“We, as Americans, know that these people, these groups hate us and we are so arrogant that we don’t even worry why,” states David Baugh, a criminal lawyer who once represented convicted terrorist Muhammed Al-Owhali in connection with bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa. “We just assume they are crazies and we don’t even spend one minute wondering why they hate us.”
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, says she observed anti-American sentiment at the recently concluded international conference in Durban, South Africa.
“At the World Conference Against Racism, the nations were quite angry with the U.S.,” she recounts. “…We’ve got to address some issues that apparently we have not addressed. And we’ve got to do so openly and with honestly.”
Attorney Baugh says Bin Laden’s group, Al-Qaeda’ does not try to hide its contempt for the United States.
“They have many reasons they say they hate America,” says Baugh, a former U.S. Attorney and a lawyer who once represented Kemba Smith, the young Black woman pardoned last December by President Clinton for her minor role in a Virginia drug ring. “They talk about the American-led sanctions against Iraq. They say that the sanctions have killed 1 million children. I, myself, have a tape with [former] Secretary [of State Madeline] Albright saying in 1996 that she knew the sanctions had killed half a million children under five, but that we thought that price was justifiable.
“In a country of 22 million people, we are talking about 5 percent of their population. I am not offering this as a justification or rationale, but we need to think about it.”
The most devastating terrorist attack on the United States was launched Tuesday morning, as many Americans were heading for work or watching the morning talk shows. It was a revolution that was indeed televised. Startled television viewers were horrified at the sight of one of the World Trade Center towers crumbling before their eyes when a second hijacked airliner crashed into the remaining tower, causing it to crumble, killing many of the people inside.
Airline officials confirmed that United Airlines Flight No. 93, a Boeing 757 bound from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco, with 38 passengers and seven crew members, and Flight 175, a Boeing 767, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, with 56 passengers and nine crew members, were hijacked and forced to crash into New York City’s twin landmarks.
In Suburban Washington, even the Defense Department was defenseless after a plane crashed into the Pentagon, igniting a fire that damaged the building that houses the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military brass. Reports that similar attacks had been made on the State Department and Congress were proven to be unfounded.
Federal employees in Washington were sent home for the day and national landmarks were quickly closed as fear gripped the capital. The impact of the attacks extended beyond the East Coast. The National Park Service closed other facilities across the country, including the St.Louis Gateway Arch.
In the wake of what was clearly an orchestrated attack, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson urged Americans not to overreact.
“We do not know who was responsible for the devastating, planned attack,” Jackson told the NNPA News Service. “We would do well to mourn the injured and dead and not panic. We made that mistake after Pearl Harbor and locked up people who looked like they might be Japanese.”
Jackson, who is on first name basis with leaders if many Arab nations, said that the United States failure to have significant relationships with anyone who opposes Israel in the Middle East conflict, leaves the country vulnerable to these type of surprise attacks.
“This shows that there is a body of people alienated from our country,” Jackson explains. “Our tendency toward isolation makes us more vulnerable to acts of hostility.”
Ronald Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, says that tough-talk by the Bush administration, while understandable, is unlikely to improve the nation’s fragile security.
“It’s like Malcolm [X] said…All of these years we have been dancing on one side of the fence [in the Middle East] and pretending to be an honest broker,” Walters explains. “Now we have a choice. The U.S. can greatly exacerbate the situation by going in the direction of retribution or it can try to turn a corner and go in a new direction.”
While public polls show how strong support for Israel, a survey sponsored by Abu Dhabi Television and the Arab American Institute last December disclosed that when asked “with whom do their sympathies lie,” 30 percent of the respondents replied that they were supportive of the state of Israel, 11 percent backed the Palestinians and 22 percent expressed sympathy for both sides. Approximately 29 percent favored neither. Sponsors of the report say that findings “represent a steady movement toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Walters held out little prospect that the U.S. is about to alter a Middle East policy that favors Israel, one of its most trusted allies.
“A situation like this requires the kind of leadership that I just don’t think Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney are capable of,” he says. “… They will ratchet up the situation, And the dumb thing is that by so doing, they will expose the American people to more of this.”
Joseph E. Lowery, chairman of the Black Leadership forum, and longtime aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., notes that we are living in an increasingly violent country.
REPRINTED from Sept. 15, 2001: AFRO Archived History – 9/11…