The Unasked Question of 9-11: What Was the Motive?

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the attack on the Trade Towers first reached the media, I was videotaping
an event that could not easily be re-scheduled. I had to remain
on the job for the rest of the day. So, I did not spend the day
in front of a TV screen. Maybe I missed something.

work, I viewed perhaps two hours of replays on the now unforgettable
date of 9-11. Not once did I hear any commentator ask the obvious
question: What was the motive? They chattered on for hours, but
never once did I hear anyone raise the question of motive.

amount of actual news regarding how these terrorist acts had been
accomplished took about five minutes to convey. This lack of information
never changed throughout the day. The nation sat, transfixed in
front of TV screens, watching those buildings come down, over and
over. CNN had the images of these buildings in some sort of loop,
or whatever technicians call sequential digital replays. The invisible
talking heads talked over the images.

evening, we knew no more than we knew after the first hour: four
planes had been hijacked, three had hit the terrorists’ targets,
and one had crashed in a vertical trajectory in western Pennsylvania.

interviewed on-camera officially agreed: we don’t know for sure
who did this. Everyone seemed to agree unofficially: a private terrorist
group, probably masterminded my Osama bin Laden, is the most likely
candidate. I’m ready to go along with this. But no one raised the
question: What was his motive? They identified him as the number-one
suspect, but somehow he had no motive worth discussing on-screen.

heard this assessment repeatedly: “This is the warfare of the 21st
century.” I can hardly disagree. It worked so well in the 20th century,
as far as murderous terrorists of civilians were concerned, that
it is unlikely to be abandoned soon. There is nothing new here.
We can easily substitute the words “King David Hotel” for “Twin
Towers,” but nobody mentioned this.

heard the word “cowards” used repeatedly. I don’t remember that
anyone ever used this word regarding the kamikazes of World War
II. A warrior who gives his life for his cause during wartime, knowing
that he will surely die, is not generally dismissed as a coward,
even by his victims. What the 9-11 critics were saying was that
the terrorists did this to civilians. I agree with this assessment.
The terrorists were indeed cowards by Western standards, although
they overcame their fear of death. It’s one thing to die deliberately
for your cause as a warrior; it’s another deliberately to take specific
civilians with you.

War on Civilians

I don’t see that there was anything new here, either. Substitute
the word “Dresden” for “New York City.” The Allies — mostly
the United States — firebombed a defenseless German city, day
after day, in 1945, a city with no military significance in 1945.
At least 25,000 civilians died in the resulting firestorms, with
350,000 left homeless in winter. Our fighting men did this from
air in streams of hundreds of bombers, when there were no German
fighter aircraft to defend the city.

1945, this was an old, old story. When General Sheridan adopted
a terrorist campaign against civilians in the Shenandoah Valley
in October, 1864, after Atlanta had fallen, and the Confederacy
was clearly beaten, he made terrorism part of official American
military strategy. Sheridan’s cavalry conducted a hit-and-run arson
campaign against women and children. It worked so well from the
Union Army’s point of view that Sherman immediately put it into
mass production in his march to the sea. That strategy was adopted
by European generals as the wave of the future, which it became.

live in a monstrous era. What the West came to regard as unacceptable
militarily during the Thirty Years War, 1618-48, in a murderous
religious civil war in the German principalities, Western nations
have adopted as national policy during wartime. They even adopt
it in peacetime.

strategists of both the Soviet Union and the United States by the
mid-1960’s had adopted MAD: mutual assured destruction. Each side
targeted its nuclear weapons against the other’s urban civilian
populations. Each side used the other’s civilians as hostages in
a strategy that prevailed for at least three decades. Neither side
admitted to its own public that this is what the strategists had
self-consciously done. A few men spoke out against this in the late
1970’s and the 1980’s, including a couple of retired American generals,
but the generals did not speak out publicly against MAD when they
were in uniform. MAD ended — if it has actually ended —
only when the Soviet Union collapsed.

country has been waging a terrorist campaign against Iraq’s civilians
for over a decade. Estimates range from 750,000 to 1,500,000 civilians
dead because of our continuing trade
, half of them children. We refuse to lift these trade
sanctions until Saddam Hussein resigns. But he remains in power
only because President Bush refused to pursue a military objective
— warriors vs. warriors — by conquering Iraq in 1991.
He deliberately let Saddam’s army get away. Now we starve Iraqi
children for a strictly political objective: to get him to resign.
The public neither knows nor cares. Motive? Here is a motive. It’s
called revenge — not for the sake of the secular Baath party,
but on behalf of Islam.

9-11 terrorists wore civilian clothing. This made them cowards by
Western military standards. A warrior is supposed to wear a uniform;
otherwise, he is a spy. Western military codes of justice allow
the execution of spies whenever caught. I agree entirely; a spy
is not a warrior. He should be treated differently from a man in
uniform. But in a world in which warriors target civilians as a
matter of conventional military strategy, their general officers
should not be surprised when a few civilians decide to get even.

All Know the Motive

did a group of civilians do this, assuming that they really were
civilians? I offer three reasons that most Americans understand,
or at least are capable of understanding. I heard no commentator
mention any of them.

goes without saying that everyone assumes that Muslims did this.
Why does everyone assume this?

American Christians and American business interests generally support
the State of Israel. Every Muslim regards this state as an illegal
invader into Muslim territory. No Muslim nation regards the State
of Israel favorably. No Muslim nation has the military power to
take out Israel in a direct confrontation.

Iraq started to build nuclear power plant that might possibly have
been used to build a nuclear weapon, the Israeli Air Force bombed
it — and all the civilians working there — into oblivion,
without warning and without a declaration of war in 1982. President
Clinton did the same thing in 1998 to a pharmaceutical factory in
Sudan that had no
military significance

the United States supports the State of Israel. Muslims universally
believe — as do most Americans — that without the American
government’s money, weapons, and official support, Israel would
not be able to defend itself indefinitely. They see this money as
coming mainly from New York City. The Twin Towers were the most
visible symbol of this private capital. The Pentagon was the most
visible symbol of our military power. The terrorists struck a blow
based on symbols universally recognized by the Islamic world.

— and this is less widely understood — Islam regards all
of its men as warriors, with or without uniforms. The West’s ancient
distinction, which had its origin in the Christian middle ages,
between uniformed warriors and civilians is not part of the Islamic

United States foreign policy has done since 1948 is to create an
implacable enemy of about 500,000,000 men or soon-to-be men, an
enemy that cannot lawfully be targeted, according to the West’s
official canons of justice.

civilians are supposed to be given trials. They are not supposed
to be hunted down and killed by our military, and surely not by
agents in civilian clothing, i.e., spies. But what about civilians
who do not see themselves a civilians or act like civilians? What
do you do with them? Do we bomb them indiscriminately, as the State
of Israel does to Palestinian neighborhoods, after a terrorist attack
on its own civilians?

some American spy will assassinate bin Laden. That event will create
an international martyr for 500,000,000 men, plus their wives and
will-be wives. Bin Laden knows this. He is probably willing to become
a martyr, just as the terrorists in those four planes were willing.
This is why, from his point of view, the attack was an enormous
success. Whether or not he masterminded it, his religious peers
will see him as a martyr if he is killed and as a genius strategist
if he isn’t. He will get imitators.


Dr. Arthur Robinson, a biochemist, and I wrote our book-long tract
favoring a national civil defense shelter system, Fighting
(1986), we had in mind biological weapons as well
as nuclear. This nation’s civilian population has never been considered
worth protecting. To do so would be opposed to MAD.

researching the topic of civil defense at the Oak Ridge National
Laboratories, Robinson met the long-time director of the civil defense
research program, Conrad Chester. Robinson used this library extensively.
(The U.S. government ordered this library destroyed after Chester

his retirement, Chester stayed in contact with Robinson. Chester
once wrote a paper for a group that Robinson is associated with,
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. It went into detail about how
a small terrorist group could use home-brew anthrax to kill at least
90% of the population of New York City, or any major city, 24 hours
after they released it into the atmosphere, i.e., 12 hours after
they had fled the country. Robinson persuaded him not to go into
the details, merely use his authority to persuade the audience.
Chester complied — wisely, I think. (Chester later died of
natural causes.)

tells me that any skilled Ph.D in biology could do what Chester
described, using used equipment that costs $25,000. New, it would
cost $250,000. All he would need in addition to the equipment is
a year’s time and a pair of M.A.-level graduate students in biology.

group that coordinated the 9-11 attacks was not like the band of
amateurs who, also according to Chester, came within a few feet
of the correct placement of their explosives-laden van in 1993 of
bringing down one of the twin towers, with everyone inside killed.
The 9-11 group was well-funded and well-organized.

whoever engineered the 9-11 attack will not have much trouble raising
funds for the next one. There are some very rich private citizens
among the 500,000,000 who have a deep grudge against the United

are not dealing with Keystone Cops-vintage idiots this time, the
way we were in 1993’s bomb-laden van. The 9-11 strategy was not
adopted to frighten the United States into submission. It was used
to recruit a dedicated army of Islamic terrorists for the next stage.
It was used to convince recruits that revenge against the Great
Satan is possible — and maybe more than revenge. Maybe even
victory over the West, an Islamic goal since 622. We are dealing
with a motive that stretches back almost fourteen centuries.

are forgive-and-forget people. Their philosophy is “let bygones
be bygones.” They cannot conceive of a motive that goes on for 1,400
years. They forget — if they ever knew — that it took
Spain from 732 (the battle of Tours in what is now southern France)
until 1492 to remove the Moors from their territory.

day that 50% to 90% of the population of a city dies of a biological
attack, and some Islamic terrorist group announces a hit list of
sixteen more cities located in the G-8 nations, the West will have
a moment of truth. If one of these cities is then successfully attacked,
we will learn about the effects on the division of labor when rich
urban targets meet cheap weapons of mass destruction.

events of 9-11 revealed that there is no defense from terrorists
who are willing to die. How many attacks would it take to bring
down the West’s economy on a discount basis? Five? Three?


Sheridan sowed the wind in 1864. This nation has now reaped the
first stage of a whirlwind. I hope and pray — literally —
that it will not advance to stage two. But, as I write this from
the Shenandoah Valley, I am not confident that my prayer will be

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