Exploring the roots and reason of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks, two television specials, "Searching for the Roots of 9/11," hosted by The New York Times' Tom Friedman on the Discovery Channel, and "Why U.S.?" on the Discovery Times Channel, aired on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11, respectively.
The specials explored the thoughts, sentiments, hopes, aspirations and anger of students, writers and others in several Arabic countries. One young Arab, while bemoaning the loss of "innocent lives," said that he and most Arab Muslims relished America's Sept. 11 "punch in the nose." One young female Arab student spoke of her resentment of how "American schools look down on us." One theme -- repeated again and again -- suggested that the resentment of America's dominance, power and exportation of its dominant culture converged to create the atmosphere that provoked 19 young Muslim men to hijack planes and crash them.
One Arab bitterly complained about America's "support" for Arabic dictators who deprive them of basic human rights. Several spoke of their yearning for democracy and accused America of hypocrisy for enjoying domestic democracy while propping up totalitarian governments that deprive their citizens of the basic rights enjoyed by Americans.
The Israeli-Palestinian dispute, of course, came up repeatedly, with one Muslim suggesting that a small "Jewish lobby" dictated American foreign policy, resulting in her "one-sided" support for Israel.
The New York Times' Tom Friedman, host of "Searching for the Roots of 9/11," asked: To what extent do you Arab Muslims hold yourselves responsible for your poverty and your lack of civil rights? One student agreed that, yes, he held Arabs, in part, culpable for living under corrupt regimes that maintain power through force and intimidation. Put another way, Friedman asked, why do you hold Americans responsible for the inequality, poverty and lack of rights in your own country? On the one hand, you complain about American interference, and on the other, you imply that you expect America to secure -- for you -- these rights and a better life. Which way is it?
In Iraq, for example, the United States military suffers almost daily casualties as the coalition partners struggle to put together a representational government in Iraq -- presumably the type many Arabs claimed they desire. Doesn't this demonstrate America's wish for the very type of government many young Arabs claimed they want? What of America's willingness to sacrifice lives on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia?