What were the motives of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks on the USA? Essay

According to the ‘Collins English Dictionary’, terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation to achieve political ends.” A big example of this is the 9/11 attacks on the USA. These attacks were when 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists, 15 of them Saudi Arabian, took over 4 US commercial planes and flew them in to some of Americas biggest economic buildings. Two were flown into the World Trade Centre, one was flown into the Pentagon, the Military headquarters and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, believed to be heading for the Whitehouse, home of President Bush.

There are three main motives for the attacks; Betrayal, Jihad and Resentment. In this essay I am going to weigh up my evidence, explain my reasons I believe they carried out the attacks, and decide the most important motive for their attacks. What really could make people carry out such fatal and horrifying missions?

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The first of three very complex motives is Jihad. The Arabic word jihad means literally “struggle” and Islamic scholars have long been divided on how it should be interpreted. For some it means the struggle to defend one’s faith and ideals against harmful outside influences. For others it has come to represent the duty of Muslims to fight to rid the Islamic world of western influence in the form of corrupt and despotic leaders and occupying armies. The roots of this extremist view dates back as far as the 13th century. I know this because Craig Davis shows in his book “The Middle-East for Dummies” that, to Ibn Taymiyya, 1328, Jihad was a holy war that that “must be at the centre of a Muslims life, as equally as important as the 5 Pillars of Islam.” Bin Laden wants a Holy War, and claims that all Muslims want a Pan-Islamic state.

Do all Muslims want it, or is it really just the Al-Qaeda? Many Muslims do not want a Pan-Islamic state. This was put into place in Iran, but Muslim people started a revolution in 1979. This was also tried in Afghanistan, but was overthrown by a majority of Muslim people and many fled to the West during the oppression. Bin Laden shows he wants a Pan-Islamic state, by the recording of him saying “Peace be upon you who follow the right path. I am an honest advisor to you. I urge you to seek the joy of the afterlife and to rid yourself of your dry, miserable and spiritless materialistic life. I urge you become Muslims.” This shows very strongly Bin Laden’s views on Infidels and the Muslims religion.

Secondly, there is the factor of betrayal. There are many reasons Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda feel betrayed. One reason is revenge for the treatment Muslims in Afghanistan. When the US invaded and rescued Afghanistan from Russia, who were attempting to force their way of life and political communist views onto them in 1979, Afghans believed things would be better. They were wrong. US then tried to force democracy onto them. They saw this as a huge betrayal because the USA had not helped them because they wanted to, but because they did not like Communism, due to the Cold War. Another reason for Bin Laden being betrayed was the Gulf War in 1990. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Bin Laden offered his extremist group up to help Saudi Arabia fight him. Bin Laden felt betrayed when the Saudi government refused his offer, and looked to the USA the support, their longest standing allies since the 1930s.

So, was that why Bin Laden chose 15 Saudi Arabian men to carry out the terrorist attacks? About 200 people belong to the core group, so it’s possible there is a logical reason to Bin Laden choosing 15 of 19 terrorists to be Saudi Arabian. On one hand, it’s possible that the young terrorists were disenchanted due to the economic collapse of the late 1980s in Saudi Arabia, when oil prices plummeted. With boredom and frustration mounting upon well educated young men, Al-Qaeda had a “fertile recruiting field for Islamic terrorists.” On the other hand, Bin Laden could have recruited from anywhere e.g. Chechnya or Afghanistan, but he chose Saudi Arabia as a double blow to the US. The Saudi/USA relationship has always been linked with oil and protection.

With the Americans wanting oil and the Saudis wanting protection. Many extremists argue that Saudi Arabia is corrupt in their unholy alliance that in wanting to be westernised leads to wastefulness and materialism. With Egypt throughout the late 1950s and 60s posing an ideological threat to Saudi Arabia, they looked to the USA for protection. So, recruiting Saudi terrorists was a stab in the back for USA. Finally resulting in destroying the close relations between the two countries.

Finally, the third complex motive for the attack is resentment. Bin Laden has a hate for the US, but, why? I believe that the other reasons, such and Jihad and Betrayal, play a large part in their resentment for the US. A quote from Bin Laden says, “The aggressor deserves punishment.” This was aimed at the U.S, and shows that Bin Laden quite obviously doesn’t like them. But, this is linked with betrayal, because if the Saudi’s wouldn’t had chose America over him, or if the U.S didn’t invade Afghanistan, what reason would there be to punish the U.S? The resentment for the U.S can also be linked with Jihad. If they weren’t such extremist Muslims, believing all westernisation should not occur in their countries, then there wouldn’t be as much hate and resentment for the country.

We know that Bin Laden does not agree with the West invading Muslims countries because he says that he believes that “in wanting to be westernised leads to wastefulness and materialism”, he also wants all Western troops pulled out of Afghanistan, Iran and the other Muslims countries and get rid of western influences. Another reason for Bin Laden’s resentment for the U.S is for taking the Jews side in Israel. Although it is not clear as to why the U.S took the Jews side. It’s possible they felt that the Jewish people deserved their help, after all it was their country being invaded, or is there some kind of long-standing deal as to why the U.S are taking their side, we’re not sure. But we do know that Osama Bin Laden does not agree with this, he believes the U.S has taken their side just out of pure hatred for the Muslims.

All these reasons make it hard for me to decide which the most important motive was for the 9/11 attacks as I believe that all motives are linked in some way. I have come to the conclusion that resentment is the most important motive for their attacks. This is because, looking at the evidence for Jihad and Betrayal, although both play a very big part, all end up linking back to resentment. The Al-Qaeda resent the U.S because their extremist views mean that they hate all infidels and believe that Muslim countries should be ran so they are Pan Islamic.

So, when there are infidels in their country, making up their own rules, and not running it how they want it to be run, it’s going to result in much resentment for the U.S. Also the long running betrayal that has been mounting up for many years is also going to cause a hatred for the U.S. All in all this why I believe that resentment is the most important motive. Resentment is described as “a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will.”But to carry out such horrifying attacks, I believe that this word used is an understatement as to what Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda feels.


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