Why Do They Hate Us?

07/27/2005 11:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why do they hate us? It’s a question that I have avoided for close to four years. To entertain the issue seems to acknowledge that there could have been some rational justification for what occurred on 9/11, moreover, even addressing the issue sounds unmanly. Instead, this has been my mindset:

‘F ‘em. Who cares why they hate us. Regardless of what motivated an unprovoked attack, they need to die. All of them who played any role. As soon as possible. End of story. And, stop being such a wimp.’

I think my American hardheadedness is typical of many who seek justice and revenge, but mainly revenge.

Now I find myself re-assessing the situation. In large part, this is due to my having just spent a few hours with Michael Scheuer. You’ll remember him. He’s the guy who spent 22 years at the CIA, four of them as the head of the Bin Laden desk, and then resigned shortly after publishing Imperial Hubris under the byline of “Anonymous.”

He’s critical of the way the Administration is waging the war on terror, and the neocons in particular. (“Only the village idiot or a neoconservative could fail to see that we abjectly failed to estimate the impact on the Muslim world of a U.S. occupation of Iraq.”) He’s equally critical of our prior president, less you should think he plays partisan favorites. (“After al Qaeda destroyed two U.S. embassies in Africa on 7 August 1998, we rejoiced that the government now would annihilate al Qaeda. No effective action ensured.”) Further, he maintains that his agents gave the U.S. government 10 opportunities to capture Bin Laden pre-9/11.

Scheuer thinks we Americans continue to be sold a bill of goods, which fosters a misunderstanding of our enemy, and forestalls success in the war on terror. Specifically, we’re told that radical Islam hates us, and attacks us, for who we are and what we think, when that is not the case. It’s not McDonalds, Starbucks, lap dances and Brittany Spears – offensive though Muslims may find those hallmarks of American life. And it’s not about converting us to Islam. To the contrary, says Scheuer, what motivates radical Islam is American foreign policy. It’s our support for Israel, our troops on the Arabian Peninsula, our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, our support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants, our pressure on Arab energy producers to keep prices low, and our support for tyrannical Muslim governments.

He reminds us that in Afghanistan, non-Afghan Muslims fought the Soviets not because they were atheists and communists, “but rather because they were atheists and communists who had invaded and occupied a Muslim land.”

“Bin Laden’s popularity or the popularity of ‘Binladenism’ is simply because it’s phrased in a defensive manner. He’s portrayed the United States as invading the Islamic world with the intention of destroying Islam, Muslims, and their holy sanctities,” Scheuer told me.

I know what you’re thinking. This guy sounds like a softy, and an apologist. Well, not quite.

First, he abhors political correctness in the war on terror -- Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Codey’s refusal to profile by way of recent example -- and thinks we can only win this war with “relentless, brutal, and yes, blood-soaked, offensive, military actions until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us.”

And although Scheuer says it is our actions, not our beliefs and lifestyles that drive radical Islam, he is not discounting the role of Islam, as more or less a glue holding al Qaeda together.

“It’s the central most important idea”, he told me, “and it’s the political correctness in our own society that prevents our leaders, whether it’s the first President Bush, or this one, or Mr. Clinton from saying ‘listen my fellow citizens these people are angry at us because they believe we’re attacking their religion not because we have McDonalds or we have early primaries in Iowa.’ No one has stood up and said that and until we realize that the motivation is religious, a religion under threat, we’re going to continue to lose this fight.”

For his frankness, Scheuer has drawn criticism from the left and the right. Despite his two master’s degrees, his Ph.D., his 22-years with the Agency, including 4 years being the point person on Bin Laden, no elected officials seek out his guidance. “No sir, they kind of avoid me like grim death,” he told me when I asked.

Why is that the case?

“Well, several of the issues that are tied up in what we need to do or at least think about doing -- our support for Israel and our need to wean ourselves from Arabian Gulf oil -- are martyrdom operations for US politicians.”

In other words, because Scheuer advocates an examination of our policy with Israel, some are quick to leap to the conclusion that he wishes to abandon Israel. I asked him if he is suggesting such a policy?

“No, certainly not. I think what we need to do need is support the Israelis as long as it’s in the interests of the United States. My bottom line on all of these issues, is when I was hired to work at the CIA, my job was not to be the guardian of the world but be the guardian of the American people, and our foreign policy should be designed to do that, to protect Americans first.”

Michael Scheuer told me that he believes the safety of his children and grandchildren is dependent upon killing our enemies. “That’s exactly my prescription, sir, we’re in a position where we have to kill most of this first generation of Islamists.”

But to kill them, requires that we first understand their motivation. And on that basis, I am finally prepared to entertain the question of ‘why do they hate us’.