The entire week would be spent completing the standardized test called the ISTEP, short for Indiana Standardized Test for Evaluating Progress. I was the sort to be finished with certain sections early, so I noticed when another teacher entered the room and whispered something to the teacher supervising the test. I can’t remember the look on their faces, but I do remember the nod in reply. A silent understanding, perhaps. One by one, the students finished their testing and the books were collected. Then the teacher stood and made the announcement. Something had happened in New York, one of the trade towers had been and then a little later, the other one. They turned on the television and we saw some of the day’s events unfold.
My clearest memory of eight years ago was being in that classroom, the pale colors of the walls and the slight hint of chalk dust on the wall. It was the realization that everything was different. And it was, for awhile. Flags went up, churches filled up, and it seemed that hatred went down. But it didn’t last. The vast majority of us have a similar story about that day. Hardly anything dramatic. However, the sudden absence of some three thousand lives is dramatic. That’s three thousand families that can never go back. Today and tomorrow are filled with days of emptiness of a murdered brother, sister, father, mother, aunt, uncle, and friend. Why did hijackers send airplanes into the twin towers, the pentagon, and a field?
Wikipedia’s article on the September 11th attacks has this to say about their motive: “The attacks were consistent with the overall mission statement of al-Qaeda, as set out in a 1998 fatwā (fatwā: in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be binding, depending on the status of the scholar.) issued by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ahmed Refai Taha, Mir Hamzah, and Fazlur Rahman. This statement begins by quoting the Koran as saying, “slay the pagans wherever ye find them” and extrapolates this to conclude that it is the “duty of every Muslim” to “kill Americans anywhere”. Bin Laden elaborated on this theme in his “Letter to America” of October 2002: “You are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind: You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator.”
Many of the eventual findings of the 9/11 Commission with respect to motives have been supported by other experts. Counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke explains in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies, that U.S. foreign policy decisions including “confronting Moscow in Afghanistan, inserting the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf”, and “strengthening Israel as a base for a southern flank against the Soviets” contributed to al-Qaeda’s motives. Others, such as Jason Burke, foreign correspondent for The Observer, focus on a more political aspect to the motive, stating that “bin Laden is an activist with a very clear sense of what he wants and how he hopes to achieve it. Those means may be far outside the norms of political activity […] but his agenda is a basically political one.”
A variety of scholarship has also focused on bin Laden’s overall strategy as a motive for the attacks. For instance, correspondent Peter Bergen argues that the attacks were part of a plan to cause the United States to increase its military and cultural presence in the Middle East, thereby forcing Muslims to confront the “evils” of a non-Muslim government and establish conservative Islamic governments in the region. Michael Scott Doran, correspondent for Foreign Affairs, further emphasizes the “mythic” use of the term “spectacular” in bin Laden’s response to the attacks, explaining that he was attempting to provoke a visceral reaction in the Middle East and ensure that Muslim citizens would react as violently as possible to an increase in U.S. involvement in their region.”
We were attacked because we were the way we are. We have not changed, nor have those who dislike us. Nor should we feel change is neccessary. Now I know that this year we have invited more change than ever before, but let us make sure we don’t change too much. If we do, then three thousand would have been murdered for nothing, them and the soldiers who lost their lives defending us.