Jeremiah Wright spoke at the National Press Club today. He quoted Paul who, in his letter to the Galatians, noted what is so often a truism: "whatever one sows, that will he also reap." Equally true is the frenzied reaction some people have to being reminded of this fact (Ward Churchill also knows something about this).
Concerning the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States the "9/11 Commission" put it more subtlety. In their final report the commission simply noted that "America's policy choices have consequences." They viewed this problem primarily as a public relations issue however, recommending that "we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously." These ideals ostensibly include a democratically elected government and personal freedoms, which others have claimed are precisely why the terrorists hate us (Bush, September 20, 2001). Catch 22?
Perhaps an anecdote will help to illustrate the problem with both of these claims, as well as the psychology that makes Paul's warning a frequent truism:
When the hijackers of the TWA airliner in 1985 reportedly shouted the words "New Jersey" in the aisles of the plane, most Americans, if they heard it at all, would scarcely have been aware that the reference was to the battleship New Jersey. After the bombing of the Marine Barracks, the battleship had turned its 16-inch guns upon Shiite Moslem villages in Lebanon, hurtling 1,000 pound shells into the homes of those who could not possibly have been responsible for the bombing. One of the hijackers, it was reported, lost his wife and daughter in that shelling.
- Robert Holmes, "Terrorism and Violence: A Moral Perspective" (in Issues in War and Peace: Philosophical Inquiries).
This is in no way meant to imply that all terrorists have suffered personally from U.S. policies or actions, or that terrorist acts are justified, or that the victims of terrorism deserve it. But our policies and our actions do have consequences. And satellite television and library programs are unlikely to mitigate them. But more importantly, as Paul warned, bombing and torture are very often paid back in kind. Frenzied denials notwithstanding.