The End of "They Hate us for our Freedom"
Soon after 9/11 Americans began asking why Al-Qaeda was fighting America. George W. Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress soon after the attacks attempted to answer that very question
Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
And so "they hate us for our freedom" was born. It immediately struck many as a simplistic and self-serving, but given the nation’s mood we just had to live with it.

The correctness of that answer has consistently been chipped away at over the years. The US went to war in Iraq less than two years later. The justifications for the war proved false, tanking American credibility across the globe. There was legalized torture, by the US or through proxies. Even the war in Afghanistan dragged on, bringing down its popularity with it. Whether these actions were done with malice or good will, laziness or great care; whether they were right or wrong, they affected the way others viewed us.

This all brings me to something probably no one is even aware of. And I’m probably going to lose you at the next sentence. Right now Saudi Arabia is trying to put down a rebellion in Yemen. The very condensed summary is that Shia rebels are fighting the Sunni-led government, which has backing from a coalition of nations (including the genocidal Sudanese government) led by Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda and ISIS are involved as well. Whether the rebels (the Houthis) are justified in their war I cannot say.

What I can say though is the Saudis are basically destroying Yemen. War has done what you would expect a bombing campaign to do to an already poor country - created a humanitarian crisis. The Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemeni ports and its blockade of the country has exacerbated the peril to civilians. You probably heard about the US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. Well, the Saudis have done the same in Yemen. Two weddings have reportedly been bombed. Thousands of civilians have been killed.

One of the most distressing things to see is the destruction of ancient Yemeni artifacts.
The roster of antiquities damaged in the war in Yemen runs long. Missiles fired from the coalition's planes have obliterated a museum (where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored), historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th century citadels and minarets and other places whose importance to humanity's heritage has been recognised by the UN. The Great Dam of Marib, a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago, has been struck four times, most recently on August 18th. Antiquities experts fear for the oldest surviving fragment of the Koran, in a six-month war which has killed over 4,000 and injured 20,000.
What would you think of the country that was wiping out your heritage?

What does this have to do with the United States though? .Well, the US has provided "arms, intelligence, and fuel" to the Saudis. On top of that, the United States has actively scuttled any attempt to investigate the Saudis for war crimes.

"They hate us for our freedom" is dead. It’s dead because there are plenty of reasons to contemplate "hating us", whether they are legitimate or not. That’s not to justify terrorism against Americans, Westerners, or Jews. And, let’s be real here, anyone who deliberately flies a plane into a building with the goal of killing tens of thousands of people didn’t need an errant US bomb to push him over the edge. Ego, fanaticism, and a lack of simple humanity were all that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda needed

What these things do is turn opinion against America. They expose our stated goals - democracy, freedom, human rights - as empty rhetoric. They give pause to any of the billion peaceful Muslims when they contemplate speaking out against America’s enemies or speaking out for America’s goals. And yes, for a small percentage of Muslims, it’s a reason to join a group that actively tries to harm Americans. And so our enemies grow in strength.

And it shows. When democratic movements broke out across the Muslim world did we in the United States applaud or fear them? There was much more fear because we aren’t sure that put up to a vote America would win.
 
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