THIS weekend will mark 10 years since the World Trade Centre was brought down by Islamic fundamentalists in a spectacular attack that changed life in the US. But till today, we have had no answer to the question why.
The Middle East correspondent of The Independent, Robert Fisk, tells of an incident shortly after the attacks, when he was interviewed along with Alan Dershowitz, the well-known US lawyer.
Fisk, like any good journalist, raised the question of why the attacks had taken place; as he explained it, even in the case of a small robbery, the first thing the police try to find out is possible motive.
In response, Dershowitz called him a dangerous man, anti-American and anti-Semitic. Exactly why he did that is open to question.
Why did 19 young Muslims volunteer to end their lives by staging an attack of this nature? While there are conspiracy theories aplenty on the internet as to the how of the operation, the book Masterminds of Terror offers the authentic account, straight from the mouths of the planners, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Journalists Yosri Fouda and Nick Fielding published this tome in 2003 but then ignorance is rampant and people continue to attribute the attacks to everyone from the Mossad to the US government.
But the why is equally important. American policy in the Middle East has, for ages, been slanted in favour of Israel. For a long time, Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab, had no choice but to accept the repeated humiliations to which the US subjected them. In this light, the fact that some among them hit back is no surprise.
The main problem in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian question. A deal was signed as far back as 1993 for a two-state solution but it is still to be implemented in full. The main reason for this is the fact that Israel does not want the conflict to end – if it did, its importance would decline and correspondingly its ability to influence US policy. It is much better to always be in the news as a country that is being attacked by Arabs; that way it is easy to generate sympathy from the world at large.
There are other issues in the Middle East. The US is willing to deal with any kind of dictator as long as he does their bidding. Talk of democracy is very selective. Young people in the Arab world are fed up with the double standard. Is it any wonder that the more determined and idealistic among them choose to join fringe groups that use killing as a tactic?
The US has learnt nothing from the attacks. The same kind of arrogance that it exhibited in the past is still seen in its dealing with other countries. The level of hatred that people around the world have for the US has grown by leaps and bounds as news emerges of the way innocent Muslims are kidnapped and tortured in bases around the world. And this feeling of hatred is not confined to the Muslim world; it is evident in Western countries equally.
The adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out to be disasters in terms of image-building and also empire-building. But the US continues to muddle on, antagonising people left, right and centre.
As the song Where have all the flowers gone asks, When will they ever learn?