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ground zerojoin the discussion: What are your thoughts on the roots of militant Islam and the minds and motivations of those who hate the U.S.?


Dear FRONTLINE,

Blaming our Middle East policy for fostering terrorist ideals is in my opinion utterly false. There is truth in the facts that provide fertile fuel as political weaponry, but are these in truth the reason or the justification? The problem, like most in a complex world, is that there is no right answer on foreign policy. Consider for a minute what the alternatives might be.

Should we have tried to pressure the Saudis into democracy, or perhaps supported a coup díetat? Where would this road have led? Look at our history where things like that have occurred. Would this then not become the reason and the justification too? How should we have handled Egypt? Which side of the story should one believe? Can anybody tell me what exactly we should have done differently that would have made the current situation better?

I see choices filled with perils and, to my limited understanding, it seems we made some of the better choices. I emphatically believe that what the Arab dissidents are pointing at this as the reasons for their rage against America is a subterfuge. These are convenient explanations for their actions and beliefs, not causal events.

Does anyone believe that if we ceased every one of the supposed inflammatory policies of the US the Middle East situation would be improved? We have to examine the changes in the world over the last few decades and how America has been perceived as the force behind them. It is our culture through our economic prowess that has beaten down the front door of nearly every country in the world to drag them into the global economy and the twenty-first century. The process has been painful in most underdeveloped countries where corruption and suffering are the rule rather than the exception. We are perceived as champions of progress and exploitation and the slayers of their better way of life, no matter how mythical that better life may be. Those who want to preserve life as it was or return to a purer ideal, absent of "American corruption", even when it is a perversion of the truth, will always label the US as the evil instrument of change. America and Americans are the root of the problem, a phantom that must be defeated in order to achieve their misguided ideal. They point to the objectionable excesses of American life and use it as a stone to sharpen their hatred and win over followers to their fanatical cause. How can we stop that other than by simply going out of existence? That is the goal of these extremists after all.

American policies are not the underlying cause of Arab extremism; bigotry and denial are. Bigotry that everything from America is evil and the denial that their medieval way of life, filled with religious intolerance is dying. They can no longer bully their people into obedience without isolating them from the world.

William McJilton
bakersfield, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I read a few comments expressed by some outraged viewers claiming that program somehow blamed America for the attacks. I not only reject that view, but I am alarmed by these expressed views.

What I got out of the program was that America has a serious image problem within the Arab world. To many Arabs America symbolizes their oppressor because the USA supports Corrupt Regimes such as the House of Saud, and Israel. In the case of Israel, arabs are subject to images of Israelis killing Palestinians, while the US bombs Iraq. This is the reality of how arabs perceive America like or not. It is these preceptions that help create and sustain the evil criminals that are Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. However there is no solution to the problem because US stills needs the support of those moderate regimes to help maintain peace and security in the region and Israel has the right to exist. Yet, part of America's image problem could be resolved if in the future moderate, younger reformist arab leaders come to power and deal with the social and economic problems of the arab world

James Smith
saugus, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think there are only two ways out of this crisis.

1. Become as brutal and ruthless as the terrorists until they have lost all credibility with the Muslim masses.

2. Wean ourselves from mideastern oil, and isolate these countries from the Western World.

Of the two, I think the former is the most practical, but I wonder if the United States public can understand it, let alone support it long enough to win.

castle dale, utah


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought you did a great job again, although I share the opinion of some responders who think that the questions asked tended toward apologetic when interviewing pro-terrorist respondents, and tended toward aggressive when interviewing government officials defending the world coalition's actionsó-both currently and in the past--to destroy terrorism.

I am especially pleased with what I thought were realistic interpretations of the events in the interview with Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

It is interesting to me to notice that many of those interviewed, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, seem to fail to see that the terrorists didn't come to their beliefs because of being dirt poor and out of hope (Armitage repeatedly uses the phrase, "hopelessness and despair"). In fact, most are educated and come from at least middle class backgrounds.

This means that a simple, knee-jerk response--without considering the dogma of our enemies--will be less successful at rooting out the problem as it will be at prolonging the agony. I am happy to see that many in power in and out of our government are advocating a multi-pronged, multi-national response.

Thanks again for a thoughtful program.

Richard Loose
boulder, colorado


Dear FRONTLINE,

I appreciate the substance and diversity of analysis within the Frontline report. Clearly, it is crucial that we attempt to comprehend why such fervent, anti-Western, particularly anti-American sentiment exists within the radical Muslim world, without necessarily taking at face value all of the rhetoric that emanates from it.

...The issue of Israel is cited often, specifically the "unbalanced" United States support of Israel and Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. But what exactly is our policy in this area and what is Israel's history with its Arab neighbors?

First, the United States may be fundamentally supportive of Israel, but it is also quite financially and politically supportive of both moderate (and not so moderate) Arab governments and the Palestinian leadership.

The US has propped up Arafat and devoted a great deal of energy to broker a final settlement between the parties. If we are committed to our relationship with Israel, which has defended itself since inception against coordinated attacks by Arab nations (and only became burdened by the Palestinian problem once it won the 1967 War; note that Jordan ruled the West Bank and harshly ruled over the Palestinians until 1967), while that may be a sore point amongst Arabs, it is certainly a legitimate policy of the United States to support friends that it considers loyal, beneficial and in need of support. If one does not believe Israel has a right to exist, that is a different discussion, but that extreme view is no longer readily accepted and should not be shrouded by the tiresome, vague complaint of the our "policy" in the Middle East.

Second, one may argue that Israel responds in too harsh a manner towards Palestinians, but it is Israel's and the Palesinians' obligation to negotiate, without resorting to terrorist activities, a true peace. The Arab governments have little use in assisting the Palestinians in this effort, and merely utilize them as a pawn in their political struggle with Israel, and thus are not legitimately justified in condemning Israel's "policies" without examining their own. We should learn to understand those who may criticize our policies, without necessarily following their lead; becoming more educated on the factual history of the region is an important first step.

Jed Snerson
new york, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks to your efforts and other items now appearing in the news media, I am now able to piece together a viable picture of the events that led up to the Sep-11 trajedy and afterwards:

1. There was intelligence indicating a major assault against America by Osama Bin Laden & associates.

2. The present administration wasn't paying attention. Those in charge need to be held responsible.

3. The administration is manipulating the American public away from the truth. The terrorist threat is as much our Mid-East policies as are the Islamic radicals.

4. We can do better. We need a national security team that understands our real predicament.

5. Thanks for the background on the Islamic Brotherhood. Information like this will change public opinion towards a more balanced understanding of the Islamic terrorist threat.

6. Criminal prosecution should be considered for those responsible up to highest levels of management for the lax security that existed at Boston Logan Airport.

Keep up the effort to keep us informed!

Scott Rodman
san jose, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The State Department official did a great job of sidestepping the question of why we are in Saudi Arabia. His answer spoke of why we are in the Middle East, or the Persian Gulf region, but not why Saudi Arabia. Why do we not have our forces in Kuwait? UAE? Quatar? If our presence in Saudi Arabia is a problem, why have we not moved somewhere else?

Tom Kittridge
bellevue, wa


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program was excellent. I thought the comment made by the American Ambassador to Egypt was enlightening. He stated that the Arabic News station broadcasts images of the Israeli Palestinian war. These broadcasts have been powerful in angering the islamic world to the unjust and frequently brutal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. In the United States these broadcasts are censured.

When have you ever on television seen what life is like for the average palestinian surviving on two dollars a day. We are not shown images of Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinian children in the head. 14% of Palestinian casualites have been children less than fifteen years old. 32% of those children less than 15 years were shot in the head or neck....seemingly intentionally. We in America have our news censured. This is a weakness for our society's survival.

Bush recently asked that our networks not show Osama bin Laden broadcasts because them may transmit hidden messages to his terrorist organization. I think a greater threat would be for Americans not to understand or know what the Islamic world is experiencing or thinking. Thanks.

chicago, illinois


Dear FRONTLINE,

In looking for answers you forgot to ask some very important questions. Specifically, what the heck has the American public recieved for our goverments $10 Billion annual investment in anti-terrorism. Apparently we haven't hired any Arab speaking intelligence officers, we haven't found a single person willing to infiltrate Bin Ladin's 5,000 strong organization (even though he advertises for recruits on Arab TV) and we haven't even installed surface to air missiles to protect our goverment's headquarters. On top of that we also appear to not have spent time playing what-if scenarios for possible terrorist attacks, even after Tom Clancy outlined this type of jetliner attack in excruciating detail in one of his novels 3 years ago.

I agree with everyone else about the tragedy of the recent events, but damnit I would like some answers to why our goverment was so asleep at the wheel that these events were not thwarted in the least. 40 minutes after the first plane struck and our country's military nerve center had no response at all to an obviously off course in-bound jet liner? 2 years after Bin Ladin was publicaly acknowledged to be responsible for multiple attacks directed at the U.S. and we still haven't tracked him or any of his co-leaders down? 50 years after the U.N. recomended a seperate Palistinian State and the U.S. has yet to force the issue with Isreal and/or cut off direct financial support, even after Isreal has killed in cold blood many innocent Arab civilians? ...

Also, why is all the focus being directed at Bin Ladin's organization? Clearly Iraq has the capability, motive and determination to go after the U.S. in terrorist attacks. How much more innocent blood will be shed before our $240 billion/year in defense spending starts providing real security?

Derek Citizen
washougal, washington


Dear FRONTLINE,

One answer to "why do they hate us so much" is Richard Armitage. With idiots like him working for our State Department we can be guaranteed Muslims will hate us. This inflexible, dogmatic, intolerant, unsympathetic man has contributed nothing in his many years as an incompetent government employee.

Dave Young
phoenix, az


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you Front line for your attempt in uncovering the first layer of the truth.

I am saddened as I see no hope for the future, be it in this country, the Middle East or Central Asia. Frankly, death does not scare me but losing personal civil libirties that will occur in this country is what concerns me.

Haifaa Moamamr
culver city, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

I wish all the black and white would stop. There are gray areas here. Its not as simple as solving the Osama Bin Laden disease. This is incurable. There will be others. We need to address the problems leading to this hate and violence we are not innocent while in our grief. I am not playing on the terrorists ground and I am as pained and hurt by what has happened to our country as any other American. Unfortunately we are playing into the hands of hate when we also cannot see our own policies that lead to this. Peace to you all and may god bless us and give us the insight to solve this hate.

David Mansour
los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your broadcast perspective is sympathetic only towards the opinions, frustrations, and consequential actions of the Arab and Islamic people. For certain, their views need to be presented. But what about the opinions, frustrations, and consequential actions for the non-Arab, non-Islamic world? What about the opinions, frustrations, and consequential actions for Americans?

The Western world and the US in particular are constantly blamed for the poverty and dissention in the world. I ask, when did the US accept responsibility for these people and their problems?

I hate the fact that the US has helped so many around the world and found so little gratitude.. As a former US military veteran who served in the Middle East and risked my life for these people, I am enraged that they dance in the street at the news that 6,000+ Americans died on Sept. 11th.

I would just as soon see the American particpation in the world withdrawn to our own borders, in light of such events. Let the world fight it out amongst the pathetic have-nots, and never-will-haves.

Print this: "such Islamic extremism is a luxury that is enjoyed at the expense of their own poverty and hopelessness"

Millions of idle men and women, without productive work, are hardly in a position to tell me what they think of my country. Once they have created work for themselves and they have demonstrated that they can commit to something more significant than a mid-day protest, a US flag burning, or a mocking of the American way of life, then I will give them ear.

And I don't believe that You - PBS and the profoundly liberal press care about my feelings. Your articles don't examine the depths of my pain and agony at the sight of mass funerals for valiant firefighters and police officers. You don't investigate the utter frustrations that I am feeling over the world of hate that surrounds our country. Your foucus will always pass over the very nation that allows your free expression.

Warren Smith
colorado springs, colorado


Dear FRONTLINE,

I applaud Frontline's efforts in helping the American public grasp a deeper understanding of the issues we are facing in the Muslim world. Though, I'm sure the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world is repulsed by the acts of these terrorists, it would be naive to assume that what they use to "justify" their actions (i.e. the lack of the U.S.'s credibility as evenhanded in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, the sanctions on Iraq, and our calls for democratization in every other area of the world, except the Middle East, where we referred to the Algerian military coup in the 1990s as one step back and two steps forward for Democracy), will always fall on deaf ears. Given the realities that they are reflecting on the ground, they might very well fall on fertile soil.

Nevertheless, to portray the Muslim world as simply a battle ground between repressive/corrupt governments, and terrorists, is to miss the full picture. When there is a history of little to no freedom of expression and few possiblities for political participation, the end result is often radicalization. Big surprise!

Any possible future democratic governments in the Muslim world will surely be deeply embedded in the Muslim faith. But, Islam can represent a just, progressive, and thoughtful force, as it often did throughout history. There is and should be a viable alternative to two evils. Do we need to surgicaly target these terrorists? Yes. But we, As Well As governments in the Muslim world need to undergo major policy reconsiderations.

miami, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

Islamic world is not all that failure. There is Malaysia and to some extent Indonesia as well, which are relative success stories.Malaysia, with American help has built strong economy,democracy, civic society, diversity and also world's tallest building.

May be we can encourage Muslim world to follow its example for their own good. Of course with our guidance. I wish you had focused on this issue as well. Overall it was a job well done. Congrats!.

louisville, ky


Dear FRONTLINE,

I see some of the criticism that you are getting for unbalanced journalism. But I'm a big fan of your efforts to go beyond the simplistic sound bites that we get on most tv news broadcasts. Thanks and keep it up. It is also obvious from the other comments that there is intelligent life out there and this gives me some hope that we might, with great care, one day extricate ourselves from this mess that we have gotten into. We universally deplore the means used by Al-Queda but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do some self-examination to understand the root of the hatred.

In the long run,our only real protection from terrorism is to eliminate the behaviors that give birth to the hatred and seek justice not only for our own citizens but those of all other countries as well. It is high time that we quit justifying anything that we feel like doing with that old worn out excuse of "protecting our vital interests". This country needs to go on a crash program to decrease our dependence on foreign oil by 10% a year until we no longer need any. We also need to let Israel know that they will get no more aid from us until they learn to get along with their neighbors. Despite all its rhetoric about human rights, the U.S. has an abominable record of supporting regimes that oppress people. I'm proud of Americans, but sometimes I'm embarassed by what we let our government get away with. Frontline is a potent bullet in the arsenal against our ignorance and apathy. Thanks again.

bill crawford
memphis, tn

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