There is no such thing as closure after 9/11, and there shouldn't be as long as Islamic fundamentalism threatens America. Those who say we should move beyond that event fail to grasp what happened. After going to school and working in New York for 12 years, I was extremely lucky that no one I knew lost their lives that day, although many close friends were not so fortunate.
Writing this column is one of the hardest things I have done. How does one capture the emotions of that day, the horror, the honor, the sorrow, the sacrifice? Even attempting to seems like an insult. Words on a page can never do justice to those who suffered and died and those who continue to anguish.
The word courage was defined anew by the heroes who hurled themselves at death to save others, especially the uniformed officers of New York and the passengers of Flight 93, not by the false bravery of fanatic Islamic fundamentalist jihad-pilots. To redeem the sacrifice of heroes and the lives of all the victims, we must ensure this never happens again. Doing so requires an honest appraisal of the situation.
Those who blame U.S.-support for Israel as the cause of Sept. 11 are guilty of callous opportunism and willful blindness to history. Osama bin Laden, who planned these attacks for at least two years (while Bill Clinton made efforts for peace that no US president had ever done), never mentioned the Palestinians until after Sept. 11. Yet U.S. foreign policy did fuel radical Islamic fundamentalism, the one and only "root cause" of Sept. 11.
The trouble with President George W. Bush's phrase "axis of evil" is not its bluntness or simplicity but its inaccuracy. It's time to hit the nail on the head: The evil that flourished in Afghanistan and struck us on Sept. 11 was incubated in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries nourished by U.S. foreign policy for decades.
The intimate nexus between al Qaeda and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is illuminated by their behavior before and after 9/11. Our so-called "friends" were the only allies of the Taliban prior to Sept. 11, because they created the Taliban. The foot-soldiers of the Taliban and al Qaeda were trained in Pakistani madrassahs financed by Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda gained most of its funding from Saudi "charities" and has close connections with the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service.
Pakistan used Afghanistan for years as a terrorist university with camps melded with al Qaeda to export terrorists to Kashmir, where they have perpetrated ethnic cleansing not of Muslims but of Hindus. Pakistan supplied the Taliban weapons even after the U.S. bombing began in October, airlifted hundreds of fighters (who knows how many al Qaeda?) out of Kunduz and promoted inclusion of moderate Taliban members in Afghanistan's government. There are reports from the BBC that the ISI provided dialysis, shelter and escape to bin Laden. It is also reported that Gen. Mahmud Ahmad, the ISI chief on Sept. 11, directed Omar Sheikh (the prime suspect in the beheading of Daniel Pearl and hosted by Pakistan for years after his release by India after the Indian Airlines hijacking) to wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the weeks before Sept. 11. Senior Taliban now live comfortably in Pakistan, even giving interviews to newspapers. Musharraf, in addition to releasing most of the terrorists he "rounded up" (a la Arafat), stated that Pearl got "over-intrusive," begging the question: What was Pearl killed to protect?
Saudi Arabia bankrolls a world-wide network of madrassahs and mosques to promote Wahhabism, their hateful brand of Islam. Saudi schools in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and even the United States teach high school students that "Judgment Day will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill all the Jews" and that "whoever is kufr [non-Muslim] it is okay to hurt and steal from," while Saudi mosques in the West have held AK-47 training courses and hosted the Sept. 11 terrorists. Fatwas by Saudi clerics in addition to declaring "holy war against infidels" have said that suicide attacks are "the most noble rung a Muslim can attain" and specifically mention "crashing your plane into an important location that will cause your enemy to suffer colossal losses."
Saudi Arabia, where the freedom of religion does not exist, continues beheading and stoning and institutionalizes gender apartheid to the point where women need the permission of male relatives to have surgery. Saudi royal oil largess has deflected anger at corruption and unemployment onto the West while relieving Pakistan of the burden of public education with madrassahs, allowing it to spend more on its military. This March, official Saudi newspapers stated that Jews drink human blood for Purim and Passover, and Saudi religious police beat girls fleeing their burning school for not wearing their veils, forcing them back inside in inferno, where 15 died.
The cancerous venom manifest on Sept. 11 arose from the incubators of evil known as Pakistan's military-mullah complex and Saudi Arabia's checkbook terrorists. It will continue to metastasize unless we excise their medieval murderousness and dismantle the axis that incubates evil. We can do this by developing energy independence to break the sword of the oil weapon, and by standing against military and religious tyrannies that "help" us in the short term but foster hate for us in the long run. Americans must recognize that foreign policy beholden to oil sheikhs and military dictators has succored radical Islamic fundamentalism, a mortal threat ignored by too many: Even if a pigeon closes its eye, the pouncing cat will not walk away.
Dr. Bala Ambati is a former fellow in the School of Medicine and is currently on the faculty at the Medical College of Georgia.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.