Bring up US foreign policy to a warhawk, point out that the terrorists have specifically named US policy in Muslim lands as the reason for their desire to kill, and the response is always the same: you are blaming the victim, which is America, and exonerating the guilty.
This is nonsense! To say that the wife killed the husband to get the insurance money isn’t to blame the husband for being insured. To say the robber held up a bank to get the money isn’t to say that it’s the bank’s fault for keeping money there. As Gene Callahan tirelessly points out, establishing a motive is essential to proving guilt. It doesn’t exonerate; it convicts.
So let’s talk motive. It’s a fact that the terrorist actions and continuing threats are a direct response to US troops in Saudi Arabia, trade sanctions against Iraq, and the perception that the US approves of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Anyone who pays attention to the news, and understands anything about the region, knew that these policies spelled trouble even before bin Laden announced it.
To take the next step in the libertarian argument requires that we make judgments about whether the policies that inspired the attacks are justified. Even independently of the attacks, the US can and should change these policies because they are bad, period. If by our doing so, potential terrorists no longer feel inspired to poison people and hijack planes, that’s all to the good.
Hence, the neoconservative claim that we libertarians are just blaming America for the crimes of others doesn’t fly. Even in the case of most leftists who oppose this war, they are not "blaming America" but identifying US government policies as a motive force. It’s a simple matter of observing that folks don’t like it, for example, when 1 million people die as a result of sanctions you impose.
For weeks, I’ve looked in vain for someone to actually say the things that the neocons accuse us of saying: that America deserved the attacks, that this is the price we pay for being such a sinful country, that the American way of life needed to get a good wallop. We’ve all looked and looked for actual America haters among those who oppose the US war against Afghanistan.
Where are the people who are saying such things? Certainly no one on LRC. I’ve yet to see any major spokesman for peace promote such absurdities. Does anyone who thinks like that actually exist, apart from a few drugged-up antiglobalism protestors or professors in minority studies programs?
Much to my amazement, a person who actually does fit the neocon stereotype has at last shown his face. It is none other than our old friend Bill Clinton.
Speaking at Georgetown University, Clinton indulged in a flight of fancy about all the things America has done to call down these attacks on us. In particular he named the fact that "we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery, and slaves quite frequently were killed even though they were innocent.”
If that isn’t bad enough: “this country once looked the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human."
Finally the clincher: “And we are still paying a price today."
So there you have it: a blame America Firster, someone who actually believes that the attacks are the price we pay for our original sin, as well as events a century and a half old. When you hear this kind of drivel, it’s enough to get the old patriotic juices flowing. It tempts one to observe that this man, this former president of the United States, secretly hates this country. That sure would explain much about the Clinton regime.
Or perhaps it’s not a psychological state at all. It’s all the more gripping when you realize that the real reason for the attacks were the policies carried out under his administration. So he more than anyone else would have a good reason for wanting to distract people from events of the last 10 years to events of ancient history—events that no one can control now.
Clinton is pleased to promote the hatred of America, especially among college students, so long as it averts people’s eyes from the US government’s actions in the 1990s. So there we have the motive for the first genuine case of anti-Americanism I’ve seen. Wouldn’t you know that it comes from the mouth of the former president, whom historians will probably someday consider "near great" for his policies that got us into this war.
When Jerry Falwell said the attacks might be God’s judgment for Americans’ sins of abortion, the whole world came crashing down on him. That hasn’t happened and won’t happen to Clinton. The most the Wall Street Journal could muster was a pathetic: "wartime is hardly the time for an American politician to be harping on America’s shortcomings."
The problem isn’t the harping as such; it’s Clinton’s theory itself, that the US was born in sin, and terror is the price we pay. I’m willing to bet that the hijackers didn’t care a flip about slavery or Indian policies, and Clinton doesn’t believe they did. His is a metaphysical argument, an anti-American argument. We are paying the price for Bill Clinton and those like him.