Originally written by Bob Siegel and published by Washington Times Communities, September 8, 2011
Smoke was still coming out of the ground even though planes had hit the World Trade Center some four weeks ago. I was actually, there, at Ground Zero, almost one month to the day of 9-11-01.
Naturally, I’d seen this picture on TV but nothing could prepare me for standing by the actual spot, looking through a fence as bulldozers continued to dig and military guards kept the area secure.
Horrific as the images looked on television, there was just something about this pivotal piece of history which called out to me. I wanted to look Ground Zero square in the eye. How hard to believe that two majestic towers once shot up proudly from this very spot!
As an itinerant Christian minister, I’d already been scheduled to speak at a retreat and other places in upstate New York. In fact, my ticket had been sent to me long before 9/11. When the time for my tour finally arrived, I hoped that between lectures, I might make a trip to the city.
Scheduled to speak at Suny College in Albany the next morning after finishing a weekend mountain event that would go until afternoon, the only chance of squeezing in a trip to Manhattan was late at night. I managed to talk a few college students into taking me, but the girl with the car agreed only under one condition: She and her friends would navigate. I would drive. My first experience driving through downtown New York helped me to understand immediately why those familiar with the Big Apple preferred not to bring their car anywhere near this metropolitan island.
Even at 3:00 in the morning, most of the traffic seemed to flirt with death and driving habits of cabbies left much to be desired.
In any event, we made it. Here we stood at Ground Zero. Some of the students were shocked into silence. Others were teary eyed. To my left, I saw that we had been joined by a middle aged couple staring out at the rubble, looking quite pensive.
“Did you know somebody who died here?” I asked.
Yes, they knew a woman who worked in one of the towers. I don’t remember which one. I do remember that they had come all the way out from California, where I live. Like me, they also had to witness this hell hole for themselves.
All at once, the wife said something I’ll never forget. “I’d just like to understand what we could have done which has made them hate us so much.”
“Maybe we didn’t do anything,” I gently replied. “Maybe some people just enjoy hatred. Maybe some people are simply evil.”
I could see that my answer made no sense to her. Evil? No, people only commit terrible acts for a reason. There must be something they want. There must be a problem in the way we’ve treated them. Nobody is evil just for evil’s sake.
Her words concerned me but did not surprise me. For a month now, I’d been hearing similar ideas from one television pundit after another. It occurred to me that many Americans were suffering from a national version of “Battered Wife Syndrome.” Having once been a pastor who occasionally counseled such women, I am very sympathetic to their plight. Asking a mother to take her children and leave a violent man is far more easily said than done.
Still, most sensible people cringe when they hear women blaming themselves for their husband’s violent abuses:
“He only got mad because I provoked him. It was all my fault.”
“My husband acts this way because of his own abusive childhood.”
“I know he really loves me because he apologizes after he hits me every single time. Sometimes he even buys me flowers.”
Ironically, many who would challenge such a person to secure a restraining order and stop creating excuses, offer a few excuses of their own for terrorists who seek to destroy the United States and other civilizations. Sometimes, we even take our cues from “moderate” Muslims who come on TV and say things like; “We renounce the terrorism, of course, but we do hope America has learned its lesson about always taking Israel’s side. If there were a two state solution, perhaps there would be less terrorism.”
Yes, of course. That makes perfect sense. And if a picked on third grader gave a bully half his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the bully would be so appreciative, he’d turn over a new leaf instead of finding the same short, skinny kid in the playground one day later, demanding all of his pastrami on rye with mustard.
Actually, Israel agreed to a two state solution in 1947 when the United Nations legally established two separate countries, one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians (who did not call themselves Palestinians in those days but instead described themselves as Arabs.). The Jews agreed. The Arabs did not. Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq all declared war on Israel. Amazingly, they lost the war but modern Israel’s beginning proved right from the start that a two state solution was the farthest thing from her enemy’s minds.
The situation has not changed. If you don’t believe me, watch Palestinian leaders in television interviews hem and haw when asked if Israel has a right to exist.
“OK, we’ll forget about America taking Israel’s side for now. Maybe the U.S. made other blunders in the Middle East such as our greedy quest for oil. If we weren’t so interested in oil, terrorists wouldn’t be attacking.”
Our oil motivated Middle East relationships do indeed create strange bedfellows and there is room for honest debate about how much we should be working with countries such as Saudi Arabia, but that doesn’t explain why a Radical Muslim kills somebody in the Philippines. Neither does it excuse the murder of Dutch film director, Theo Van Gogh, who was making a movie about how women are treated in Muslim countries. Oil cannot account for such actions. Neither can Israeli-Palestinian borders.
But sometimes a note (such as the one attached by knife to Van Gogh’s dead body) will offer more authentic reasons. Scribbled on the paper were verses from the Koran and a call to Holy War.
It’s time to let the terrorists speak for themselves. In 2006, a video arrived from Al Qaeda messenger, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, instructing Americans to convert to Islam or die:
“To Americans and the rest of Christendom we say, either repent (your) misguided ways and enter into the light of truth or keep your poison to yourself and suffer the consequences in this world and the next” (Hot Air, 9-2-06).
Let’s be clear: We are hated by Militant Islam because we are unwilling to convert to Militant Islam. Not only have they admitted as much, their own scriptures contain the marching orders.
“Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home ….they uttered the word of unbelief and renounced Islam after embracing it” (Surah 9).
Of course, such verses are not the only ones in the Koran. There are also passages which talk about peace, but make no mistake: Both sets of words are in there. While we can be grateful that many Muslims focus only on the peaceful verses, we are foolish and naïve if we do not acknowledge that many others take their Jihad commands quite seriously.
But that doesn’t finish the explanation. Sincere as a religious person may be, by the time his religion is asking him to slit a stewardess’ throat, or ram a plane into a building, or blow up a bus with children, the term evil becomes more authentic then the term zealous.
It’s time for America to stop acting like a battered wife. Making excuses for our enemy only emboldens our enemy. Terrorists view the excuse as a sign of weakness and inspiration for further attack .
Then again, maybe the real problem is that Osama bin Laden’s mother never bought him a sled when he was a kid.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Many comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170.