Cliff May

I’m attending the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in this Tel Aviv suburb and I’m having a coffee and reading the International Herald Tribune. And there on page 2 is a feature, dateline Cairo, reporting that seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the “conventional wisdom” in the Middle East is that “the United States and Israel had to have been involved” in the planning, if not the execution of the mass murder.

A Syrian engineer says the U.S. organized 9/11 as an “excuse to invade Iraq for the oil.” An Egyptian driver claims that “everybody knows” the Jews stayed home from work that morning. A student planning to go into the tourism business says Americans can’t be trusted because “they killed Saddam, tortured people.”

And Wahid Abdel Meguid, deputy director of the “government-financed Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies” says that Arabs and Muslims believe “the United States has a prejudice against them. So they never think the United States is well intentioned and they always feel that whatever it does has something behind it.”

No less distressing than these opinions is the pose adopted by the foreign correspondent, Michael Slackman. The demands of political correctness in the elite media being what they are he has not found a single source who will suggest that the prevalence of such attitudes reflects the fact that governments and media in the Middle East routinely spread anti-American and anti-Semitic slanders. He does not note that schools in the region instill bias while neglecting critical thinking. He can’t even raise the possibility – however gently -- that the persistence of such beliefs, long after the details of al-Qaeda’s plot have been made public, may reveal a pathology in the culture of the contemporary Arab Middle East.

Instead, the only theory given ink is that such ideas demonstrate “the first failure in the war on terror – the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims.”

So it’s due to the inadequacies of U.S. public diplomacy that the fabled Arab Street thinks Americans incinerated fellow Americans as part of a “crusade” against them?

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.