9/23/01 Like millions of people across the world, Cal Poly professor and Iranian immigrant Manzar Foroohar was affected profoundly by the terrorist acts Sept. 11 in which airplanes hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing thousands.
But she worries this is only the beginning. Foroohar said if America/s government doesn/t learn everything it can about the people responsible for committing the indescribable acts, it won/t get far in its effort to stop future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, its embassies and its military.
Others share Foroohar/s concerns.
"It/s hard to talk about this kind of thing at a time like this, but that/s what we have to do… get to the root of this problem," Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, a weekly New York-based magazine, said recently on PBS/ "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Foroohar fears that if Bush exacts hasty, heavy-handed revenge in which mostly civilians are killed, America will be setting itself up for disaster.
"It might calm down (terrorist activity) for a year or two, but they will come back," she said. "If you don/t understand the root causes of it, we won/t be able to stop (it)."
Understanding what fuels Islamic fundamentalists/ hatred of Americans requires an examination of relations between the United States, Israel and the Middle East over the last few decades.
Middle Easterners looked up to the United States after Americans defeated the Nazi regime in 1945, Foroohar said. Since then, anti-U.S. sentiment has gradually built as a result of many foreign policy decisions by America toward the Middle East.
The first involved the creation of Afghanistan/s Taliban group during the Cold War by America/s CIA, Foroohar said. The Taliban was created to help oust the Soviet Union/s leadership from Afghanistan, she said.
Eventual Taliban leader Osama bin Laden has been hailed by the Afghans and Pakistanis since that time, according to Bob Scheer, a Los Angeles Times columnist.
"This guy/s a monster, but we created him," said Foroohar.
But when the United States became involved in the Gulf War in the early 1990s, bin Laden turned against America, Scheer said, because he believed the Middle East should have solved the Iraqi problem on its own.
During the Gulf War, an enormous number of civilians were killed by U.S. forces, said Scheer. The damage left "a bitter trail of anti-U.S. fervor." And Saddam Hussein, the personification of the United States/ reason for getting involved in the war, still escaped harm.
As a result of increasing terrorist activities in the 1990s, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and 1998/s U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the CIA has been trying to throw bin Laden off track, according to the Washington Post.
President Clinton followed by destroying bin Laden/s training camps. And during his first year in office, President Bush ordered the CIA to render bin Laden powerless.
"If bin Laden was responsible for this most recent attack, it represents nothing less than a startling failure of U.S. intelligence," said Scheer.
Fundamentalist extremists also resent the fact the United States helps Israel target Islamic civilians, Foroohar said. The United States supplies weapons to Israel that have caused thousands to die in Palestine and Lebanon alike, according to Independent columnist Robert Fisk.
During the four days that proceeded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, 23 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza.
"Now that our attention is on the attacks, it/s giving license to the Israelis to shoot at will," Foroohar said.
Add to this negative foreign policy promulgated by the United States a sprinkling of positivity, such as when it gave Afghanistan more than ,43 million to help with its drought this year, Scheer said. This move, he said, sent the Taliban a signal that its support of bin Laden was acceptable.
This illustrates a tendency by the United States to send mixed signals, Foroohar said, which degrades the ability of those in the Middle East to trust it. Foroohar said if we left the region alone, much of the fundamentalists/ beef with us would dissipate.
Solutions are within reach, but the answers don/t lie with force, Foroohar says. She suggests that all parties involved listen and talk to each other.
"We need to create a forum in which to air grievances," said The Nation/s vanden Heuvel. Foroohar agrees.
"So far we/ve only listened to the Israelis, which is a very small minority (in that region)," she said.
If the United States blindly takes action without acknowledging concerns, it won/t stop the cycle of violence that/s been going on since the Gulf War.
"Violence breeds violence," Foroohar said.