Former Vice President Al Gore and former media mogul Ted Turner have recently followed in the footsteps of former President Bill Clinton in putting some of the blame on America for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Speaking at Georgetown University last November, Clinton suggested that those of “European lineages” were not blameless. He said that stories about brutal crimes committed by the Christian soldiers who took Jerusalem in the first Crusade are still being told in the Middle East, adding that “we are still paying for it” as well as for our mistreatment of blacks and Indians in our own country.
“We have to win the fight we’re in,” Clinton said, “but we also have to create more partners and reduce the terrorist pool. So what do we have to do? First, we have to reduce poverty and create more economic opportunity. Last year we relieved the debt of the poorest countries. We ought to do more of it, because we only relieved the debt if they would put money to education, health care, or economic development, to make sure the money wouldn’t be wasted, and the stories are stunning, what’s being done with this money in these countries. We should do more of that.”
Al Gore, who is girding for another campaign for the presidency, echoed Clinton’s remarks in a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. He said it was not enough just to attack terrorists, explaining, “The evil we now confront is not just the one-time creation of a charismatic leader and his cohorts, or even a handful of regimes. What we deal with now is today’s manifestation of an anger welling up from deep layers of grievance shared by millions of people.” He said he generally supported the current war effort. But he identified what he thinks are the root causes of terrorism? “another axis of evil in the world: poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder; corruption and political oppression.”
Ted Turner, who like Clinton and Gore is now feeling that he is out of power even though he holds the title of vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, recently spoke at Brown University. He had no prepared remarks. The AP quoted him as saying, “The reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.” The AP story added, “He said the attacks were an act of desperation and that Americans lack an understanding of a willingness to die for one’s country. ‘I think they were brave at the very least,’ Turner said of the airliner hijackers, adding that they ‘might have been a little bit nuts.'” He claimed he was quoted out of context when critics attacked him, but the two reporters that covered his speech stood by their stories.
That same day, the New York Times ran an op-ed column by Richard Sokolsky and Joseph McMillan, identified as “research fellows at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies.” They advocated a big increase in foreign aid to “address the economic, political and social conditions that will otherwise continue breeding new terrorists.”
The idea inherent in all these remarks is that terrorism is caused by poverty and oppression. This is a new twist on the Marxist theory of economic determinism. Karl Marx had claimed that the poverty of the masses oppressed by greedy capitalists would lead to communism’s triumph. Our leaders bought that idea, and during the Cold War foreign aid to promote economic growth in poor countries was touted as the best way of countering the communist threat.
The communists made inroads in a few of those countries, but they did so by recruiting politicians, educators, students and other intellectuals while terrorizing their foes. Poverty and oppression increased wherever they took power. Their failure in other countries can be attributed, among other things, to the realization that communism increases poverty and oppression. It is ideas, both noble and hateful, that rule the minds of men. Osama bin Laden knows that. His agents are educated and carefully indoctrinated. They are not impoverished peasants.
The measures advocated by Clinton, Gore, Turner, Sokolsky and McMillan are no defense against the ideas that motivate suicide bombers. After studying the results of the foreign aid that has been given to the poorest countries for 50 years, World Bank economist William Easterly says in his new book, “The Elusive Quest for Growth,” “None has delivered as promised.”