Pourquoi? Why? Why do they hate us? This question always seems to surface for westerners following attacks like the one last week where 12 were heinously slaughtered at the offices of the satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
The question of why surfaced for Americans following the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Then President Bush’s infamous answer was that the “terrorists” hate our freedoms.
Those claiming responsibility for 9/11 had other answers. They said that the attack was a retaliation for innumerable Muslim deaths caused by 80 years of brutal western imperialism following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. It was motivated by U.S. support for the horrors of Israeli occupation of Palestine. It was a response to the deaths of half a million children killed by “American” sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War. It was retribution for defiling Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina by establishing U.S. military bases there.
Most in the west never heard those answers.
The question “why” was posed again in Paris on Sunday – this time in gigantic letters attached to a statue in the central Place de la Republique where hundreds of thousands gathered to protest the barbarous slaughter of innocents at Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday (Jan. 7th): POURQUOI?
President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Britain and the Palestinian territories were in attendance. Even Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Natanyahu, fresh from butchering 500 Muslim children in Gaza while injuring 3000 others and traumatizing an additional 373,000 solemnly marched against the criminal barbarism of killing 12 westerners. No doubt he was as puzzled as others in the vast throng. Why on earth do the Muslims hate us? Why are they so barbaric?
Perhaps he might ask the perpetrators themselves. After all, they were jihadists who enlisted in the war against the United States long before the emergence of ISIS (the so-called Islamic State). Their motivation? Abu Grahib and the torture pictures that shocked the world. With that in mind, do you suppose that the release of the “Torture Report” on December 9th had anything to do with catalyzing the Kouachi brothers in their decision to do something about it? Or the drone killing of 13 Yemeni wedding-goers on December 12th?
And as French nationals, why not choose Charlie Hebdo. It symbolized their own country’s participation in the war against Islam. Since 2006 the magazine had been publishing what the Kouachis evidently understood as virulently anti-Muslim propaganda to justify a military campaign against their co-religionists which the French air force joined on September 19th of last year.
None of this is to defend the killers at Charlie Hebdo. They were absolutely barbaric, absolutely indefensible. The point is rather to second the idea expressed by Gilbert Achcar, the renowned Lebanese-French professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He observes that what the world has experienced since 9/11 is a not a “clash of civilizations,” but a “clash of barbarisms.”
And the reactionary barbarisms of the east cannot be understood without first understanding the causal barbarisms of the west.
By comparison, the latter are wholesale; the former are retail.