl has noted, the destruction of that culture at the hands of an advancing Western imperialism eventually laid much of the Islamic world bare for the attractions of a dogmatic, warlike, fundamentalist variant of Islam. At times we have connived at this development, most obviously in the now bitterly ironic fact...